Small l liberalism in Canada is all but dead. The Chrétien and Martin fatally wounded it. Under Martin and Chrétien the Liberals abandoned universality, the heart of the Liberal brand, and favored instead means tested programs. Means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts is very limited. Sure enough the Liberals, despite their vacuous rhetoric to contrary, have become virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives on most issues. Indeed, so in lock step are the Liberal and Conservative parties that a tax shift is considered a bold departure.
Having already insured that Conservatives and Liberals are of a piece when it comes to foreign policy, and pandering to Quebec nationalists, Ignatieff is poised to delivery the coup de grace. Under the guise of making the Liberals competitive again in rural Canada, the Ignatieff Liberals have made it clear that the Liberal party will never again to say or doing anything that might anger social conservatives. Small l liberalism is dead and with it the Liberal brand. It should also be said that this bolds ill for the Liberals electoral fortunes. If conservatism is what the public wants, they are going to prefer the real thing to some ill named Johnny come lately.