So long as the Liberal party -- or a strong portion of it anyway -- remain committed to collective rights, asymmetrical federalism and means tested social policy the party is doomed to die a slow death.
One thing that made the Liberal brand dominant for so long was the party's commitment to universality, most notably the Canada Health Act and Canada Pension plan. However, under Martin and Chrétien the Liberals abandoned universality and favored instead means tested programs. The thing is 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. This has hobbled the Liberals politically. As Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election, there are certain issues that favour the Conservatives and the economy and taxation are two. The simple fact of the matter is that most of the public will not gain a working knowledge of each party's economic policies over the course of the campaign and when assessing each of the parties on the issue of taxation will rely on worn out stereotypes.
Of course, the one exception to such a dispiriting turn is the Liberals early childhood proposal. That said, the Liberals unwillingness to step on provincial toes and lay out a coherent plan ahead of time have rendered such a policy politically useless. Indeed, during the 2006 election the Liberals promise to work out a different deal with each province amounted to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare -- which the Liberals said early childhood education was not --- at sometime in the future. Canadians could not figure out what this would mean for their lives and not surprisingly they preferred the Conservative baby bonus.
If the Liberals reintroduce such a program in the future, they need to present it in a form in which voters can understand. They could, for example, promise to provide all day preschool and kindergarten for every 4 and 5 year old in Canada. Now, it will be said that the Liberals can not do this; education is under provincial control, but such thinking is the heart of the problem. Education is under provincial control, but so is health care and that never stopped Pearson from introducing Medical Care Act. It is high time this group of Liberals grow some. No one is ever going to vote for a party that is scared of the Conservatives, scared of the provinces and just plain scared period.
The other thing that people admired the Liberals for was their commitment to individual rights. The problem is that the more emphasis Trudeau placed on individual rights and a commitment to linguistic equality the more the rest of the country, particularly the West, resented the Liberals inability to put a stop to bill 178 and and 101 and its willingness to make special accommodations for Quebec. Quebec's Official Language Act spelled doom for the Liberals in Western Canada from the mid 70s until collapse of the Progressive Conservatives in 1993. The Liberals won but 3 seats over the next 4 elections in the three most Western provinces, one in 1979, one in 1984 and one in 1988. The later two were won by John Turner. Ironically, it was the Mulroney's willingness to go even further in pandering to Quebec that gave the Liberals some life again. However, given that these same sentiments also gave rise to the Reform party, the news was not all good for the Liberal party. Today, the country is no longer neatly divided among regional lines, but least the Liberals forget the source of their troubles in Western Canada, the unpopularity of the a coalition that included the Bloc made it abundantly clear that special treatment for Quebec is still political poison in Western Canada.