A common lament is that if not for his record as premier of Ontario, Bob Rae would make a great leader. He is a good debator, charismatic, well spoken, and funny.
This is not an opinion I share. I do not like him for other reasons. Philosophically Bob Rae and I are worlds apart. I do not believe in collective rights. Rae does. I do not believe in affirmative action. Rae does. I do not believe in asymmetrical federalism. Rae does. I generally do not believe in means tested social policy. Rae does.
As the saying goes, policy aimed at the poor is poor policy. Tax rebates and the like if they are effective at all are vulnerable to changes in the political landscape, and more importantly are certainly not enough to hold back the tide of growing inequality in this country. The best -- check that -- the only way of achieving a "just society" is to introduce board based social policies that embody of the principle of universality. Not only do such policies stand a far better chance of effecting social change, in marked contrast to affirmative action for example, they are wildly popular.
Now in fairness to Rae, he is not alone. 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. The implosion of the Progressive Conservatives and NDP in 1993, obscured just how much this has hobbled the Liberals politically. The Liberals are now always having to play to a core Conservative strength. Indeed, 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.
Now, the Liberals still benefit from being the party --- with help from the NDP -- that introduced the Canada Health Act and Canada Pension plan, but given that they have long ago abandoned the principle of universality it seems almost farcical for the Liberals to now point two these two shining examples of the that very principle as two of their greatest achievements.