The Liberals think that they can win the next election by rolling out a safe middle of the road platform. They are wrong. There is no push to throw the bums out and there is no evidence whatsoever the Liberals are gaining any traction with the public. The Conservatives have the advantage of being the party in power, they are better organized, their policies clearer, their messaging is generally better and they have far more money. If the electorate if given a choice of voting for middle of the road Conservative platform and middle of a road Liberal platform, they are going to go with the Conservatives.
So the question is can the Liberals turn things around. I doubt it. Igantieff is looking older and more gray by the day, there is nothing in the platform to hold the public's attention for very long and even though talk of fiscal responsibility and democratic institutions bore the public to tears, the party seems determined focus on them nonetheless. All of this is obvious.
What is less obvious is this. The Liberals seem blind to the fact that some of their core philosophy, viz., a commitment to equity and collective rights, is deeply unpopular with large segments of Canadian society. Weather it be the funding for religious schools in Ontario, or special treatment of Quebec many Canadians are deeply offended at the very suggestion that government monies and policy should be used to protect and or foster minority interests. Furthermore, weather one believes that employment equity, for example, actually makes the government less efficient is beside the point, a commitment to equity is incompatible with the liberal notion of a government built around merit. Hiring the best person for the job is far cry from using the government as a counterpoint to perceived and actual deficiencies in the private sector employment. So long as the philosophy of equity rules, conservatives will have an easy time claiming that government is the problem.
It gets worse for the Liberals. With the party long since having abandoned a commitment to universality it is not surprisingly that many Canadians believe that the Liberals are solely committed to using public monies to benefit minorities.
All of this is one more reason why it is vitally important that the Liberals recommit to universality and that the the party develop policies that offer a concrete benefit to Canadians -- all Canadians.
Childcare is obvious place to start. The problem is that the Liberal,s early childhood education program is unmediated disaster. The goal of the program was ostensibly to work with the provinces to set up an early childhood education program for children under 6. However, to the average voter this amounted to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare at sometime in the future; they could not figure out what this would mean for their lives. To add insult to injury, the Liberals willingness to consider different deals for different provinces has muddied things all the more.
If the Liberals reintroduce such a program in the future, they need to present it in a form in which voters can understand, with a clear time line and that they make sure they offer parents a clear and tangible benefit. They could, for example, promise to provide all day preschool and kindergarten for every 3 and 4 year old in Canada two years after an election.