Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bob Rae is emblematic of what is wrong with the Liberal Party

A common lament is that if not for his record as premier of Ontario, Bob Rae would make a great leader. It is said in this regard that he a good debater, charismatic, well spoken, and funny. He is all that and his decision to focus on the big issues rather than minor scandals is a freshening change and one that the Liberals urgently needed to make. But Rae is also emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Liberal party.

Rae has always been an enthusiastic backer of a asymmetrical federalism, collective rights, and equity, i.e., affirmative action. His support for all three shape his ideas about what the Liberal party is and should continue to be.

The first two are wholly inconsistent with Pearson Trudeau tradition and make a mockery of the Liberal's attempt to draw a line from them to present times. Worse, support for both has real political consequences that the Liberals are blissfully unaware of.

Indeed, the Liberals have never fully absorbed what happened to Liberal level of support in Western Canada following the 1974 election. Some blamed the NEP and others have even claimed the gun registry played a part. The latter claim is ridiculous. The gun registry had no impact on the Liberals share of the popular vote or their seat totals. Most important of all it was passed 16 years after the Liberals first showed a significant decline in their level of support. As for the former, the chronology is also wrong. It was the fact that the Liberal vote collapsed in Western Canada in 1979 that paved the way for the NEP politically and not the other way around. The NEP was introduced after the 1980 election. The Liberals took 1 seat in the three most western provinces in 1979 election and 0 in 1980.

The source of the collapse was 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. Ironically, it was the Mulroney's willingness to go even further in pandering to Quebec, particularly the Charlottetown Accord, that gave the Liberals some life again. 60.2% Albertans voted against the Charlottetown Accord, and 68.3% of British Colombians did. The later figure was by far the highest in country and the voter turn out in BC was second only to Quebec.

Let the "coalition" be a warning to the Liberals; these feelings are still deeply felt in "Western" Canada. The Liberals need to learn from history. They need to vigorously oppose the NDP's flirtation with extending bill 101 to federal intuitions in Quebec and their suggestion that Quebec's share of the House of Commons be fixed at 25%.

As for the third, it is terrible policy -- albeit not nearly as stupid or destructive as the asinine concept of "collective rights". As it does nothing to address underlying causes of inequality, equity does little to advance equality. A National daycare care system, for example, would do far more in a year for women's wage equality than 25 years of the putrid Employment Equity Act has. The former addresses the underlying causes of the wage gap, the later hurts the cause of young white males because 50 something white males earn more than than their 50 something female colleges. Equity sows division within Canadian society and is an anachronism given Canada's rapidly changing demographic profile. Worst of all, the focus on equity has meant that instead of trying to move the case of all workers forward, something that is desperately needed, liberals have instead devoted virtually all their energies to shuffling the deck. Calls for a bigger share of the pie has been abandoned for sake of each of the ever smaller pieces having an equal amount of fruit.

Equity is also bad politics. Whether it be the funding for religious schools in Ontario, or special treatment of Quebec many Canadians are deeply offended by the very suggestion that government monies and policy should be used to protect and or foster minority interests. Furthermore, whether 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 a far cry from using the government as a counterpoint to perceived or actual deficiencies in the private sector employment. Government can not be seen or indeed be an affirmative action program. Government exists to further the public good and it furthers the public good not by who it hires but by what functions it carries out. So long as the philosophy of equity rules, Canadians will not have any faith that government is actually committed to that end and conservatives will have an easy time claiming that government hurts, as little more than a make work project for disadvantaged groups, more than it helps.


Anonymous said...

I felt sick when I saw him crying for Jack Layton. He is an actor like Mulcair.....He is a blowhard and warmonger..say anything to be seen and heard and be the centre of attention. I have lost faith in the Federal Liberals to have Rae leading the party even in the interim.

marie said...

Thats your opinion Anon and your entitled to one but try and gather a few facts before you spew the rumors and try and seek the truth about Bob Rae.It is a known fact that Bob Rae inherited 6 billion dollars in deficitin his take over of the Cons government and why one would dispute the blatant liars who make up the current cons is beyond me. One can get away with a few little lies occasionally but when it is so blatantly in the open and easily proved is far beyond me why one would even believe these blatant liars and why one would not use a little common sense instead of lapping up the obvious liars from "Shady incompetent Flaherty" in the Harris decade is beyond any rhythm or reason other then brain drained, immature and part of the liars Harpo club .

marie said...

My Bad!!! Should have read,Fact that Bob Rae inherited a 6 billion dollar deficit in his take over of the Cons Government.

Koby said...

Anonymous, Bob Rae also cried when annoucing the death of reporter Jack Travers. In neither case do I think he was "acting".

Marie. The NDP took over from Liberal government in 1990 and not a Conservative one.