I am not a Liberal, and I actually think that the party, with its near wholesale adherence to neo-liberalism and corporatism, has outlived its historical significance. In terms of economic ideology the Liberal Party of Canada is really just a partner of the Conservatives with a few tweaks here and there. And though some people might consider these tweaks to be very important, in the big picture the two parties amount to more or less the same thing where structural economic questions are involved. The majority of Liberals, like the Conservatives, fail to acknowledge the growing inequalities in Western Capitalism, and even if they recognize the issues they are loath to come up with any meaningful solutions because such efforts would interfere with their overall neo-liberal economic outlook.
None of this suggests that I don't believe that the LPC can get reelected. With the right leader and a change of mood in the nation, the Liberal Party might return to power and be a slightly more democratic, more accountable, and a little more humane version of the present government.
One of the first Liberals to throw her hat into the ring, so to speak, of the leadership race is constitutional lawyer, Deborah Coyne. It is great to see an accomplished and articulate woman vying for the job of national leader and I wish her luck despite our ideological differences. Though having more women in politics is by no means a panacea for our political problems, it is an important step towards justice and equity, and it certainly couldn't make things worse than they are now!
Having said this, there is something rather inauspicious about Coyne's opening statement of intent as published today in the Hufffington Post and elsewhere. "I want," Coyne tells us, "to appeal to all those Canadians who are uncertain where they fit into Canadian politics, but want to talk about what kind of nation we are building." I can think of no more "Liberal" statement than this. While I am committed to dialogue and thought, politics in troubled times must start, in some sense, with significant and powerful ideas about what is going on. There is something problematic about beginning from a position of 'uncertainty.' It is not the politically 'uncertain' that a Party must appeal to, this is far too wishy-washy a word. It is the political committed but disengaged that must be appealed to.
And despite my concern about Coyne's uncertain beginning, she seems to want to address the real issue at hand, and for this I give her credit. "I see a growing public unease," she tells us, "with the degree of inequality in our society." The problem is that this is where the issue seems begin and end for Coyne. The rest of her statement amounts to little more than platitudes about Conservative mismanagement and political apathy.
As far as I can see there are two overwhelming problems facing Canada, and all other nations. One is the impending disaster of the environment, the other is the impending disaster of Capitalism. There other important issue, of course, but unless a political party faces these two issue head-on and with radical and powerful ideas, all the other issues will soon mean nothing at all. And these two issues are inexorably linked. Even by its own standards, capitalism is sinking and if it doesn't "retool" and begin to create a model which properly distributes economic and social power more evenly, it will continue to sink beneath the surface. Meanwhile unless we make huge commitments to new, more sustainable technologies, environmental disasters will become so overwhelming that everything will collapse.
I like Coyne. She is intelligent, coherent, and seems to want to make a difference. But simply paying lip-service to our dangerous inequalities will mean nothing in the long run and failure to properly talk about the environmental dangers that we face is folly at every level.