Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Sinking Liberal Fortunes. . . .

I think it is one of the great political ironies in Canadian history that Stephen Harper seems to actually believe that the downfall of the Liberal Party of Canada is a result of his strategic prowess. It must surely be clear now, to everyone except the blindest fools in the Liberal Party that its failure is a direct result of their wholesale adoption of neo-liberal (or neo-conservative, depending on your preference in terminology) economic policies. As Paul Wells very cogently demonstrates in his piece in Macleans, the Liberals (at both the Federal and Provincial levels) "blew their credibility as defenders of activist government." Their vaunted "Red Book" of the 90s turned out to be nothing but electoral rhetoric and, in the words of Paul Adams, the Liberal Party has been guilty of a "wilful refusal to differentiate its policies from those of the Conservatives."

The government of Dalton McGuinty is the latest Liberal organization that has sacrificed itself to this bizarrely self-destructive pattern on the part of Liberals all over the county. When push comes to shove, modern Liberals show their real colors by concentrating their attacks (just like conservatives) on the basic rights of collective bargaining and the working-class in general. As a result, if the polls are anything to go by, the Liberal Party in Ontario is looking down the barrel of complete political destruction.

Further credence to the idea that the Liberal brand has become meaningless is to be found in the fact that both the BC and the Quebec Liberal parties can refer to themselves as liberals without turning red with embarrassment or breaking out into peels of unrestrained laughter.

Of course, while the Liberal Parties languish as a result of their own ideological degradation  the Harper government is busy destroying the Conservative brand through a combination of political confusion and a rather rabid tendency toward tyranny, the depth and danger of which is now beginning to sink into Canadian consciousness.

The Liberal Party could rebound, of course. And they could rebound in spectacular fashion. But any lasting reassertion of the Liberal Party in Canada must involve a return to their political roots, and a place in which people see the Party as an actual return to a government that is not simply an all-out, viscous attack on the idea that government can play an important and positive role in making people's lives better. The Liberal Party once represented an ideology of a mixed economy, and a genuine commitment to some collective efforts. In the face of a growing consciousness of the increasing social and economic inequalities in society, (a phenomenon that Conservatives either deny or don't care about), it is increasingly important for a political party that is centre or centre-left to begin to address the real structural issues facing our society. The Liberals can either play a role in that or they can enjoy the dustbin of history.


Steve W said...

I recall some pundit back in the 80s commenting that the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives effectively had each others man as their party leader. Mulroney the free trading, neo-liberal from Quebec, would have been a much more natural fit for the Liberals then the staunch, uptight, west coast Anglo Turner who as a believable Red Tory would have been a more natural fit for the Conservatives. I mention this as it seems to me we have the same dynamic possibly occurring once again. If Justin Trudeau becomes LPC leader and his left-wing credentials are to be believed (currently I'm unconvinced they are) then his young(ish), new way politics seem a far better fit for the NDP. With NDP leader Thomas Mulcair you have an older, seemingly right-leaning, former Liberal who would seem to fit better as a federal Liberal. History about to repeat itself? Seems to be.

kirbycairo said...

That is an excellent observation Steve. Though whoever leads the Liberal Party or the NDP, I believe the time has come for the centre and centre-left parties to step into the 21st century - a century in which capitalism has run rampant and the huge inequalities need to be addressed with bold new ideas before it is too late. (And by too late I mean before fascism makes a come-back or environmental disaster makes it all irrelevant.)

The Mound of Sound said...

Unfortunately, KC, both the Libs and the NDP helped Harper achieve his prime directive, permanently shifting Canada's political centre far to the right.

Layton knew the NDP's only chance was to move right to become the new liberal party and saw the chance to do it when Ignatieff transformed the LPC into "conservative lite."

When you narrow the political spectrum as these characters did post-Martin, you don't leave a lot of breathing room for the indifference that has come to be the Liberal hallmark.

Maybe what our country needs now is another party to anchor the Left to enable the political centre to be centrist again.

I was a Liberal supporter for forty years. It saddens me deeply to see how it has atrophied to irrelevance.

janfromthebruce said...

That's a good thoughtful post KC. I find it hard to consider JT, as nothing more than someone who is manor born and of the "leisure class" who at the end of the day, will be an elitest Liberal, and thus policies reflecting. Again, as true to Liberal form, campaign left but rule on the right.
We really need to elect a NDP govt to really shift the country to the centre left.

kirbycairo said...

Yes Jan, I have few, if any hopes for Mr. Trudeau or the Liberal Party in general. However, I have little hope at the moment that the NDP will formulate bold ideas to deal with the problems of equity. The only conceivable way that such ideas will become mainstream is when the international mood begins to change.

Of course, even a much more mainstream NDP party could, in government, begin to contribute to that international change in mood.