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.