Paul Adams correctly analyzes what used to be the Canadian centre:
The modern Liberal party was re-engineered a half century ago by Lester Pearson, who made it into the quintessential party of the “mixed economy”, a formula that was popular across the western world. The booming private sector would be guided by government, but not consumed by it. Keynesian fiscal policy would manage the ups and downs of the business cycle and social programs would allow the emergence of a capitalism with a human face.But with the election of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney, the centre began to shift:
In its day, this really was a politics of the centre. It expressed a very broad social and political consensus that extended from labour unions to chambers of commerce. Working people had good jobs in the private and the public sector, many of them unionized. They appreciated the additional economic security they got from public health care, old age pensions, and unemployment insurance.
In power after 1993, the Liberal party also moved decisively away from its centrist election platform, which called for “moderate” deficit reduction coupled with new social programs such as day care. Instead, the government cut funds for social programs, aimed to eliminate the deficit rather than reduce it, and eventually cut debt and taxes.
Significantly, Paul Martin adopted the “no deficit rule” – an explicit renunciation of the Keynesian notion that government fiscal policy should be used to manage the ups and downs of the business cycle. Jean Chrétien promised in the 1997 election that no more than half of future surpluses would be devoted to tax cuts and debt reduction, but that proved not to be the case.
It all came crashing down with Micheal Ignatieff, who tried to be a politician of the right and the left. Adams writes that what Ignatieff offered Canadians was policy incoherence.
Now the Liberals are trying to recover. The Conservatives have staked out a position on the right. The NDP has staked out a position on the left. If there still is a viable Canadian centre, perhaps the Liberals will rise again.