Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Dead Yet

After the last election, Peter C. Newman offered the opinion that Michael Ignatieff had presided over the death of the Liberal Party of Canada. But Michael Den Tandt writes from Prince Edward Island that the party is showing signs of life:

Eighteen months ago, at the party’s biennial convention in Ottawa, the party was adrift: Brave talk of policy innovation had produced little beyond a motion calling for legalization of marijuana. Media coverage revolved around the cat-and-mouse game then being played by interim leader Bob Rae, who was weighing a run at the permanent job. Other leadership aspirants – none of them [Justin]Trudeau – were circling each other and Rae, warily. The old Liberal sport of anonymous internecine back-stabbing was, if not at a full boil, then bubbling away on simmer.

Under Trudeau, the Liberals appear to be getting their act together:

This week, by contrast, in numerous conversations, four messages have emerged with an almost Harperian consistency: First, support the leader; second, talk up the plight of the middle class; third, be the most open and accountable party in Ottawa; fourth, do not be goaded by a nettlesome, impatient media into revealing platform policy before that cake is fully baked. If nothing else the approach is organized and coherent, in contrast with the chaos that ruled under previous leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion.

Other than Trudeau's full throated rejection of the Quebec Charter of Values, not much has emerged on the policy front -- and it won't, says Justin, until the dynamic process of consulting Canadians is finished. What the Liberal take on the economy will be is anybody's guess. If it's conserative-lite the party may again face its demise.

But hanging, it is said, concentrates the mind. It would appear that their near death experience may have re-invigorated the Liberals. They're not dead yet.


Kirby Evans said...

I never bought the "death of the Liberals" line that so many journalists were selling so hard it is seemed to be a crusade. I was particularly doubtful about the Party's demise once Mulcair was elected leader of the NDP. I still contend that, short of an actual coup on the part of the HarperCons, Trudeau will be the next Prime Minister. And if Trudeau is successful in creating this image of the most open and accountable party in significant contrast to Harper then in a couple of years the media will actually be talking about the death of the Conservatives because Harper will have so damaged the brand.

Owen Gray said...

Harper is, indeed, damaging the brand, Kirby. But I wouldn't bet on the death of the Conservative Party.

Political parties re-invent themselves. They don't die.

The Mound of Sound said...

Ah, the old policy conundrum. What to say, when to say it. I agree that the Libs shouldn't be goaded into prematurely unveiling policy but they run serious risks if they tarry. If they want to sweep Harper out they have to connect with the mass of disengaged, the non-voting public. These people already believe there is nothing in politics for them. They need to hear policy that resonates with their desires and their fears.

If your policies are sound they needn't be elaborate. Statements of principle are adequate. They do need to show resolve, a convincing intent to enact reform.

I keep going back to the Green Party's policy platform that's posted on their web site. It's the most defensible platform I've ever seen.

With its calls for breaking up the corporate media cartel and battling inequality it wouldn't appeal to a good many sectors of Liberal support but that's not a policy problem, it's a problem with the Liberals.

Kirby Evans said...

Oh, I wasn't suggesting the death the CONmen, only that if Trudeau were to win a decisive victory (again, in the absence of a CON Coup), then the shoe would be on the other foot and pundits would forget that they predicted the end of the Liberals Party and start predicting the death of the CONmen. Such predictions are seldom meaningful or memorable - but they make good headlines.

Owen Gray said...

And, in Newman's case, they sell books, Kirby.

Owen Gray said...

The Liberals have a history of borrowing from the other parties, Mound.

Mackenzie King stole policies from the CCF. And Jean Chretien stole them from the Progressive Conservatives.

I would be surprised if the Liberals weren't eying the Green Party platform.

Dana said...

Too bad these so called journalists don't apply the same rigour to trying to get answers out of Harper.

I'm liking lawyers better than journalists these days and if Shakespeare were writing today too I bet that line would change.

Owen Gray said...

Journalists these days will sell their souls for access, Dana. Harper knows that the more he denies them access, the more they will do his bidding.