Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Death Of The Liberal Party?


Jeffrey Simpson asks a question which needs asking. Peter C. Newman tried to answer it after the last election. But, like Mark Twain's first obituary, his answer proved to be premature.  What is happening these days, however, raises the question yet again -- because, at the moment, the traditional Liberal coalition simply isn't there. Simpson writes:

Quebec, the federal Liberals’ bastion from 1896 to 1980, has not voted a majority of seats for that party in 35 years. Quebeckers spent many years and six elections refusing to think about participating in governing Canada, or even being much interested in federal affairs by voting for the Bloc Québécois. When they ditched the Bloc, francophone Quebeckers did not return to the Liberals, but voted en masse for the New Democratic Party, which remains their preferred federalist option.

The Prairie West had departed the Liberals more than half a century ago. Voters that comprise two other elements of the Canadian political mosaic split more recently from what had been the grand Liberal coalition.

French-speaking minorities outside Quebec in New Brunswick, northern and eastern Ontario and Saint Boniface in Manitoba used to be the most faithful of Liberals. Most of the ridings with these minorities have not voted Liberal in many elections.

Similarly, Liberals used to dominate Ontario’s industrial cities (or parts thereof): Windsor, St. Catharines, Hamilton, (the east part of) London, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Cornwall. They don’t hold these seats any more, in part because private-sector union presence has dwindled. Liberals, not New Democrats, used to win a majority of these voters.

In 1990, when Jean Chretien won the  Liberal leadership, he was called "yesterday's man:"

He had been in and around politics for most of his adult life before becoming leader. It was said that he had lost touch with his native province, Quebec; that he was a terrific handler of files that someone smarter than himself had crafted; that he was corny, folksy and likeable but lacked the gravitas to be prime minister.

Not enough people understood that, as one of his female cabinet ministers once said (privately of course), he had “balls of steel.” Cross him and you paid a price. He had been underestimated politically throughout his career, and had not been accorded the respect of intellectuals and senior strategists in the Liberal Party. It was asserted that he did not know enough about the world; that he did not read his briefing notes; that complexity was his enemy; and that in due course all these alleged weaknesses, and others, would do him in.

But all of those years in the cabinet had made him a very smart politician. It remains to be seen if Trudeau knows what Chretien knew.

I'll be away tomorrow. But I should be back on Monday.


Kirby Evans said...

I Think that the past couple of months are really symbolic of what has gone wrong with the Liberal Party. Trudeau had a couple of years to place himself squarely on the political landscape as an independent thinkers who had new ideas etc. Instead he sort of hummed and hawed, an apparent apathy that climaxed in his unexpected and unpopular support for Bill C-51. What was perceived as his first real action of significance as Liberal leader was to set the party back to the days of Dion and Ignatieff - that is to be a rubber stamp for Harper's worst kinds of policies. THen, when polls made it apparent that people were looking toward the NDP in droves, Trudeau suddenly offered a bunch of progressive polices as though in knee jerk reaction to growing NDP popularity. This just reinforced another perceived weakness of the Liberal Party - campaigning from the left governing from the right. Trudeau is offering some good things, and I think trying to place himself as more "progressive" than the NDP. However, the optics are bad and he has just reinforced many people's worst feelings about the Party. I don't predict the future of politics anymore, and who knows, the Liberal Party might come back. But if it doesn't, if the NDP actually wins a majority, Trudeau, ironically could be perceived as the guy whose dithering destroyed the Party. However, on spanner in the works could be an NDP minority government, and if the Liberals support that Minority long enough to bring in genuine electoral reforms (PR, or weighted voting etc. ) then all bet are off because a new voting system will remake the political landscape entirely.

Owen Gray said...

From what I've read, Kirby, Trudeau's proposals for democratic reform are substantial and long overdue. Whether or not he is elected prime minister is less important than his proposals. If he comes along with the policies, I'll support him.

But, first and foremost, I support the policies -- minus Bill C-51.

Gyor said...

32 proposals is poor commications stragedy, most people will not wade through 32 proposals on democractic reform, so when asked to name one most people will not be able to name one.

Also one said proposal is PR, which he gleefully voted against, so he has no crediblity on democractic reform and in fact he's already broken a promise on democractic reform, open nominations.

Trudeau likes to take out of both sides of his mouth and that as much as any individual policy will be what costs Justin Trudeau the 2015 election.

Owen Gray said...

It's sad when we believe that the voting public can't handle multiple ideas at the same time, Gyor. Mr. Harper has been very good at dumbing down our politics.I do agree, however, that Trudeau can't have it both ways -- which is what his support of Bill C-51 is all about.

Mogs Moglio said...

The more I see of Trudeau II the more I see that he will continue Harper's reign of terror only a slightly milder version. He has not come out unequivocally on any issue and has not promised the undoing of Harper's juggernaut draconian 'Omnibus Bills' which we need undone in-order to move forward from 'The Nightmare on Sussex Street' so Trudeau get back to your boyish games get out of the way and let someone with a real stance on real issues like the undoing of Canada, the Warmongering of Canada, the dissolution of our social safety net, not taxing the hell out of corporations and the elite that needs to be done they ain't going anywhere soon. They stay in Norway despite the high taxation.


Owen Gray said...

Your take on Trudeau seems to be pretty popular, Mogs. That's why Mulcair is leading in the polls.