Headless Liberals Could Return Sooner Than Expected

By Jason Menard

If Canadians are willing to throw their support behind a rudderless ship, can you imagine what will happen when the Liberals finally choose a leader to guide it into the next election?

Listen, we all know what dogs do to polls, but the latest one from Sun Media-SES Research is interesting that the top-driven, Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party now finds itself in a neck-and-neck struggle with the headless, directionless, confused Liberal Party of Canada in the hearts and minds of the voters. With a slim 34 per cent to 32 per cent advantage (which is wiped out thanks to statistical variation), the Conservatives may find that their stay at the helm of Canada may be brief.

The thing the Conservatives have going against them is that they represent only a small minority of Canadians. Most Canucks are socially left-wing, fiscally conservative, and looking for a party that’s willing to take progressive action on soft causes, like social growth and the environment. They also want a party that’s going to balance the books and ensure that the coffers are filled for the future.

Frustratingly enough for Elizabeth May, the Green Party seems to embody most of those ideals – it’s just too few Canadians are willing to seriously consider handing her party the keys to the country. Green policy may be solid in theory, but practically several Canadians hear Green and think Rhino. That’s not a good combination.

But when you look at the national support for Liberal (centre-left), NDP (left), Green (centre-left), and Bloc (get beyond the whole separation thing and you’ll find a big, squishy, socially conscious core), and it’s easy to see that the majority of Canadians don’t consider themselves small c conservative.

While Stephen Harper was able to benefit from Liberal disenchantment and a split left-of-centre vote, it appears this brief taste of Conservative governance has sent a few Canadians running back to the comfort of their social safety net – the left-wing parties.

When people think of Canadians, they think of tolerance, social consciousness, and environmental concern. And these are hardly the hallmarks of the Tories. Rightly or wrongly, many Canadians view the Conservatives as being nothing more than the Republican Party-lite. They see a party willing to cut literacy programs and spend more on military.

So just when everyone was writing off the Liberals as dead in the water for the foreseeable future, here comes the opportunity they’ve been looking for. And that makes the upcoming leadership convention, to be held in Montreal between Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, even more important to the future of the party – and this country as a whole.

Essentially, the delegates flocking to Montreal have an opportunity to elect the Prime Minister in Waiting. Canadians from coast to coast are looking for a party that reflects their values – but they want one that they can believe in. There’s a reason why the Liberal Party of Canada had a stranglehold on Canadian politics for years – and that’s because they represented a palatable compromise for voters from Newfoundland to B.C.

They were the party that would show compassion where it was needed, but still make decisions with the bottom line in mind. When that trust was breached with the sponsorship scandal and various other Liberal missteps, Canadians were left without a place to go.

Hence the minority Conservative government. For some reason in this country we’re not willing to hand the reins over to someone other than the Tories or the Grits. Many-a-time the comment of “well, I like the NDP, but I don’t think they can actually run the country,” has been uttered.

So with Canadians unwilling to embrace the NDP and Green in anything more than a secondary or advocacy capacity, it falls to the Liberals to be the standard bearer for the majority of Canadians. But will the voters agree that the Grits have suffered enough for their transgressions? Will they believe that an adequate lesson has been learned since the last election?

The new leader, whomever it may be, must take the opportunity to position the party as the Liberal party of old. One would think that would favour the Michael Ignatieffs or the Bob Raes who are coming in as relative outsiders, but regardless of who is chosen, they will have to commit to a new dawn of Liberal politics.

Getting back to the basics: fiscal responsibility and a social conscience. It’s a winning recipe for the Liberal Party of Canada and the political environment is ripe for a return to power. After all, when Canadians are willing to cast their ballots for a rudderless ship, imagine what would happen if that vessel was captained by someone with a clear vision and an appreciation of the best that the past has to offer.

Majority rules may come sooner than we all think!

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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