The fundraising figures, detailed in today’s Globe and Mail, paint a “frightening” picture according to Martha Hall Findlay. What the numbers tell me- the Liberal Party of Canada is not a grassroots organization. Donor fatigue, paying off candidate debt, blah, blah, blah- those excuses only mask the real problem.
Party apologists point to the 19 000 donors in the last quarter of 2006, as though that puts this quarter’s embarrassing 4300 donors into perspective. I wouldn’t be bragging about NDP-like donor numbers, barely 40% of Conservative donors, in a quarter where you had a high-profile leadership race, that full engaged Liberals across the country. If anything, the 19 000 donors was a temporary, still relatively unimpressive, blip, borne out of circumstance, instead of the more accurate reading the defenders suggest. I’m also not buying the “we need time to adapt” to the new rules, particularly when many of them were brought in by a Liberal government, years ago.
The real story, the only story, in these numbers to my mind, the Liberal Party has failed to generate any enthusiasm with ordinary Canadians. What the Liberal Party really needs, apart from the obvious tactics employed by the Conservatives, is some policy that stirs people to engage. I’m not blaming Dion, because I think the Martin era was were the Liberal Party seemed to lose its identity, through the mish mash of endless pandering and political expediency. What I do mean, what are the singular, slogan-like positions that people “on the street” can identify with? The answers are easy if you think of the NDP and Conservatives, but with the Liberals the answer doesn’t readily come to mind.
What I like about the Liberal Party is the lack of dogmatism, the pragmatic quality that comes to decisions based on evidence presented, rather than pre-described rigidity. Having said that, there is an abstract flare to that posture that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to practical motivations. If the Liberal Party is going to morph into a grassroots movement, the way the new financing rules dictate, then it must articulate some overall vision to draw attention. The poor contribution totals might just be a reflection of lack of identity, rather than the other excuses I’ve heard to date.