Friday, November 13, 2009

Wise Advice

It's almost strange, coming from this source, primarily because I've viewed his Liberal "shadow" as part of the problem with current mentality. As Liberal minds wander, I know there is some longing for the next messiah, which is odd in one sense, given the current guy was supposedly just that. Frank McKenna offers some good advice:
Frank McKenna has some sobering counsel for federal Liberals: They could be in opposition for a long time and there is no Messianic leader who can lead them quickly out of the wilderness.

The advice from a man once thought to be the party's best hope for a speedy return to power...

"I never thought it would be easy and I never thought I was a Messiah," he said.

Indeed, his decision to stay on the sidelines was at least partly due to his realization that rebuilding the party would take years of painstaking, relentless work.

"When you've been in power for a long stretch, the tide goes out and it goes out a long way," he says now.

The next messiah rejects the messiah scenario. Perfect.

I appreciate the "years of painstaking, relentless work", because accepting that probable reality will put the focus where it needs to be, rather than short sighted strategies that are mostly opportunistic, not particularly substantive.

For the Liberals to win the next election, we will need a certain amount of luck that works to our timely advantage. That's the realistic landscape, the "odds" will never be in our favor, at least not for some time. Appreciating the gravity of the challenge, without waving the white flag, that's the trick for the Liberals.

I firmly believe the Liberals should adopt a "five year plan" style strategy, a two election template to put together a winning coalition. A simple review of the electoral map, the margins, the intangibles, natural incumbent advantages, it's hard to see a full return in one fell swoop. A return to 2006 seat breakdowns should be a quiet goal, let the unpredictability of campaigns allow for more optimism.

When Ignatieff first took the helm, I thought he was correct to reach out to the less fertile Canadian subsets. Somewhere along the way, decisions were made to mostly abandon the "308" mentality, election fever undercut a slow, plodding vision. Maybe it was the recognition that it would take years, whatever, it was a mistake. Sacrifing a sound logic, on the basis of immediate dividends, the minority mentality wins out. Accepting the fact that Liberals face a tough road, then we start to get to the core problems that haunt the brand. In some respects, a Conservative majority last election was probably the best outcome, because it would allow the Liberals to breathe and re-energize themselves, without the hopeful lure of a quick return.

A solid first step, is to use what you have to advantage. Ignatieff isn't part of the Liberal lineage, so let's stop inserting all these great fawning tributes to past leadership. Ignatieff needs to be a vehicle for a changed identity, and this is never achieved by reminding everyone about the tired brand. Liberals might like it, the public sees it all as STALE. No more rehashed policy positions, no more nostalgia, Ignatieff needs to break from the succession. The good news, Ignatieff isn't part of the old order, he actually possesses the pedigree to frame as the outsider, with a new vision. Embrace his political "rookie" status, people don't like slick, career politicos, it's actually attractive to speak FREELY. Be controversial, step on some toes, stop pandering like Paul Martin, stop taking so much advice you render yourself a two dimensional, TYPICAL politician. Above all else, the leader's primary goal now is to set the tone, that there's something new or different about the Liberal Party, post governance. Almost four years out, and we still haven't made the transition.

Accept the wilderness, get a route back and know it's laborious and long. If the time is shorter, accept the fruits of your fortune, but don't operate with that "hope" polluting your decisions.


rockfish said...

Perhaps its really time to an honest talk about economics with Canadians. Whether it is a bitter pill or just a rejected pill, once people realize -- which may be much later than we hope, but it will happen -- that the CONs are selling more bullcrap and have no interest in telling the truth, people will come around. Well, that and we've got to offer some policies that can be digested in quick fashion.

Top Can Inc. said...

Great post. I totally agree with your notion that the ideas that Liberals are putting forward are not being well received because they lack substance, it is because they've already been said and tried. A party that is seen as being stale is dangerously close to being irrelevant. Judging from the by election results on Monday, we might not be even close to taking seats back from the NDP anytime soon, let alone from the Tories.

The question is how long? How long until Iggy shows us that he can be a different kind of leader? Because's he had this job for almost a year now, and I'm not seeing anything different.

Jim said...

I'd be pretty careful about that economics talk, rockfish.

If you want to talk about the deficit, remember, it was opposition parties that were creeching for more spending.

Or perhaps you might want to talk about what great deficit slayers the Libs were, by raiding the EI surplus and trying to bankrupt the Provinces.

Maybe you can point out how the Cons squandered a $13B surplus, only to be reminded that since taking power less than 4 years ago, the Cons had paid down nearly $40B of the national debt.

Indeed, Liberals should be careful when suggesting frank discussion on economics.

I think the writing on the wall is clear. Canadians want the Libs to take their lumps and perhaps come back better and stronger.

Right now you are seen as the Whining Bitch party of Kinsella and get to work on real issues...not mini scandal of the day.

It's getting weak and annoying.

Steve V said...

A little frank talk is never a bad thing, particularly if you don't expect immediate returns. You're never going to make headway on the economic front, when you parrot the same denials as the government.


Rehashing old policies isn't exactly inspiring. Even a good policy, looks stale, because you've heard it before, or it takes cues from past administrations.

DL said...

"In some respects, a Conservative majority last election was probably the best outcome, because it would allow the Liberals to breathe and re-energize themselves, without the hopeful lure of a quick return."

Except that if Harper had won a majority, he would have arbitrarily eliminated the party funding like he tried to do last November and there would have been no stopping him. If that had happened, the Liberals and possibly other opposition parties would have had to file for bankruptcy as a result of having no possible way of paying off debts from the 2008 election.

Be careful about wishing for something - it might happen.

Anonymous said...

How very revisionists of you, Tom. You just keep peddling the spin that the conservatives are excellent stewards of the economy . . . don't let facts stand in your way. Rah Rah Red Meat!

Harper & Flaherty have kept a steady hand on the wheel, alright. Budget deficits as far as the eye can see. This is his government and his record. He wears it.

Steve V said...


The NDP relies on that money more than the Libs, at present. Also, on the bankruptcy front, maybe you need a review of the party finances, because you're clearly clueless.

Besides, with you guys caving now and our resistance, it's pretty much a majority anyways.


If they think Harper gets credit for paying down the debt, its absolutely laughable that they can't see he wears the SAME FILE.

DL said...

Let's just wait until the budget that will include HST enabling legislation in February. My prediction is that the NDP votes NO and the Liberals go back to voting YES to everything from Harper.

Don't get me wrong, eliminating the party subsidy would be hard on ALL the opposition parties. I said that very clearly. My point is that if Harper had won a majority last year he would have driven ALL the opposition parties into bankruptcy or near bankruptcy - and the Liberals depend on that public funding to a greater extent than the NDP does.

Steve V said...


You last sentence is categorically WRONG. Old, old news.

And no, you didn't say it clearly. What you did is your typical Lib dig, which isn't particularly compelling. As a matter of fact, your commentary is a cure for insomnia, I swear. Useless.

Mark Francis said...

I'm sick and tired of the 'public funding' red herring.

FACT: All of the political parties are publicly underwritten by a combination of research allocations, riding association rebates, a tax credit as well as the per vote funding. The Conservatives rely on the tax credit more than the other parties. The smaller parties rely on the per vote funding more.

I've said it before when Harper tried to eliminate the per vote funding, the Liberals should have said "No -- let's keep that one (it's the most democratic) and get rid of the other ones" just to let the public know that Harper was full of it when he claimed that the public should not be 'subsidizing' political parties.

A majority Harper government would also rescind the ban on 3rd party advertising during elections, and would toy with electoral spending limits and tranfers.

Money = freedom. The more cash you have the more freedom you should have. That's how Harper operates.

DL said...

The most important overall point is that if Harper had won a majority last year, he could have and would have inflicted an enormous amount of damage on the opposition parties (not to mention on Canada). Sure the Liberals would have had four years to prepare for an election in 2012 - but they also would have spent much of that period in bankruptcy court fighting off creditors. All the opposition parties took out multimillion dollar bank loans to pay for the 2008 election campaign and the subsidy was collateral. If that money had been eliminated in one fell swoop - the banks would have seized just about all the assets of the Liberal party (and to a large extent the NDP, BQ and Greens as well)

Steve V said...


For the last time, get your facts straight or get lost, your ignorance is embarrassing. The financial position of the NDP is the most precarious. Period.


Good points.

DL said...

If you have any "facts" to put forward about the relative financial position of the parties let's see them.

The only thing we know for sure about the Liberals is that they had a good second quarter of fundraising - but apparently most of that was wasted on 2 million dollars worth of "Iggy in Narnia" ads that lost him votes every time they appeared! Given that the Liberals were apparently unable to afford to run even the most perfunctory of campaigns in the byelections this week - i can only assume that they have no money left in the piggy bank!

Steve V said...

Lavigne admitted in the Hill Times that the NDP has a 3-4 million dollar debt. The Liberals have NO debt.

Did it ever dawn on you DL, that part of the reason the NDP abandoned their entire message of the last three years to prop up Harper, was because you guys can't afford an election right now? I mean, pretty much every fair observer recognized that the NDP weren't in great shape financially. Can you admit reality, or must we endure your sad denialfest? Anyways, I already know the answer. Ciao.