I suppose my expectations have changed slightly, now that I'm actually here in Montreal. I've found the experience to be entirely stimulating, if not somewhat depressing given some of the daunting tasks at hand. The organic component, this conference really is taking a life of its own, as various speakers and questioners put their stamp on the proceedings.
My chief worry, and really nothing more than a unknown at this point- can the Liberals stay focused and build off the momentum here? One would think, our center of government would be conducive for substantive debate, but if anything this sort of forum highlights the contrast with the superficial realities that dominate Ottawa. Ignatieff said the challenge here is to see if a political party can effectively respond to complex issues in a practical way. The answer is becoming OBVIOUS, it can, but only if policy is developed on merit, rather than palatability. Does the spirit here fade, as people return to the land of safe presentations and nimble dodge? Will the adult morph back into the impulsive juvenile, with no attention span?
This is a big speech today for Ignatieff, but tomorrow is actually more telling. The Montreal afterglow must manifest itself, don't let bold run cold. A moment of candor- the Liberals are long odds to win the next election. If one accepts probabilities, rather than the optimism of best case scenarios, then it allows for a different perspective. Would you rather fight for sound ideas and risk defeat, or be defeated because you fear how adversaries will twist those ideas? I'd rather go down on principles, rooted in hard fact, than tuck in to safe positions and avoid being provocative.
The predicament the Liberals face isn't unique, all parties now seem stuck in full on pander mode, jockeying to see who can be the least offensive. I wonder if this approach accurately reads the mood of the country, because a little "tough talk" might just be refreshing. You also might get murdered, apathy at a historical high, little engagement beyond the odd soundbite, we can't "handle the truth". Reconciling this inherent tension is the really the biggest challenge, coming out of Montreal.