Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raising The Bar

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.

10 comments:

The Rational Number said...

I wonder if some brutal honesty might differentiate the Liberals, if done appropriately and effectively?

It's a given that any party will be attacked, regardless of what they say. I don't think pandering is immune. Why not take an unpopular stand, e.g. raising the GST 2%, and admit it isn't pleasant... but defend it's better than doing nothing and letting the deficit build more debt. The Liberals are always condemned as 'tax and spend' by the right anyway, regardless of any evidence and reality. I bet there's more support for that than any other plan to address the deficit (not that its a lot of support).

Curtis said...

Good points. Big challenge but I agree it's better to lose standing on principle than to win by pandering.

Steve V said...

With everyone pandering, some of the old assumptions might not hold. Canadians have completely tuned out politicos, and part of that is result that they never say anything, they massage all messaging, basically phoney. I think the ground is ripe for some "adult" conversation, no risk no reward.

Steve V said...

Fowler this morning:

"I have the impression that the(Liberals) will endorse anything and everything that might return them to power and nothing which won’t."

Actually quiet refreshing and a testament that this conference really is non partisan, open and engages in free discussion.

Omar said...

Refreshing yes, but it hardly fills me with confidence that the Liberals are going to unveil and promote anything other than the current pap currently being sold by narrow-thinking conservative ideologues.

Frankly Canadian said...

I absolutely agree Steve; the time is ripe for some controversial debates. However, the party who initiates these debates will more than face a barrage of cynicism and criticism by media pundits and by the Harper attack machine/war room. I also think you hit the nail right on the head with that statement "I'd rather go down on principles, rooted in hard fact, than tuck in to safe positions and avoid being provocative", I believe any ridicule and banter will be short lived as Canadians begin to see the vast perplexities our future has to offer. I also agree with TRN's "The Liberals are always condemned as 'tax and spend' by the right anyway, regardless of any evidence and reality", make no mistake the solutions of the future are going to cost money and I hope Canadians aren't stupid enough to believe that the CPC can solve these problems without it costing the citizens of Canada anything.

Jerry Prager said...

Go for it.
Create data bases like the archive of the conference, data base, networks and new media, bypass the old media, stay in the deep water and if you go into the shallows, go in a row boat.

Jerry Prager said...

Frankly, online pundits: CAPP beat them on Prorogue, drove the argument all the way home to the point that Harper came back talking about 'lost time", we learned own the comments, we went to online polls by the thousands and turned them around, even on Con radio like CFRA. we filled inboxes, wrote letters, made phone calls, we challenged all media because we discovered that we cannot trust the corporatist media to defend democracy, for precisely the same reason we have mindless politics: fear of lost revenue. Such is the banality of evil. CAPP is one part of a larger network, Canadian voters, crown land commoners, creative commons and fair trade economics, it's all there, everything exists in the new democracy, but it's like a house that we haven't moved into yet. It's moving day.

Jerry Prager said...

"The RN", it doesn't have to be brutal honesty, just treat Canadians like they're intelligent. The last thing Canadians need is to have a Professor insult their intelligence, which is a bit how I think Iggy has been perceived: too coy by half so far, but now, this data base is so substantive, it exists, it shows Iggy doing something no one can imagine Stephen Harper doing. More people will visit the site after the event is over than have been involved so far. If CAPP could drive Harper to admit that there was time lost, then Liberals, with an online, functioning policy discussion structure, after the decision by Milliken the contempt of parliament issue, well, boldness in defense of democracy will no go unrewarded and, Iggy has already made the term new democracy his, in a way that will be hard for Layton to wrestle back.
While still campaigning on cooperation and collegiality between elected representatives.

Frankly Canadian said...

Jerry, I must disagree with your philosophy that the reason we have mindless politics is the fear of lost revenues and your notion that the online hype C.A.P.P. created somehow influenced Steven Harper to change his mind on something. The only thing that makes politics mindless to me is the by-partisan bickering that occurs constantly in the house of parliament, on mainstream media news shows, and pundit’s programs. I am a firm believer that our political system does work to solve important problems facing our great country and has done so for the past one hundred and forty three years. The notion that money and taxes are the only things that matter to Canadians just seems, well too American for me. Canadians have a longstanding history of doing things for the right reasons and not just for financial gain. To address your comment about “the new democracy” being like a new house we have yet to move into, I wonder if that same analogy was used during the inception of television? While I find the new presence of on-line debate exhilarating, I hardly think it has the influence that you are suggesting. Granted the fact that C.A.P.P. definitely got Canadians talking, it was that fact that demanded television media talk about it. A vast amount of Canadians still get their information from the “six o clock news” and are reliant for that news to be relative. I use the example of our Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the beginning of the games were troublesome however as the games went on and the excitement built, the mainstream media was all over what was making the games extraordinary, and with that coverage more and more people made it that much more exciting. While I believe the internet is certainly a useful tool in our society, I don’t think it has taken the place of television just yet.