The Gerry Nichols column denotes the difference between philosophy and partisanship. I believe political subsidies are a good thing in Canada, the reforms Chretien enacted took organized money out of the process and the relatively small expenditures allowed politicians to focus more on their jobs than soliciting handouts. Compared with the American system, that sees representatives spending exorbitant amounts of time on fundraising, distracted from their primary jobs, I'll take Canada's subsidy regime every time.
However, there is another side to this argument, which Nichols makes, representing the purest conservatism. It's an interesting column because it provides a disconnect between an ideological bias and a purposeful partisan strategy, disguised as ideological bent. There is no question Harper is moving on subsidies to cripple the Liberals. There is also little doubt that if not for political advantage, Harper wouldn't be moving quickly to end these subsidies, their priority reveals true intent. But, this is the reality that we now face in Canada, so rather than lament, it's time to accept the new rules and see if the Liberals can defy Harper's clear intent.
The Liberals face the double whammy of a reduced Parliamentary budget because of their third party standing. Staff are already being cut, resources are limited, it's a lean proposition. Now with party subsidies poised to end- probably some staggered extinction- the Liberals will bleed further, and it is actually QUITE serious. For the NDP, reality is blunted, because they have increased resources as opposition, better positioned to absorb the impact.
One thing is quite clear, the new rules will force the Liberals to revolutionize themselves. Whether we are capable of this transformation remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Harper's elimination of subsidies will force an entire new Liberal mindset. I'm not sure the reality has quite set in, maybe it will take a few months, but the bottom line is the former Liberal hierarchy is dead, the only chance for survival is a grassroots inspired entity. It's pretty simple really, either the Liberals appeal to the grassroots in a profound way that forces them to empty their wallets or it dies slowly, deluding itself of the true task at hand. Today's Liberal Party is already a past tense, I'm just not sure everyone grasps the gravity, we're still in "rallying" phase, which is admirable on some level. When the checks stop rolling in and we're down to the sheer basics, confronted with a hulking machine on the other side, then it starts to get real.
I'm going to take a restrained positive attitude, because these new rules also offer a reasonable opportunity. I mean really, when we get down to it, if a party can't appeal to people in a way that forces donations, it really does speak to a lack of resonance, relevance, it really is any indictment of failed messaging. On the other hand, it means there is a co-relation between fundraising and fundamentals, if we start to raise money in decent amounts, it will suggest we are actually rebuilding the proper way, people are responding to our message. In essence, the new rules will be a weather wane, they will tell the tale, whether or not the Liberals finally get it, whether or not we are done with vanilla presentations and are actually appealing rather than relying on the rejection of others. It's a daunting task, but a healthy one, we will sink or swim based on our own merits. The election results mean resonance is now our primary goal, the subsidy cuts only guarantee that laser-like focus, because there is simply no dissuading ourselves with fuzzy futuristic scenarios, our survival starts and ends within Liberal borders.