Ignatieff used to say the Liberals needed to "plant their flag on the center-left". Since assuming the helm, the rhetoric has changed to "center", and Ignatieff has intimated that the Liberals have the most to gain from winning over "compassionate Conservatives", centrist voters. This belief is obviously based on polling done by the party, and Ignatieff has actually been quite open in referring to the strategy. I don't dispute for one minute, that the Liberals need to appeal to the center, after all the designation implies mainstream society. It is for that reason, that I'm prepared to be somewhat pragmatic, accepting the necessity of appeal and the rationale for "moving", as a means to topple the Conservatives. Any party that hopes to govern must be prepared to compromise, and the act of governing itself generally forces a move to centrist policy.
However, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with this perceived tunnel vision, to siphon off soft conservatives, former progressive conservatives, as our only avenue to take power. While I don't dispute what internal pollsters are telling the party, it seems they are many equations at play, and others which don't necessarily mean you need to abandon you're left flank to expand support. Pointing to the Chretien/Martin model is problematic, because it occured while the right was divided and/or didn't enjoy support in central Canada. I would be very weary of using any reference point which included the words Reform, Canadian Alliance or post Kim Campbell Progressive Conservative. Extraordinary circumstances, which allowed the Liberals to sweep Ontario, remain credible in Quebec, almost by default- in many cases voters had little appealing alternative. The new framework is entirely different, which is why, again, I caution with the "centrist" stuff, at the expense of progressive.
Who was the biggest "gainer" in the last election, an election where the Liberal vote eroded? It was the Greens, with the Cons and NDP only enjoying a minimal uptick. There is really no co-relation between Liberal erosion and a move to the Conservatives. In 2004, you can make a better case, but again the NDP vote was up more decisively, the Conservatives gained at the Bloc expense, so the casual relationship isn't necessarily definitive.
The Conservative base support is probably around 30%, expecting it to fall below that seems to defy common sense at this point. When you consider second choice support, amongst the various parties, you can make a strong case, that the Liberals can draw equally from all the parties. I would hardly classify Bloc support as necessarily demanding a move to the right, nor the Greens, and obviously the NDP. Yes, we can gain support from the Conservatives, but equally, you can appeal to other party voters. My point, don't move so far that you alienate one voter pool, attempting to appeal to another. In my view, the smartest strategy is policy which demonstrates balance, centrist on the economy, center left on social issues, a forward view on the environment, woven within a modern economy.
Again, personally I'm prepared to make the compromise, endorsing a direction which doesn't completely mirror my own view. That's simply a reality in politics, it's not necessarily a game of purism, forever pandering and watered down. That said, it's imperative that the Liberal strategy throws a bone or two in one sense, allows for different perspectives, to latch on to various policy positions, which encompasses the essence of a big tent. Don't let the drive to the center alienate part of your base, because if that occurs, you're essentially doing nothing more than treading water.