Friday, March 13, 2009

What's Wrong With The "Center"?

This quote, from Ignatieff, highlights much of the debate, as it relates to ideological compass:
Ignatieff also acknowledges that he is repositioning his party: “Yes, I’m moving the party to the centre because I think we win from the centre. We win when people believe we are moderate, pragmatic, sensible party that connects to what Canadians are worried about.”

Some left of center people, like myself, get quite animated, after reading comments like the above. Not the low rent, kneejerk, intellectually challenged babies, but the genuine people, with genuine concerns about party direction. I've chosen my own version of pragmatism to reconcile any philosophical disconnect, others are free to do their own math, debate is healthy. The question really becomes- is the "center" a bad place politically?

When Ignatieff speaks of moving to the center, it is really nothing more than positioning ourselves to appeal to mainstream Canada. The center, by definition, is the place on the spectrum that has the capacity to appeal to the greatest percentage of Canadians. The Canadian "center" is nothing more than the middle ground between our societal extremes. With that simple fact in mind, it is hard to argue against positioning that is largely reflective and "connects". It's more a question of degree, than it is approach.

Supporting Ignatieff was always a compromise, based on my leanings. Reconciling the ideal with the practical, very much encapulated within our new position on the oil sands. If I was left to my own devices, put in charge, the tar sands would lie dormant, until somebody figured out a sustainable way to extract without doing great damage, no solution forecoming, no dirty oil. That's my personal view, but I've never been naive enough to think it extends beyond my wants, or is reflective of majority opinion. The fact of the matter, which I've known all along, the oil will be extracted, simple economic realities don't disappear, multi-nationals don't fold up because I attended a rally, the people directly affected will fight to keep projects moving forward- in other words, the tar sands are here to stay. The pragmatic view is to marry some semblance of environmental considerations with the other inate forces within the economy. That brings me back to Ignatieff, not ideal, but some recognition of environment moving forward. Maybe it's to do with my only face to face with Ignatieff, where we talked about the environment, and I came away with a sense of sincerity- he may be a good steward to balance all the forces at play. As it relates to the "center" the balancing act does speak to mainstream society, if samplings are a true indication, Ignatieff is right in the pocket in terms of "connection", not just in the "patch", but in places like Ontario too. One could argue that it's out of step in Quebec, but let's not forget that Harper the most right wing PM in our history was on the cusp of a real breakthrough, which suggests other issues tend to blur the spectrum debate in that province(see Mulroney too).

My point, I'll make the compromise, because after all, the "center" isn't some radical philosophy imposed on the Canadian people, it's where most of us live. It's really no different than Obama, who ran left in the primaries, like every successful Dem in history, then did a sizable shift in the general to curry favor, to amass a winning coalition of voters. I suspect Ignatieff is moving "us" for the same reason, and I have no problems with the Liberals looking "sensible" to the average Canadian, that's your overarching audience.

I see the difference between the two principle parties as such. One moved to the center to try and expand support, but within that political calculation, every opportunity taken to implement right leaning ideals, whether it be policy, program cuts or enhancements, government operation, some subtle things that in totality amount to seismic. I'm thinking needles, funding for science, arts, multilateralism at the UN, hard targets, EI as "lucrative", etc, etc. The other party is moving to the center under the same political calculus, but it will have a flirtation with progressive ideals, where merited, and that makes the contrast all the more important. Returning to my earlier example, if I have two choices as to federal government, overseeing something like the tar sands moving forward, I'll pick Ignatieff every single time.

If one eliminates their own particular view of the world, and extrapolates to Canada as a whole, trying to reconcile competiting interests, rather than imposing, then the "center" is entirely acceptable. Ideal no, realistic, why of course.


Anonymous said...

Put it this way: the Liberal Party since the 90s has been fairly liberal in economic policy; free-market, deregulation, etc. Our focus was on balancing the budget and we not only delivered, but we added bonuses, such as a $13B surplus.

Conservatives have a proven track record of doing NOTHING good for the economy; they spend like the NDP only wish they could, while neglecting to truly help Canadians.

At the same time, Liberals maintain a healthy priority on social programs; Finance Minister Martin did cut a lot under Chretien, but later re-instated and boosted funding to these programs after we became prosperous again.

Canadians will never elect NDP into office, and they're fast losing hope in Harper the eclownomist (for the record: I coined this term!). As demonstrated in the last election, we won't win when we fight for ground with the NDP and Greens; but if we moved back to the center, perhaps even dipping slightly into the right, then we'll win. And once Iggy has his majority, we get leeway in adjusting with the times, dipping to the left or right when necessary.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

If he's moving to the centre, why is he supporting (in vote if not voice) everything the Harper government puts forward. Are the tories the 'new centre'?

Steve V said...


Yes, let's have an election every SEASON. If we're sitting here next year, you might have a point, that argument now is just convenient crap.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

We didn't need to have an election to get rid of Harper. Ignatieff signed a coalition agreement, then tore up that agreement.

And even putting that aside, savvy leaders know how to negotiate in minority situations - Ignatieff knows how to huff and puff, then fold (after bidding high of course).

WesternGrit said...

I suggest "the left" in our party continue to put forth policy and ideas. We may not use them in a platform, but when in power it is a different story. Work with your local MP to bring ideas to Parliament. We will have NDP & Bloc support for any ideas they like- if they're not playing partisan games... Remember, in a minority Parliament backbenchers have a lot of say.

If the current policy position of the LPC is acceptable to Big Bob Rae, it should be acceptable to most Liberals who see themselves "left" of the rest of us...

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

I suggest "the left" in our party continue to put forth policy and ideas. We may not use them in a platform, but when in power it is a different story.

You mean like the national daycare plan?

DL said...

"If the current policy position of the LPC is acceptable to Big Bob Rae, it should be acceptable to most Liberals who see themselves "left" of the rest of us..."

Why would you say that. Bob Rae has turned into a rightwing neo-con with the seal of a convert.

Oxford County Liberals said...

Moving to the centre is fine.. but if Iggy is defining the "centre" by taking positions that are right-of-centre, then that's where problems arise.

JimmE said...

The perception of most folks is the Grits moved too far to the Left. A result of Tories drumming that message into people's head & Dion's inability to shake the label.
By making this comment Iggy is attempting to change folks minds about where the Party Sits. The party has always had policies that could be called either Right or Left.
One of the changes Iggy's brought in a effort to energize the party is to open up the policy process. This result may be some policies that charge Left while others move Right. This tension is where the centre is.

Steve V said...

"Bob Rae has turned into a rightwing neo-con"

Man, you're a real hoot. Not to bright either it would seem...

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

Apparently 'the centre' now includes evangelical Christians.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Not going to waste breath arguing. Just a note: in Canada it's spelt c-e-n-t-r-e, as the comments testify. In the USA, alone among anglo nations I believe, it's "center". You might want to take note so as to avoid any digs linking your adoration of Iggy to his time in the USA supporting neo-con foreign policy and the apparent effects upon your mind, so not just your reasoning but your very grammar has become, for example, "as American as Iggy", etc..

Anonymous said...

Politics should be a battle of ideologies. Voters should be allowed to choose between a variety of interests whether they be Marxist, socialist, racist, homophobic, and anti-immigration. Tackling to the centre represents compromise and unfortunately, bad policies. Short term interests becoming paramount to long term goals.

Can we shut down the tar sands within the next four years or have a genuine debate about immigration in Canada? Not with Iggy and Harper at the helm tackling to the centre. Therefore there will be no way we can see a political change in Alberta or have a real debate on the role of Quebec within the Canadian federation.

If Canadians are more interested in political reform, then we can have these debates. Otherwise, we deserve these phony teleprompted and scripted major political leaders in Ottawa.

Steve V said...

Wow Eugene, mom lets you stay up late on the weekends "eh" (is that the Canadian spelling?) Ya, don't waste your breath, but make sure to look at the new Quebec numbers you small, small, irrelevant misfit you. Night, night. Don't pee the bed, k?


I actually mingle with many evangelicals with my work, in some rural areas. Great folk, most, so I don't particularly like the blanket generalizations, as if cretons that we have to ignore. I think it's really an effort to bring Canadians together, look for some areas of commonality. I don't recall anyone making a stink about Obama getting some evangelical support..oh no, that was a sign of no more politics as usual and applauded if I remember correctly. If you want to put this in your "I hate Iggy" file, that's nice, I'll put it under the "kneejerk, mindless Iggy crap from people with grudges" file. Good day.

Anonymous said...


This has become a nasty flame war. Can the different parts of the Grit blogging community get along?

"I think it's really an effort to bring Canadians together, look for some areas of commonality."

Then what do we do with the Sarah Palin-loving evangelicals, who think that God truly created the world in seven days and that there is an "intellectual design" to the neo-con ideas of Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper?

Yes, Obama courting Rick Warren and the guitar playing, Jesus-loving crowd is good. Just like Harper saying he likes Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Grant while pandering for votes. But Canada is more of a secular and multicultural society than the US and we need to be moving this way. I don't think Iggy going to Spring Garden Church in Willowdale hugging ethnic evangelicals is positive outreach for votes. In fact, I would dig a trench and encourage Kenney and Polievre go there every week in order to expose how dangerous and small minded these Harper social conservatives are.

Steve V said...

"This has become a nasty flame war. Can the different parts of the Grit blogging community get along?"

You're kidding right? I don't take it seriously, because it's simply not representative of anything. People can take pot shots all they want, I'll return in kind, comforted in the knowledge that my opinion is far more grounded in reality that big mouths with a keyboard, that can't read the tea leaves. The Liberals are doing well under Ignatieff to date. Period. People who are consumed with carving, and spinning good news into negatives, well, I'm not apologizing for mockery. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a testament that parts of the blogosphere aren't ready for prime time, no ability to reason beyond personal bias. If Ignatieff starts screwing up, I'll be the first to point out the errors as I see it, but this stuff we see now is just inmature garbage and it's the domain of flunkies.

All that said, I do respect some people who have problems with Ignatieff, people like MOS, Mark Francis, etc, so my mockery isn't a generalization. Guys like Eugene and 1 Clueless Lib, I mean really...

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

I think it's really an effort to bring Canadians together, look for some areas of commonality.

Funny, that wasn't the position of the Liberal Party when Stockwell day was Leader of the Opposition.

It's just another example of Iggy's position and Harper's being almost identical.

The Mound of Sound said...

"Genuine people"? Did you sneak out to too many of those Palin rallies Steve? When are you going to start telling us about "real Canada" and "real Canadians?" I'm not surprised this sort of thing finds voice in the Ignatieff Liberal Party.

He's not bringing the LPC to the center, that's nonsense. He's bringing it to the center as defined by Stephen Harper. That's very much center-right.

WesternGrit's sop to "the left" reminds me again why I let my LPC membership lapse this month. Put forth policy and ideas "WE may not use them." I guess he's simply pointing out that neo-libs have wrested control of this party.