Sunday, April 03, 2011

Where Do The Liberals Sit?

When Ignatieff first took over the helm, a lot of people on the left saw him as nothing more than Harper-lite, based on a selective list. When he first returned to seek the Liberal leadership I largely agreed with much of the criticism, only when I did my own research, did I find strands of classic liberalism weaving through his thoughts, at least in certain regards. When Ignatieff took over from Dion, another wave of "Liberal/Tory, same old story", people jumping on any convergence as proof dammit, proof. The situation wasn't helped by a clear lack of policy development, the Liberals still adrift, a situation not of Ignatieff's making, but a reality nonetheless.

Today, we dropped the Liberal platform, a culmination of a year's worth of work, some big items already stated previously, plus a few new one's for overall rounding. Step back and look at the evolution the past few months, and you see an apparent move philosophically. Many pundits, commentators seem to say the Liberals have "moved left", the Liberals are stepping "all over the NDP", plus some worry that we've sacrificed the center. I must admit, I find it a bit amusing that Ignatieff of all people is being accused of this spectrum shift, given past criticism.

I'm not surprised Liberals find themselves here, as a firm left of center Liberal, I was convinced Ignatieff shared this ground, with certain obvious omissions. However, as we've fleshed out our policy, as we've firmly planted our flag on the center left, it makes it much easier to support this party, this leader, this alternative to Harper. I donated yesterday with enthusiasm, not duty, because I believe in where we stand, this is traditional Liberal ground, the center left is the heart of Canadian society, not the fringe. Progessive on social issues, committed to fiscal disipline, a compassionate government that realizes constraints, but attempts to find equalities.

I feel like this party has found it's rallying cry, and I know I'm not alone. Many of us railed against this and that, our meandering positions, lack of clear focus. Victory or defeat aside, it feels like we have found something to support, the Liberals have finally armed themselves with a slew of ideas to convey a message. It's not perfect, it has pandering aspects, gloss, pure crap to be honest, but if you understand all political parties operate in this world, no exceptions, it's a fairly good projection. Where do the Liberals sit? People can debate the significance, ramifications, but it sure feels more comfortable from here.


rgl said...

:) Well said :)

Alison said...

I totally agree. I was not too enthusiastic about Ignatieff, but have been paying close attention to this race. I was at the rally in Montreal and was very impressed. I have rejoined the Liberal Party and donated for the first time since the 1970's. Harper is just a disaster for our democracy and frankly, Ignatieff is a breath of fresh air. I think he can be trusted, if only because he is not a career politician.

Jerry Prager said...

Canada at 150 served him well, as did those prorogue period mini-conferences in the committee rooms. Given his family's commitment to education, down both sides of his family, dating to his grandfather, the last czar's last minister of education, he has embraced a liberalism of nobility, the reaching down from comfort and privilege, and the helping hand up from inequity. I also think there will be a lot of students voting to make sure they qualify for those learning grants.

thwap said...

As a not-so-great man once said:

"Screw the 'Red Book.'"

rockfish said...

My one disappointment was in the democratic refresher -- that there was no cognizant awareness that the static first-past-the-post is no longer representative standard. There are a variety of better options in place elsewhere (perhaps too many and many too complicated) but would it have hurt to have launched a commons committee w/ average Canadian input opportunities, that could present another option to put before the people? That I think would have been a real people mover... Admittedly, I've been a romantic about FPTP for a long time, however I think it is the one guarantee that could save us from harpers of the future.

Anonymous said...

As Thwap says (more concisely), Liberals have a history of campaigning from the left and ruling from the right. Why should anyone believe yet another red book?

Despite my worries about Iggy's leftist sincerity, I'd still vote Liberal in ridings where there is not an NDP alternative. Anyone but Harper has to be the dominant theme of this election. Fortunately, I live in a riding that will not have a significant Con vote, so I can safely vote NDP.

Shiner said...

Well, from the polls it looks like the Libs did what they wanted... it just probably won't get them elected. They siphoned off a nice chunk of NDP support and then as soon as the budget was revealed (and personally, I think the LPC platform is ludicrous) the centre right all leapt over to the CPC. Hate to sound like a concern troll, but strategy fail.

Steve V said...

The budget? Really. Don't agree at all, people need to calm down.

Scotian said...

You know something that always puzzles me? I hear about how Liberals campaign from the left but govern from the right, yet we developed a (pre-Harper) very progressive social democracy with strong progressive commitments ingrained in our society despite the Liberals being the "natural (and actual for a good 3/4ths of our history) governing party" both on the domestic and international level. Now how can that be reconciled with the criticism about the Libs, given that it was the further rightwards party that was the alternate government of them?

This is a criticism that really irritates me these days, almost as much as the fallacious Liberal Tory same old story crapfest I've been hearing since the CPC was formed under Harper (when that is clearly not the case at all, unlike with the PCPC where such an argument actually did have more than a little resemblance to reality unlike nowadays with the Harper CPC when it has none whatsoever). Do the Libs have their faults in not being even more progressive as a government as many of us might like to see? Of course, but then something many people forget is that actual governing means you have to live in the world that is, not the world you wish it was, and the world that is has most of the world's wealth tied up with corporations and such, who are not going to easily embrace (nor permit for that matter) such speedy change and reform, yet Canada managed to do quite well for itself over the long run, maybe not as good as some European nations, but then they didn't have the worlds most powerful economy next door with a population and government that is far more conservative than ours.

The Libs are centrist pragmatists with a social conscience, which is more than you get with most so called parties on the left in the major western democracies, and from what I've seen so far Ignatief (surprisingly to me) appears to be well within the standard template for that pattern, which especially after five years of a Harper government is a nice thing to be seeing indeed. More interesting to me is that this time it seems he unlike Dion is also bringing out those Libs that stayed home in the prior two elections, and that combined with pulling in strength from the NDP might actually have more of an impact than many seem to think possible.

This election is shaping up to be more of a fight than any Harper has faced since Martin's in 2004, and despite his rep as a master political strategist the reality is he makes a lot of mistakes when under pressure, which is of course why the limited media availability and the bubble campaigning with preselected "average" Canadians in his audiences these days.

Steve V said...


I'm surprised people still say that, given what we now see as really governing from the right. It's nonsensical really, this is the right, and I've never seen a Lib gov't come near it. Center yes.

Anonymous said...

Scotian: The advances put forward by King (with pressure from the public and the CCF) and Pearson are laudable Liberal benchmarks. My complaint with the Liberal Party doesn't stretch that far back in time. It only goes back to Chretien/Martin. They continued Mulroney's assault on the social safety net, especially UI.

Also, the various Red Books from Chretien's time should be viewed by all progressive Liberals with disdain. Never were so many lies packed into such a neat little package.

Maybe Ignatieff is more sincere with his intentions than Chretien ever was. But I won't give him the benefit of the doubt, because I have an alternative. Fool me once, shame on you.

Dame said...

I absolutely Like the platform ...and are we back in Trudeauville? I think it is fine place to be and we make the " ville " over for the new realities and times ..of Canada .
A progressively devloping place ... and leave this Harper's nightmare behind!!

Scotian said...


Unlike you I don't have as big a problem with the Chretein Martin years, because I remember what we were facing when they came to power, the very real possibility of the IMF coming in and restructuring our economy for us if we didn't do it ourselves. This was a very real worry at this point in our history, and anyone who has studied how the IMF restructures economies knows full well that what they do makes the worst of what we saw under the Libs in gutting social program spending look like nothing, at least with the Libs the shells of these programs were still there and could down the road be rebuilt, with the IMF doing it for us we would have lost even that, and likely our national healthcare system too.

I would also point out that say you are right, say the Ignatief Libs aren't going to do all they would do in this policy handbook, does that suddenly make the Harper CPC one whit less a disaster for all Canadians than they already are?!? I mean really! As for the NDP, they clearly aren't anywhere near forming a government, if there really was a likelihood of them supplanting the Libs there would have been real evidence of it in the last two election cycles when the Libs were at their weakest. Clearly this did not happen, indeed the NDP have yet to match in both seats and votes (both absolute and percentage as I recall, although on of these two might be incorrect I know one for sure is right) their high mark in 1988 under Broadbent. It's not happening, and therefore the reality is who is your better choice for PM, Harper or Ignatief?

I know many Dippers hate this statement, but it is the reality of the Canadian political context currently. Jack Layton reminds too many people of that used car salesman who seems like your best friend selling you a jewel but once you get it home you find out all kinds of problems either glossed over or lied about. His holier than thou claims of being the party of principle has been tarnished by his alignment with Harper to bring him to power and in the first couple of years teaming with Harper to destroy the Libs instead of opposing the true threat to NDP principles Harper himself. But that is for those of us who pay attention to politics for our own reasons, not the average Canadian.

No, the average voter has shown that they might like Jack but they do not trust Jack with power. They think he is an excellent voice of conscience as are the federal NDP, but there has never been any evidence that there is anywhere near enough support for the NDP to even make it to Official Opposition status even in as fractured a political landscape as we have seen over the past two decades. While Harper has governed with 1/3rd minority of the vote Layton has barely managed to get 1/5th of the vote, with no evidence of this getting any better for the NDP and currently evidence of it getting worse, which is why I said the reality is the choice is either PM Harper of PM Ignatief, so which do you choose?

I have heard a lot of people over the years say they hate having to choose between lesser of evils instead of having a positive choice to make. Hell, I even say it myself from time to time. However the reality is when you stop being willing to choose the lesser evil you almost guarantee the rise of the greater evil, and one of the greatest cliches of all is that for evil to triumph all it takes is good men (and women) to do nothing, and that is as true in voting as anywhere else. Yes, holding your nose to vote for someone you don't like to stop someone you abhor is not fun, but who ever said being responsible is about whether it is fun or enjoyable after all?

Omar said...

and leave this Harper's nightmare behind!!

And yet another Nanos rolling poll that tells me more and more Canadians are embracing the nightmare known as Harperville. Groan..

What riding do you reside, Scotian? Because here in West Nova, if I have to hold my nose (yet again) and vote for Robert Thibault it's going to result in my acquiring brain damage from lack of oxygen.

thwap said...

There was never any danger of Canada facing an IMF SAP.

Zero. Zilch. Zip.

Chretien and Martin's attacks on the welfare state were gratuitous, not forced upon them.

Chretien and Martin, for the most part, agreed with all the destructive policies advanced by the Business Council on National Issues (now called the Canada Council of Chief Executives of which former Liberal front-bencher John Manley is the President).

It used to be the case that the NDP were called "Liberals in a hurry" but that is now more accurately what the harpercons are.

The Liberals want to take us down the same neo-liberal road, but just not as wrenchingly.

I have absolutely no patience for Canadians who want to delude themselves about the LPoC the way US progressives do about Obama and the Democratic Party USA.

Steve V said...


Again, prior to Harper you might have a had a point, but now we see what a true right wing gov't looks like, Martin and Chretien downright progressive in comparison, in fact there is no comparison. I'm not defending them, I lost that version of the Liberal Party and went elsewhere, and I believe the party lost it's soul in the period. What I am saying, you can't reject Ignatieff because of what men he has no connection to did or didn't. The Liberal Party isn't a static entity, just like the last government deviated from past Liberal expressions, so to can this version re-state traditional ground. I'm prepared to support it, until it fails to deliver. I'd also add, if you look at NDP provincial expressions, once elected, they look very "Liberal" in every conceivable way. The far left is really just an ideal, I can't find any government, no matter the stripe, that actually pulled it off, at least not in recent memory. Dexter in NS turned the NDP into the Liberals with his election platform. Doer was a centrist, even right leanings, according to all independent thought, ditto for Calvert.

Anonymous said...

Scotian: I live in a riding that will be contested between Liberal and NDP (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour). I get to choose the lesser of those two evils, which to me is clearly the NDP. I defer to thwap's knowledge on the austerity measures Chretien/Martin forced on us. My memory of the Red Book is clear, however. A pack of lies.

That said, if I lived in a riding that was a Con/Lib contest, I would vote Liberal, and I would try to match my lost vote with a like-minded individual in a Con/NDP contest riding. Harper absolutely has to go. I'm just glad that I'm not in that position.

thwap said...

Steve V,

It's not like Chretien and Martin were an aberration. They represented the rightward tack of all political parties, including the NDP, the Democrats, the Labour Party UK, and etc., etc., from 1980 to the present day.

btwn 1945 and 1975 politics lurched leftwards and the NDP pushed the Liberals in that direction. Now, for reasons having to do more with massive corporate propaganda than the strength of their arguments, politics has shifted rightwards. It's the harpercons setting the extremes, or the mike harrisite, rob ford, US repugs, setting the rightward boundaries and Liberals slowly conform.

Ignatieff likes the tar sands. He supported the invasion of Iraq. Economically, past pronouncements of his put him securely in US-liberal territory.

As a socialist, I think it's important to maintain the viability of the NDP, to articulate a better course for society. Which doesn't mean i support Quixotic vote-splitting if it allows harper a victory.

But as progressives, let's not be to the Liberal Party what Charlie Brown is to Lucy and her football.

Steve V said...


Come off the ledge HD has the gap cut in half!

Steve V said...


What I'm saying, the socialist NDP only exists in theory, everytime they've governed, they become Libs. The record is irrefutable. As for the tar sands, Iggy just cut off the subsidies yesterday, so again a departure from past Libs.

ottlib said...

The appeal of the Liberals for me is not their political bent but their approach to governing.

They tend to take the approach that is suitable to the situation, whether it is left, right or a mixture.

I do not trust ideologues of any sort. I do not trust people who believe they have the answers before they know the questions.

Some would call that unpricipled but they are wrong. Taking actions you believe to the right ones under the circumstances is my definition of principle.

So, the Liberals fight against the deficit and the actions they needed to take were appropriate at the time. I admit that I did not agree with every decision they made but I did agree that something finally needed to be done about the deficit.