Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Federalist Vacuum

The Nycole Turmel story isn't something to be viewed in isolation, and for the Liberals it provides further direction in terms of emphasis. I'm more convinced than ever that the future of the Liberal Party resides within an reassertion of a strong federalist option. The beauty of this "focus", it is natural ground for the Liberals, so rather than re-inventing ourselves, it's a comfortable fit that we wear well.

Plenty of talk about the Liberals being "squeezed" from the political landscape, something which I geniunely worry about, because there is opportunity for others to do just that. However, there is an ever growing federalist vacuum emerging, which is ripe for Liberal exploitation. Rather than squeezed, plenty of elbow room on this file, as both our chief opponents have largely abandoned the strong federalist option. Harper's Conservatives have failed to provide strong cohesive direction, this Prime Minister has the narrow perspective of a Premier, as I've mentioned for years. We've had no First Minister's meetings, we see a lack of national direction on a host of files, further regional drift, the strength of our nation is eroding. I'm not sure people have quite digested the Harper reign, perhaps historic detachment will be required to see that our federation is more fractured than ever (the situation well beyond a simple question on the state of Quebec separatism). Currently, we have provinces going in every direction, a more pronounced tribal sense developing, partly because we lack a strong, unifying national voice to offset the natural tendencies of a large geographic entity.

The NDP have decided to court soft nationalists. This strategy has paid off, they have found a very receptive constituency in Quebec. However, there are consequences to adopting certain policies and currying favour, or at least inherent risk, given the delicate dance within Canada. With a robust Quebec caucus, clear indications of certain sympathies, the NDP will be in some conflict on certain national issues, they simply can't be a consistent champion of strong federalism. There is nothing wrong with the NDP policies on language, clarity, members with conflicted pasts, people are free to argue their case. However, if a party is going to take strong positions on language, clarity, then it necessarily leaves room for another argument, and just like the Conservative philosophy, these positions leave ample room for a truly national unifying force.

Canada needs a voice for strong federalism, given our system, it is the ESSENTIAL counterbalance to regionalism and divergent interests. There is always tension between provinces and the federal government, but currently there really is no offset force that speaks to people in a greater good sense, which tries to encourage co-operation, breaking down barriers, challenging to aspire to a "greater good". The Conservatives are philosophically opposed to an almost "interventionist" federalism, and the NDP have found electoral success at the expense of robust red and white flag waving. There is a void, but it needs articulation, passion and an inspiring voice. It is here that the Liberals can find their voice, not in a pandering way, but one that says this is who we are, we stand for a strong, unified Canada, if that alienates subsets so be it.

Where is the party that challenges Quebec, without pandering? Where is the party that embraces the dynamic culture and says it is confident enough to share with fellow Canadians, the notion of walls and barriers regressive? Where is the party that confronts western drift, alientation, rather than letting regional rivalry and pettiness fester? Harper's "Canadiana" is a military only consideration, almost every national outreach stems from this type of nationalism. The NDP are now limited, they must balance and as issues of unity arise, I see a watered down, appease all sides mentality, that will render their contribution thin at best. This reality leaves room for Liberals to wave the flag, champion the things that bring us together rather than divide, it's a noble pursuit, it speaks to the ideals of an inclusive society, the discussion lies within the former Liberal "pocket". One caveat, not a rehash of past expressions, the Liberal message must be modern, speak to where we've come from, respectful, but presenting a vision for future union. Ruffle some feathers, call out certain bigotries and tribal mentalities, speak OVER the heads of immediate self interst, aspire to be more than the sum of our parts. It is within this discussion that the Liberals can thrive, because this country desperately needs a committed, strong, unwavering federalist option that isn't afraid to confront the Canadian decay.


Dame said...

I never liked jack or more like his ways.... BUT
Now what was he thinking???
The most unactractive shady interim head of the NDP..
but it is OK with me it proves my thinking and choices.

Steve V said...

Political expediency trumped prudence.

sharonapple88 said...

The closest we came to any sort of national vision was when various parties claimed that having the other party's leader in power would lead to the downfall of the nation.

Say what you will about Obama, his red-state/blue-state speech. It was brilliant at getting past the tribalism in America at the time.

Malcolm+ said...

So the Liberals should rebuild their brand by playing wedge politics.


Typically slimy.

Steve V said...

That's pathetic.

sharonapple88 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharonapple88 said...

So the Liberals should rebuild their brand by playing wedge politics.

Wedge politics is trying to "encourage co-operation, breaking down barriers, challenging to aspire to a 'greater good?'" Isn' that the opposite of wedge politics?

I think what we've been getting the last few years is wedge politics. "Fear green programs and what they'll do to Alberta and Sakatchewan." "The Official Languages Act isn't enough to protect people."

Tof KW said...

Malcolm+ said...
"So the Liberals should rebuild their brand by playing wedge politics."

Actually it's the media driving this one, not the Grits, but whatever. I was expecting the self-righteous dippers to spew such bullshit as you're flinging now.

BTW - this is nothing. Wait 'til the Harper war-room dredges this up as an issue in 3 years time before the 2015 election. It'll be 24/7 on all airwaves. Welcome to official opposition dippers, and it doesn't get easier either.

Cathie from Canada said...

Very insightful post. Thanks,

Vancouverois said...

You are absolutely correct. This is one important issue on which the Liberal party could seize the high ground against both the Conservatives and the NDP. It's viscerally important to Canadians, and Liberals would have the truth on their side.

In fact, it's stupid for the Liberals *not* to take a strong federalist stance - pandering to Quebec nationalism will go nowhere fast.

Unfortunately, I see no reason to think that the grandees of the Liberal party have any intention of doing it.