Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bold Is Beautiful

Part of the new Liberal equation, is coming to terms with the true realities that face us. From my perspective, elements of denial and "fresh coat of paint" mentalities still exist, and a few clues to date suggest no revolutionary thinking is taking place, apart from hollow platitudes. One exception- a breath of fresh air- has been Rob Silver and his commentary. In fact, of all the voices I'm listening to chime in on Liberal reform, Silver seems to start from a necessarily sober place and the thinking develops from this realization. It's not about agreeing with all suggestions but forth, but we need more people who are pushing ideas that challenge current sensibilities, in fact that's the only posture that will stave off outright eventual extinction.

In his latest missive, Silver argues the Liberals should come out and favour legalization of drugs. The idea has "risk", and as we know Liberals are risk adverse, now so political correct to be neutered and vanilla. I still recall the disappointment when Ignatieff basically mirrored the Conservatives on marijuana legalization, stale, bland, and not compelling in the least.

If Liberals are to re-energize their brand we need to step on some toes, we need to dare to offend. Liberals shouldn't be reckless in this regard, but we should adopt policy that is intellectually logical, coherent positions that provides philosophical foundation. I'm not sure legalizing all drugs is on the table, but at the very least Liberals should counter the Conservatives, stop playing defence and take some progressive stands that speak to conviction, rather than pandering nothingness. The kicker for Liberals, there is actually a reservoir of public opinion that favours decriminalization of soft drugs, so bold isn't really all that outlandish.

The war on drugs has failed. Why not develop a policy that favours legalizing marijuana, then perhaps use the proceeds for further education, particularly when it comes to more harmful drugs? What if Liberals devised a position wherein half of all new tax revenue went into educating teens about the dangers of crystal meth, or even why marijuana should be avoided? The other half of newfound tax revenue could go to policing for other more serious crimes. In other words, the entire premise would be revenue neutral, all monies collected from legalizing marijuana put back into the system to give young people more information, police more tools to defend citizens. I'm just throwing this idea out as one possible direction, moreso as a general way to show a way to pivot off the obvious wedge issue. In this way, legalizing marijuana becomes a positive in society, and all it requires is common sense in realizing that marijuana is here to stay, past polices forever doomed to fail.

Rather than reacting to the Conservative agenda- even worse MIRRORING in some cases- why not develop a true pushback position, that challenges everyone and demands some serious rethink? Liberals need to adopt some colour, and on drugs were are the most boring of beige. I firmly believe we can move public opinion over time, particularly with a serious strategy that addresses the entire status quo position. All that is required from Liberals: a certain moxy that confidently articulates deemed wise policy, without worrying about stirring the pot. Step one for Liberals is stop trying to be all things to all people, because you end up being pretty much nothing to everybody. Advocating marijuana legalization, woven within a policy with many tenticles, would be a good start...


Kyle H. said...

There is an argument out there, and it is valid, that mirroring the Conservatives is exactly what we need to do.

After all, there is a particular reason they have a majority government and just about 40% of voters on their side: they copied us to a good extent, modeling their general slant as that of a centre-right version of the Chretien Liberals, but not so far to that one side that it's scaring everyone off.

Why is it exactly that it's in the Liberal Party's best interest to push an envelope that hasn't been successful as of yet, as opposed to copying strategies that have worked in the past, worked for the Conservatives, and worked for the NDP? Why should we be any different, especially if that difference doesn't help, or it actually starts to threaten our ability to gain power and actually make the changes we need?

After all, it's awesome to change what the Liberal Party is about, but what would that matter if we alienate voters and preclude ourselves from gaining power to actually affect changes in government?

(And I'm just playing devil's advocate here, though I certainly see the value of the position.)

Steve V said...

We already mirrored the Cons on these issues, so you have a practical example of how that doesn't work at all. Libs will never appeal to the hardcore law and order types, that is the Cons natural jurisdiction, so sounding like them does us no favours.

Carter Apps, dabbler of stuff said...

Iggy failed by trying to be conservative

So now you'd have them pretend to be Greens? Don't you remember how that worked out for Dion?

Like a get rich quick scheme people seem to think the Liberals need one good caper and all will be well. I don't think so. I believe its this flailing around with no discernible long term vision that is killing the Liberals and a cynical grab for the drug vote is not going to suddenly redefine what the Liberals are. I'm also quite sure that inside the party this is not easy sell and plays right into the Conservative crime rhetoric. Current Liberal strength is not up to this fight, years of supporting the war on drugs gives them no credibility and Greens and to some extent the NDP already occupy this position.

If Libs want a big idea others would like them to steal take "PR". (and no weasel talk about AV) Accept that stopping the conservative abuse of our system is more bigger than giving the Liberals another chance at abusing the system.

Unlike drugs Libs don't have to discredit or compete with the the NDP or Greens to be more drug friendly, instead with PR they can support each other, make a few riding deals and crush the Conservatives. This is the one move that would show Liberals to be altruistic, willing to compromise, willing to give up their chance at ultimate power to achieve fairness. It can easily be played as doing what's good for Canadians ahead of what's good for the Liberals.

Of course I'm assuming Liberals DO want whats best for Canadians, not just Liberals

Carter Apps, dabbler of stuff said...

And before someone rises to the "abuse" comment, I'm referring not to Lib legal/ethical issues but rather the abuse of gaining 100% of the power with 40% of the vote

Steve V said...

"Like a get rich quick scheme people seem to think the Liberals need one good caper and all will be well. I don't think so. I believe its this flailing around with no discernible long term vision that is killing the Liberals and a cynical grab for the drug vote is not going to suddenly redefine what the Liberals are."

Holy shit, you really have no idea where I stand. Geez.

Tof KW said...

I have asthma since birth and can't stand smoking of any kind, and I'd love to see the practice eradicated. That said, I never understood the hypocrisy between governments condoning tobacco (and alcohol for that matter, a much more damaging and addictive drug) but not marijuana.

If you want to control it's use, the best way is to legalize it, (just like with tobacco) legislate who can grow it, sell it, who can purchase it, and of course tax it (and help reduce the deficit). Heavy fines and serious jail time for anyone breaking these laws (targets grow-ops).

This would drive organized crime out of the grow-op business ...why risk producing and selling illegally (getting caught & fully prosecuted) when people have legal ways of purchasing it?

And to satisfy our backwards neighbours still fighting the war on drugs, we hand over anyone exporting to the US legal system for punishment under their laws (let them spend their money to incarcerate).

When the so-cons charge that you are being "soft on crime", and "pushing marijuana on 16-year olds" ...counter that you are being smart on crime, and set the legal purchase age at 21.

I await any political party (there are conservatives who feel this way as well) to grow up and adapt this approach with our marijuana laws.

Morakon said...

Former Liberal/Reform MP Dr. Keith Martin on Decriminalizing Pot. I think it would be great policy.

Decriminalize pot, Destabilize gangs

Koby said...


Never mind the fact that a Liberal party that mirrors the Conservatives is not a party worth supporting. There is no evidence whatsoever that mirroring the Conservatives will get the Liberals anywhere especially in the area of fundraising. Leaving aside Dion's ill fated Green shift, for the past 5 years the Liberals have done nothing but trying mirror the one or both of the other parties. The Liberals snuggled up the Conservatives crime agenda and abandoned the Afghanistan issue. They echoed the NDP's stance on corporate taxes after having been in lock step with the Conservatives on corporate taxes last election. Bouncing between the two got them nowhere and had people wondering what they stood for save getting back into power.

As the third party, the Liberals need to create distance between themselves and the other parties and not try to close down distance between them. They need to have an opinion and not echo the opinions of others.

Canadian Silver

"cynical grab for the drug vote"

Marijuana would be good policy and for that reason alone the Liberals should consider it. However, beyond that legalizing marijuana would be good politics. The reason it is good politics has no more to do with the untapped stoner vote then same sex marriage had to do with the untapped gay and lesbian vote. I can assure you there is not there is no drug vote to grab. The reason it is good politics is there is significant ground swell of public support for the issue and opponent's arguments are a house of cards. Just as with gay marriage the Liberals would benefit from having the Conservatives trout out stupid arguments for extended period of time.

Oh yeah, it would be a welcome respite from the Liberals shamelessly taking inherently contradictory policies in hopes of capitalizing on both sides of this issue.

Indeed, on the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chrétien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand, just as they long downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have long stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Both positions are popular with the public, but run the two positions together and it is as if Chrétien said this instead. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” If the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to mix an acknowledgment on behalf of the Liberal party that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

Far from helping the Liberals such an approach probably harmed them. It pissed off the ardent supporters of both sides of the political divide at the same time and prevented them from saying anything intelligent about the issue.

Koby said...

One more point Volkov.

Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election that there are certain issues that just favour the Conservatives. The example he gave was the economy. No matter how successful the Liberals were in balancing the books and creating jobs, Conservative research suggested that when it came to economics people trusted the Conservatives more than they did the Liberals. It does not much of leap to suggest the same is true for crime. After all, to presume that the public has a working knowledge of each party's justice policies is giving the public way too much credit; the public trades in stereotypes and they are always going to believe that Conservatives are tougher on crime. This is especially so now. The Conservatives are in power and for this reason alone what they say with regard to crime garners headlines. By contrast, past Liberal support for some those Conservative tough on crime measures has drawn almost no attention at all. Of course, even if the Liberals were able to convince Canadians did support this or that Conservative measure, the Conservatives have a fail safe. They have claimed and will continue to claim that the Liberals had ability to introduce such policies when they were in power and failed to do so. No one likes a Johnny come lately.

Jerry Prager said...

Volkov; Harper is waiting for the Ontario election to end, then this untendered $90,000 a day corporatist consultant is going to do Canada what Ford can only dream of doing to Toronto, because Ford is now facing a united opposition of moderates that exceeds his own right wing coalition.
Harper on the other hand can only be stopped by Canadians on the street.
Harper's crime bill will alienate most of the nation, because it is in essence political, young campus Tories are going to be turning in their political enemies for pot smoking by the hundreds, if not thousands, and Canada will end up divided and broken by the time Harper's done.

Jerry Prager said...

Drug laws benefit organized crime, must be the price Harper is willing to pay to the Montreal mafia for all their help via Soudas.

Jerry Prager said...

I actually believe this crime bill is essentially political. Harper is motivated by one thing and one thing only, revenge against his enemies, personal and political: pot smokers are by and large strongly anti-conservative, socially progressive and environmentally green, the super prisons, and thefact that this bill is just the tip of the iceberg of the Harper crime agenda, have to be seen as attacks on conservative enemies, and not as crime bills at all.

Harper has no problem with crime itself, Soudas the gangster, Wm Elliot and his RCMP crimes against G20 protesters and Elliot's approval of fraudster Bruce Carson getting a high powered job in the PMO, Harper's own contempt for parliament and the majority who viscerally oppose him in ways no other modern PM has been opposed by a majority of voters.

It's all political, and until those who oppose Harper understand that everything he does is designed to crush his enemies it will be impossible to counter his government.

With a majority of seats, only people on the streets can challenge Harper's move towards fascism. He wants to restore the Conservative Party's golden age when men like Arthur Meighen could order the Minister of Labour to end the Winnipeg General Strike (1919) using a law that was created retroactively to justify an illegal action by the government since the strikers weren't breaking any laws. This is the Party of RB Bennett who allowed Mussolini's vice consuls to turn every Canadian Italian social club into a fascist organ.
Wake up and smell the coffee folks, this is not a PC government, this is not Sir John A's party: this is corporatism with a vengeance. And they are coming for their enemies.

Möbius said...

Legalize all so-called "illicit" drugs. The alternative is drug wars that don't work.

weeble said...

It would be interesting for the Liberals to pursue a rationalizing of the crime agenda. Yes, they would be labelled as 'soft on crime' by the Tories, but they already are....
Most law-enforcement agencies are against how the Harper agenda on crime is being pursued, as are judges and there is room for an alternate approach. Items such as the legalization of pot, or prostitution could be a part of that discussion....maybe it would be a referendum question? The Liberals distancing themselves from a direct decision, but effectively putting it out there for a vote.
We definitely do not need what is on the books now...and what Harper wants is dramatically worse.