Wednesday 18 February 2015

Liberal Party of Canada: Since our role is to govern, why oppose?

One of the criticisms of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) over the years, from both inside and outside the party, has been that the LPC, in seeing itself as the “natural ruling party”, had grown complacent. The narrative being built by Justin Trudeau is that those days are over: only hard work and direct appeals to the Canadian people will earn their trust. Nothing can be taken for granted.
The Liberal Party of Canada's new look

Yet, in positioning the LPC as a “government in waiting”, Mr. Trudeau has deferred to the policies of the Conservative party to such an extent that, should the Liberals form the next government, we can expect little more than a changing of the guard. In effect, Mr. Trudeau seems to believe that Canadians want a different Conservative party to rule. The problem isn’t the content, it’s the style. Give it a softer touch, and there should be a smooth ride to power.

It will fail, and Stephen Harper will be elected to a minority government. But more on that later.

First, some examples of the charade that is the new and improved LPC.

Economic policy. The Liberals have no economic platform.  So far, other than rejecting income splitting, Trudeau and his team have presented no economic policies that differ from those of the Conservatives. Unlike the NDP, the Liberals are terrified of even mentioning a scenario in which taxes could be raised on large corporations, yet they are more than happy with new spending areas, such as in infrastructure.

National security. The Liberals support the new anti-terror bill. They say there are oversight problems, but these can be fixed when they are in government. Uh, ok. No need for any committee work, or tough questions in Parliament. Just elect us to govern, as we have no interest in the lesser task of holding the present government accountable. After all, we dare not face off with an electorate that is easily frightened

Party policy. The Liberals have promised open nominations, something that neither the NDP nor Conservatives have used to “brand” their parties. This has not happened. Time after time Justin Trudeau has made it clear that what he is building is a political machine with one goal, and one goal only: to get elected. For now, it looks like it’s working.

Social policy. There is no wedge here. Canada does not have capital punishment or an abortion law, and it allows gay marriage. It’s going to stay that way, so both the Conservatives and the Liberals are skirmishing on the fringes, arguing over niqabs at citizenship ceremonies, as if these were high-stakes debates. They aren’t. Neither party will leave itself exposed here.

So where does that put us? With a Liberal “government in waiting” that espouses essentially the same policies as the Conservatives, but with fewer details.  A significant portion of the Canadian populous appears to be happy with this scenario.

The problem is that the hypocrisy within the leadership of the LPC is even deeper than that found in the Conservatives, and it comes from the almost pathological insistence that the LPC is entitled to govern. The party claims to have left this notion behind, but there is no greater evidence of this than the election of Justin Trudeau as leader. He is not qualified. If he believed in a meritocratic system, he would resign.

But he doesn’t, and he won’t. Sadly, many Canadians are content with this. They see him as suitable for the simple reason that he spent part of his childhood at 24 Sussex, and that he has spent his life surrounded by power and influence.

This, of course, is exactly the problem. It explains Trudeau’s arbitrary behavior such as dumping half the Liberal caucus without warning, or bringing Eve Adams aboard. For the Conservatives, the rewards are ideological, whereas for the Liberals the point is to use power as a kind of currency in order to achieve what, in their view, should be the status quo all along, which is to form the government.

They won't. As we get closer to the federal election, this reality will become both more transparent and more fragile. And once Humpty Dumpty falls, and the cracks emerge, no one will be able to put him together again, because the LPC has no ideological underpinnings.

This is why Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will win another government. The only question is: who will be the official opposition? Clearly, the Liberals don’t want that job. They are unwilling even to work with the NDP to form a coalition, despite all the palaver about respecting the wishes of Canadians. That means that if the Liberals form the opposition we can look forward to another Harper government, but with a less effective parliament than the one we have now with Mulcair’s NDP. Brilliant.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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