The Liberal Party and the Dandelion Effect

Is the party over for the Liberals in Canada.  A few writers seem to think so.  And of course Liberals that I know always puzzle me.  They are afraid for the most part of changing things.  The system is working so why rock the boat.  Another thing they seem to be afraid of is unions.  That surprises me even more given that the Liberal party has benefited quite well over the years from union support.

So why is the Liberal party not so mighty anymore...

The Liberals are not the party they once were, neither are the other parties.  The NDP still has union support but that does not translate into big funding, the law prevents that from happening.  The unions do not hold their 25% vote anymore.  Its one member one vote. The changes in the NDP have been seen as moving to the center of politics.  The Liberals seem to have moved to the right.

The Liberal move to the right and the NDP's move to fill the gap look to have displaced those Liberals.  Its a reality that has caused some problems for both parties, especially for the Liberals.  The NDP problem is the same as the lefty Liberals problems, where did the party go?  Many of those lefty liberals recall the Trudeau era.  The Charter, the just society.  They don't feel they have a home they like anymore. They are testing out the NDP.

I suspect Trudeau would have a hard time endorsing the party today, he would in the end, but like former Ontario Premier Bill Davis' endorsement of Tim Hudak in the just finished Ontario election, it wouldn't be a passionate one. And much of what Liberals are proud of today occurred when they sought the support of the NDP or CCF, in some cases, years ago.  Liberal governments passed CPP under Pearson, a new flag, the just society lead to abortion rights, gay rights, the constitution and the Charter of Rights.  In the 70's and 80's the federal government invested more in health care, education, housing and started doing some good work with first nations and Petro Canada and the NEP. Pretty impressive, very progressive.

The Liberals however lost it somewhere after their zeal to eliminate the deficit took off.  It was a cruel knife that cut the budget. By the time Paul Martin became PM many Canadians didn't see much difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives.  Add to that the Liberal scandals and it made things much worse.

People in Quebec said bye bye and then English Canada said enough.  The Liberals have lost seats and popular vote in several successive elections.  And we all know where the last election put the Liberals.  No one knows what they stand for anymore.

The current Liberal plan for rebounding depends on three things, the NDP making a big mistake, the arrival of a Trudeau like leader and McGuinty holding onto the last serious beach head the Liberals have in Canada.   I would have added , but even Liberals know that's a long, long shot.  McGuinty barely held Ontario. The NDP beat the Liberals in popular vote in Nfld and L for the first time ever and have displaced the Liberals as official opposition in the Yukon. Its not looking good. Christy Clark's chances of holding the Liberal banner in BC as government has an expiry date of May 2013.  They have a best before date of the day after the last election.

Nova Scotia is doing well under an NDP government and likely to do better after they get the big ship building contract next week. You have to know that Harper would like that to happen.  The last bastion in the country for the NDP to crack is New Brunswick, (Alberta is still a challenge for Libs and NDP).  For the first time ever the NDP have a bigger political presence in Canada than Liberals.  That momentum will be hard to change.  

So as the NDP heads to a leadership convention in March, the Liberals are stuck in no ones land, with an interim leader many Liberals still don't trust and no idea who may be the leader or who they want to be leader.  Lots of tough work ahead for sure, maybe for naught.

Still as a New Democrat I take seriously what Ian Capstick calls the “dandelion effect”If it helps my Liberal friends, I believe you will survive.  While you are figuring your way out of the hole I have membership forms for Liberals that want to keep Harper from a second majority government, and you don't have to be a supporter of any leadership candidate to get this membership form.

some links to others that think it could be over ...

Party over for Liberals? - Susan Delacourt

Have Liberals reached the point of no return?- Chantel Hebert

We Might Be Dead - Far and Wide


kirbycairo said...

Well Rick, as your analysis suggests, the failure of the Liberal Party is rooted in the fact that their move the right made their political position largely indistinguishable from the Conservative Party on many substantive issues. And, though it is largely an illusion, people perceive the Conservatives to have moved to the centre.

The problem is that most Liberals seem to have no realization that their failure is rooted in their move to the right and many people are waking up to the fact that the NDP has moved into the place that the Liberals used to inhabit. The Liberals have to move left and come up with some "big" ideas that will point to a more just and equal future. And then they have to hope that the NDP can't hack it in opposition. But I really wonder if that recipe can formulate itself. If not, the LPC is done.

Rick Barnes said...

The LPC may not be done, they maybe a third party for awhile then disappear. They don't stand for anything and the NDP seems less scary to people.

We are on the right track and the Liberals are trying hard to grab on.