In Search of the Liberal Party of Canada

All the Liberal party has to do is wait.  If you have been reading the popular press over the last few weeks you will have seen several articles regarding the dismal numbers of our federal Liberal party.  In many ways it is cheap journalism.  I particularly don’t like news organizations that sponsor their own polls and then make new stories out of commenting on them.  I don’t think the Liberal party is going to go away.  In fact, once upon a time they were the most successful political organization in the Western world.  Something tells me they’ve got a little bit of mojo somewhere.

It certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing for Canadian Liberals.  Michael Ignatieff has been pilloried by the press and generally written off by a lot of political pundits.  Is so silly.  I have met the man, in fact I have met all the men except Gillies Duceppe and Iggy can hold his own against any of them in my opinion.

Canada is basically a liberal country.  That means that we think about ourselves as a collective versus ourselves as individuals.  Name another country outside of the Nordic countries that have the social safety net we have, the healthcare we have and the protection for gay rights that we have.  Simply put, there really is not a lot of room on the conservative side of the political spectrum for any growth.  Right wing conservative governments are elected in this country they commonly turned to the left to maintain that.  Typically, that is very difficult as the right wing always rises up and eventually tips the turnip wagon over.  So for the better part of last century the Liberal party ruled Canada.

If you have read this column over the last several years you will know that I have a specific view about our present political makeup.  That is under our current political arrangement where the Bloc Québecois get a disproportionate number of seats for their percentage of the national vote, it is almost impossible for any political party to get a majority government.  So if I see the Liberal party of Canada down in the 25% range, I don’t give that much shrift.  Between elections in fact, I don’t think it means much.  I don’t think it would take much if an election was called to see the Liberal party gets a little wind in their sales when you least expect it.

Critics of the Liberal party in Canada talk about Michael Ignatieff.  I will agree that that is fair.  The poor man has had a series of setbacks that doesn’t make him look good.  The advantage is in 2009 when you are measuring that against a Prime Minister who doesn’t have much charisma, you’ll live for another day.  Unless Stephen Harper turns into Pierre Trudeau overnight, I don’t think Michael Ignatieff has anything to worry about.

The problem is Prime Minister Harper sang a Beatles song at an Ottawa gala. We all know how that turned out.  In one swell swoop, Mr. Harper lost his cold fish image.  Even on my twitter page, my female colleagues were all warming up to him after that like he was their long-lost friend.

So the same type of thing will have to happen for Michael Ignatieff. I do not expect Mr.Ignatieff to have the same moment.  However what I do expect is that Mr. Harper will not be able to maintain his Beatles moment.  Conservatives in Canada have all we sat a tendency to aim their guns at each other.  Eventually, somebody who will do something really stupid and Mr. Ignatieff will have his mojo moment.  He just has to be patient.

I have a good friend who is a real conservative.  He is one of those religious, gun toting, hard money people who really believe in everything conservative.  He is not very happy with the present conservative government because in his mind they are nothing but liberal.  With a $50 billion deficit, it is pretty hard to argue against him.  It seems that Stephen Harper makes a good liberal even after all that big talk back in the reform days.

So you might argue that Michael Ignatieff’s problem is that there is only so much room on the Canadian left and with the conservatives currently camped out there it makes it pretty hard to be Liberal leader.  In my mind this is surely the way it looks now.  Something tells me though that the Liberal party of Canada is alive and well.  I think that they are poised to work just as hard as anybody else during the next federal election.  Sure they have problems just like every other opposition party in Canada has had.  However if you are looking for their obituary I don’t think you’ll find it.  All they have to do is wait.  We’ll see if they have enough patience to do that.