Canadian Liberals: The Long Way Back

Long Way backIf you are over the age of 50, you’ll remember Pierre Trudeau.  It was a different time then and Mr. Trudeau added a lot of color to federal politics.  He was such an intellect and at the same time a bit of a rebel that Canadians at least east of Manitoba couldn’t get enough of him.  When he took a walk in the snow in 1979, only to return to the Prime Minister’s job a few months later, his reputation only grew.  He certainly was the star of the Liberal party in those days.

The question is after the 2011 Federal election, who is going to be the star of the Liberal party now?  Maybe a better question would be would the Liberal party survive to fight another day, now being relegated to third party status in Parliament?  I suppose a further question would be, who would want the job?  Have we catapulted ourselves into a new political age where the Liberal party will be nothing compared to its past?

These are some of the questions that are currently being bantered about in political circles.  Michael Ignatieff departed the Liberal party the day after the federal election and has landed a teaching job at the University of Toronto.  He did not deserve this fate, I found him to be quite an engaging man, whip smart, but unfortunately he did not have the Tim Horton’s cachet, which a lot of Canadians were asking for.  It is so funny politics, where how you comb your hair can sometimes have more to do with getting elected than the policies you espouse.

It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Liberal party.  One thing I found extremely interesting in southwestern Ontario were the poor showing locally.  In Lambton Kent Middlesex, the sprawling rural riding that stretches from Lake St. Clair to the outskirts of Stratford saw the NDP candidate double the vote of the Liberal candidate.  That was shocking to me because the NDP candidate did not live in the riding and even with the big orange wave, the NDP never does much in Lambton Kent Middlesex.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

There has certainly been talk of merger of the Liberals and NDP in some political circles.  However, Jack Layton and the NDP have thrown cold water on that idea and I can see why.  They have finally overtaken the Liberals, by huge seat count with a big power base in Quebec and I’m sure they’re asking why they should give all that up for the third-party.  So I understand Jack Layton and when he throws cold water on the idea.  If the seat count between the NDP and the Liberals had been closer, maybe then there would have been an argument for some type of merger or political accommodation.

The problem aside from the disparate seat numbers, the Liberals and NDP have factions within their parties that could never live together.  In fact many right-leaning Liberals would much rather vote for the Conservative party than the NDP.  There are others within the Liberal party that think of themselves as a centrist party not beholden to some of the left-wing ideas are the NDP.  So giving all that up for a merger has its problems.

At the same time the NDP has 58 Quebec seats in parliament.  That gives them a tremendous power base to build from and it’s something that they wouldn’t want to give up easily.  Sure, the election was only last Monday so maybe we are being a bit premature.  Let’s measure this thing maybe in two years to see whether the opposition parties have any tangible notions to get together.  Right now, I’d bet against it.

We’ll see what happens.  However, for the Liberal party it is surely the long way back.  The unfortunate thing for the Liberals is that many of them don’t get it.  When I hear some Liberal backroom people talk on TV, it’s like Pierre Trudeau is still alive.  It’s like the last five years have just been an aberration and that Canadians should come to their senses so we get this Liberal party back in 24 Sussex Dr.  To me, it just smacks of people who don’t get it.

However, I hope the Liberal party does get it in the future.  I think Canadians need them back, but whether that happens I don’t know.  They now are talking about deferring their leadership contest into the future.   I think that is a good idea.  Take some time, maybe eat a little humble pie and begin the long road back.