#52 – “The centre cannot hold.”

The Center Cannot Hold is an alternative history by American author Harry Turtledove in his American Empire series. In this version of American history, Turtledove supposes what would happen if the South won the American Civil War and the North allies itself with Germany against the Southerners and England.  In addition, the North allies itself with an independent Quebec and wages a long war of attrition with the rest of Canada. Dr. Turtledove’s view of Canada is neither overly accurate nor flattering but then he is an academic from far away California.

This is by way of saying that academics can be somewhat brutal in their suppositions, posits and dissertations. One can only wonder if that is the space from which academic and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff got his thinking on Liberal-NDP relationships. Just to review, he said “What (the Liberal Party) will not do under my leadership is merge with anybody.” Despite the fact that is not his decision to make, most people in the room were very pleased that he had shown some spunk as leader.

Some listeners might have said—to themselves, of course—That is too bad Michael, you will be missed.

But that is not the point. The point is and the reality is that the Liberal Party can no longer find this rampant middle ground that it always brags about. And if it could find the middle ground, the Conservative zealots would probably steal it from them.

The Liberal Party has not trod on any middle ground since 1984. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stepped down and took the middle ground back to Montreal with him. If he was falling down drunk and the middle ground came up to hit him in the face, Mr. Trudeau’s successor, John Turner, would never recognize any middle ground.

Jean Chrétien, in turn, Turner’s successor might have accidently found some middle ground but not as long as Hon. Mitchell Sharp was around to tell him what to do. He actually did pay Sharp a dollar a year for his advice and the few left wing liberals left at the time felt that was about what his advice was worth. While Chrétien never seemed to like Paul Martin, Sharp would have seen the younger Martin as the perfect scapegoat for the draconian cuts in social programs and transfer payments to the provinces during Chrétien’s tenure.

Paul Martin, as Chrétien’s inept successor, would have had to resurrect his father from the grave in Windsor to find him some middle ground. While Martin’s successor Stéphane Dion was supposed to be the middle ground between Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, the convention that chose him forgot to see if he had any credentials as a politician. He had none: end of that opportunity.

The fact that Bob Rae once led Ontario’s New Democratic Party as leader and then Premier of Ontario scared many members of the Liberal Party from him. Despite the strong support to make him leader of the federal liberals, he would need a long series of injections of political smarts to make him a good choice.

Surprise, the Liberal Party ended up with Michael Ignatieff leading the party in 2009.

But the Liberal Party he leads has a broken wing, the left one. And until that wing heals, the centre cannot hold.

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