Babel’s schism of liberalism.

It could only have happened in Babel. It was at last year’s federal Liberal association annual meeting that the putsch was attempted. It was an effort by the provincial association to take over the federal association. It was not about to happen. The feds fought back.

And you would have thought that the severe political drubbing of the former MPP and her small coterie of supporters would have seen the end of it. They left the meeting beaten and disavowed. They left behind a stronger and united federal association.

But last week, when Ontario’s federal commission for the redistribution of electoral districts hearings came to Babel, the provincial’s came back, seemingly representing all Liberals in Babel. Somebody had apparently told the federal riding president that the Conservatives had the commission in hand and nothing that was said would change anything. This seemed the case when well-known Conservatives stood and said that they liked the commission’s approach to Babel. What the commission had done was split Babel roughly in half into north and south segments and then added large rural areas to each half of the city to complete the two new electoral districts. It seemed like an undisguised way to use rural voters to keep both districts Conservative.

But here were the provincial Liberals to set the commission on the road to fairness. These people proposed that there be a city district that encompassed most of the old Babel and that some of the outlying, newer parts of the city could be part of a rural district. That way the city could, hopefully, be represented by a Member of Parliament who could speak for the city voters.

As the province uses the same boundaries for provincial electoral districts as federal districts, this was not an altruistic plea the provincial people were making. The proposed two districts with their dominant rural base would not have been good hunting ground for provincial Liberals either.

But why the two groups of Liberals cannot learn to work together is a question for a modern Solomon. It is not as though the provincials are a particularly strong, democratic or creative group. Their antics are what lead us to think of Ontario Liberals as ancient political Whigs from the 19th Century.

The federal Liberals in Babel are democratic, hard-working and inclusive, with a vibrant youth wing. They are active in the community and are due for a real shot in the arm with the upcoming federal leadership contest. This is the organization to watch. They, in turn, need to watch out for those provincials.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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