Is it the malaise of Canadian liberalism?

An Ottawa Citizen sponsored event presented by the Macdonald Laurier Institute last week debated the resolution: The Liberal Party has no future in Canadian politics. Frankly, it seems silly to try to eulogize a corpse that keeps complaining about what people are saying about him.

The proposition should not be about the future of the Liberal Party but the future of Canada. This country is liberal. Canadians from coast to coast have constantly proved themselves to be more liberal than their politicians. The political sands that shift with time in this country are the positions of the parties. Not since the days of Pierre Trudeau has the Liberal Party of Canada kept truly abreast of the needs of Canadians.

Positions that should have been those of the Liberal Party have been usurped by others. True liberalism has been discarded for expediency in short term political needs. There is little traffic on the intellectual highroad. Dishonesty has become the political norm in a country in need of solutions. Lies have replaced reason. Propaganda is the new dialogue.

Historian Michael Bliss proposed in the debate that the work of the Liberal Party is done. He thinks that the party has completed its mandate. That is untenable. Canada is a country in name but with a different reality. It has no checks and balances on its government other than the courts. It uses a foreign monarch for head of state. It has constant tensions between the state and its provinces. The present government uses those tensions to confound and control rather than attempting to build consensus.

What kind of a government should even be allowed to pit West against East in establishing a resource-based economy against a technological and intellectual future? The politics of division so blatantly used are undermining Canada’s peace-making identity and turning the world against us.

Taking the other side of the debate, former Liberal Party advisor John Duffy points to the consistently strong Liberal showing in opinion polls as proof that the Liberal Party has a heartbeat. He likes Prof. André Turcotte’s description of the “nagging resilience of the Liberal brand.”

But as with all such debates, the protagonists deal in the past and not the future. While Liberals owe much to MP Bob Rae for keeping the party afloat during the recent doldrums, it is the new leader who will carry the party forward into the next election. If our new leader can tie the individual rights of Canadians into a more progressive future for all, liberalism will live on.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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