(This blog entry was first run on May 20, 2010. It is still a valid premise. It has been modified to reflect the changes of the past two years.)
They used to say that the Liberal Party campaigned on the left and governed on the right. It used to be true. When it failed was during the short tenure of Paul Martin as Canada’s Prime Minister. After the damage done to Canada’s social programs when Martin was Jean Chrétien’s finance minister and his so obvious ties to the business community, he had no credibility with which to campaign effectively from the left of the political spectrum. The voters did not buy it.
Since the days of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal Party has tried to sit broadly across the middle of the political spectrum. It enables the party to attract both left and right wing candidates, supporters and voters. The party tries to be all things to meet the wants of the voters but slow enough to implement change to please the most stolid of the right wing. As a provincial party leader once explained to a group of unhappy left wing members of the party, no policy was going to happen unless both the right and left wings of the party could flap in unison.
For a left-wing thinker such as Herb Gray, who gave 40 years of his life to Canada’s Parliament, the rate of change was glacial but he never lost his humour or his belief that the party could meet its commitments to people. The same could be said about another long-serving left-wing Liberal, Lloyd Axworthy. Lloyd did much to meet the needs of the people in his riding and across Manitoba. These parliamentarians believed in the promises of the left.
But where does the Liberal Party stand today? There seems to be a question mark. And it falls on all Liberals to clarify the question. They have to stand to be counted.
Despite the voices calling for a merger with the New Democratic Party, there is no clear movement in that direction. When Stéphane Dion tried to form a coalition with the NDP, along with the support of the Bloc Québécois, it was never clear whether Michael Ignatieff rejected the coalition because he was more concerned about being seen out and about with the NDP or taking help from the Bloc.
Michael never stated his intentions. He ran a campaign on the right and lost to Stephen Harper. He ran on the right so badly that he lost to the NDP.
We never said that a merger with the NDP is the only answer. The Liberal Party could lose two right wing supporters for every NDPer being dragged kicking and screaming into the den of the enemy Liberals. What such a merger can do is return credibility to the Liberal Party. Social solutions can be promised by a clearly left of centre party and social solutions can be implemented by the party when in power.
We can have a national daycare program. We can strengthen Medicare. We can work towards a guaranteed income for all Canadians. We can make things happen.
It is up to all Liberals to speak up and be heard. If you want to fight Stephen Harper on the right of the political spectrum, he will laugh his way back to the Prime Minister’s office with a clear majority for the rest of his life. Fight him on the left—with the NDP on side—and you will have an opportunity to lead Canada into a greater future.
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