Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why the Globe is wrong (again)

In January, the Globe and Mail’s editorial board used a lot of convoluted logic to write an editorial endorsing the Harper Conservatives in the last election, even though (the editors’) hearts really didn’t seem to be in it. They were wrong then, and have probably been wrong many times since, but I was reminded of that particular editorial when I read another of their editorials today.

Back in January, their editorial talked about the good things the Liberals had done but said people should reluctantly vote Conservative. In today’s piece, on the weekend’s Liberal leadership debates, the Globe’s editors proclaim Liberals “need ideas, not nostalgia.” I’d submit the Globe’s editors need to start paying attention. The ideas have been there. And nostalgia? Not quite, but we do need to start reclaiming our record again.

They actually loose me with their first lines, where they gush over Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff as “two of the best minds of their generation” and leave the impression they were the only two people on stage. Watching Rae and Ignatieff’s exchanges at that debate one would beg to disagree, the Globe’s school girl crushes aside.

But what I really wanted to touch on was the overarching theme of the Globe editorial, which I think is encapsulated in the following passage:

The Liberal Party of Canada clearly needs renewal, but what it provided on Sunday amounted largely to a series of smug declamations about the wonderful legacy of the Chr├ętien and Martin governments. The debate was burdened by the notion that the Liberals are right on just about everything, from the Kelowna accord to the Kyoto Protocol, and that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are wrong on about just about everything. St├ęphane Dion, in particular, wore his Liberal pride on his chest. The only problem with this is that Canadian voters have already rejected the underlying premise.

Frankly, it’s the Globe comes off as smug as arrogant with its editorial today. With respect to Eddie I have to flatly reject the Globe’s underlying premise, just as the Globe itself rejected it back in January. Voters sent Liberals to the woodshed because of a serious of inexcusable ethical transgressions, not because of a wholesale rejection of Liberal policy. Voters did not reject our approach to the environment, to childcare, to sound fiscal management, to a strong, Canadian foreign policy.

Canadians wanted to send Liberals a message to shape-up and get its house in order, so they granted a tepid minority government to the Conservatives. A majority of Canadians voted for parties that support small-L liberal policies and approaches to government.

Does the Liberal Party need renewal? Yes, absolutely. Undeniably. But, as I’ve written before, throwing out the baby with the bathwater would be incredibly foolish and we need to stop aplogizing for being Liberals. Nothing is black and white and neither is our record. We have acknowledged our mistakes (see the Hell, Mad As tour), and we have a start on the structural changes with the renewal commission. I still think attitudes need to evolve.

But let’s not throw out the good with the bad. A record of slaying the budget deficit, returning seven consecutive balanced budgets, reinvesting in social programs, and a score of other positive things we have done. We can’t let Canadians forget the good while we’re atoning for the bad.

And to the leadership candidates that want to attack the Liberal record, in a leadership race that’s particularly shortsighted. You’re trying to gain support from people that worked hard for 13 years doing a lot of good, valuable work trying to build a party and a country, getting a lot accomplished. People that have the highest ethical standards and have done nothing wrong. To tell them they shouldn’t be proud of their accomplishments, of that record, that it should be forgotten, that “we didn’t get it done”…well, slapping me across the face isn’t likely to gain you my support, particularly if you weren’t there helping with the heavy lifting.

Anyway, last day in Anaheim today, flying back to Toronto in the morning. Off to Disney’s California Adventure tonight, I’ll ask Mickey for his thoughts on the leadership. I think he’s supportive, but I hear Goofy has some issues with Dion’s grammar.

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Steve V said...


I appreciate your perspective. However, if any Liberal can say they were "proud" of the trainwreck (that was COMPLETELY bereft of ideas) they presented to the Canadian people last election, then I have to question their objectivity.

As an aside, "heavy lifting" is valid, but unless the Party wants to be an incestuous circle-jerk, it should welcome new perspectives and NEW people to the conversation. When I went to vote in my riding, 98% of the people I saw were 50 plus, which furthered my view that the Party desperately needs an injection. If someone tells you about failure don't take it personally, because ultimately Canadians told you that too. This wasn't a timeout, it was an explusion and we need to move forward within that reality, not some partisan inspired pride. Take care.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Thanks for your comments Steve. I think it's really a matter of nuance, and balance.

First, I certaintly can't take pride in the last election performance, or the last two really. It was madening, frankly. But I think from day one Paul and Co. sought to distance themselves from the past 13 years, and what we had acieved. I said then, and say now, that was a mistake.

I never said we shouldn't be welcoming of new perspectives and new ideas. And tell us about failure, sure. My point was simply that it wasn't ALL failure, and a lot WAS accomplished, and we can't gloss over that. We need to reclaim the positives of our record, because they are what won us three majority governments.

Pride in the positives of the past + acknowledgement of the mistakes of our past + new ideas and renewal= the recipe for success, IMO.

Steve V said...


I didn't mean to suggest it was all failure, because clearly there were many successful policies. I guess my point is simply a question of perception. The last few years of Liberal government left a bad taste in people's mouths. The dilemna, when you remind people of past success, it invariably allows for another look at the failures. I ask myself the question from the Tory perspective, do we give them ammunition by trumpeting the past, or do we keep the ideals, but put on a fresh face and negate the old arguments, forcing them to stand on their record. In almost every question period, roundtable, the Liberal representative is sidetracked when a Conservative brings up the past. We need to minimize their ability to use old faithful, because once we get beyond the dodge and weave there is nothing there and they are now exposed. It's an open question on how best to proceed.

Cerberus said...


You are also heaping a lot onto one comment on one issue. The fact is we didn't get it done on the environmental file. It wasn't because of budgetary restraint either. And it wasn't just Ignatieff.

Dryden was there at the cabinet table and he said that too about the environment. And certainly Canadians believe that too.

Say that is unfair if you want, but it is equally unfair to make that kind of hidden barb on Ignatieff.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Steve, I think it's a matter of framing the debate, and taking control of the agenda. The Cons are going to attack us no matter what we do. Whether we pretend the last 13 years happened or not won't change that. As I said, PM pretended we didn't have a record worth standing on and he got smacked. Reminding people of the good we did is vitally important, esp. when contrasted with the record the Cons will be running on. Yes, they'll bring up unhelpful stuff. It's up to us to counter that. If we trade away the positives of our record the negatives will still remain regardless, so let's keep the positives.

Let me put it another way. The Cons will hit us with Gomery no matter what we do. We need to hit back and remind people of the positives, not let them paint the past 13 years as a failure. We didn't do that in 02 and 06, we just kept letting them punch us in the gut.

Ted, I mentioned that quote because it is a recent example, but by no means would I imply this is an Ignatieff-only phenomenon. In fact, prior to that debate I'd say he hasn't been really taking that tack, but that I'd observed it a lot more from the supporters of one of the other candidates.

I was speaking more broadly than just the environment, but on the environment, did we "get it done"? Well, no, although much depends on, to borrow a phrase, what your definition of the word "it" is. Did we solve global warming? No. Is the environment fixed? Nope. Did we get a start on some good programs? Yes, although not as much or as well as I'd have like. After the budget was dealt with there were a variety of competing interests and lobbies. We had ideas, but I think what was lacking was the commitment from the top to make it a priority, political considerations meant the needed clout wasn't put behind it. That's why I think it needs to be a leadership issue, because there needs to be, to borrow a business phrase, executive sponsorship, if anything is going to happen.

Really though, that quote grated on me for two reasons: one, what we? and two, it makes a very simple issue appear quite complex, and implies a lack of effort, specifically by Dion, although I know Michal argue that wasn't what he wanted to convey, and that he meant the royal we. Still, though, it's a very good soundbite by Michael.

Orchard said...

Are we really going to start questioning Dion's commitment to the environment?

Are we going to say, well the liberals "didn't get it done" in the last 13 years and that's Dion's fault?

Are we going to forget the C.D. Howe institute's study which said Dion's plan would get us 75% of the way to meeting Kyoto targets? Are we going to forget that Dion was only environment minister for little over a year and yet delivered the greenest budget Canada has seen and also chaired the Kyoto Roundtable in December of 2005?

Let's talk about renewal, by all means. I know Dion represents real renewal. And I also know that Dion has the intellectual heft to get things done.

Anonymous said...

Dion and Rae represent the same old same old, JK. Kennedy and Iggy are the only ones left who represent change.

Orchard said...

Let's talk about renewal.

What conditions have to be met before we can say that the party has been renewed? A pretty new face is not enough I'm afraid.

What is needed is 1) Substance 2) The ability to unite the party 3) The ability to draw attention from outside the regular rank and file.

1) Substance:

Dion's 3 pillar platform ( focussing on the environment, economy and social justice) speaks most directly to the future of the liberal party.

Throughout the 20th century the liberal party worked for social justice and economic prosperity. But as Dion has pointed out those two essentials must now be joined by a third one, environmental stewardship.

Here's just a small sampling of what Dion proposes to do:

- Green the Health Care System
- Build Renewable Energy throughout the Nation
- Make sure that all Ministers are green and that all deputy ministers also know their careers depend on that
- Use 5% of domestic spending on R&D to focus on the needs of developing countries emphasizing the environment and health problems
- Commit to limiting urban sprawl
etc. etc.

I've said it before, this is the way governments are going to have to work in the 21st century. Some of us are just a little ahead of others in recognizing this.

2) Uniting the party:

Said former MP for Burlington Paddy Torsney, “Unlike other candidates, [Dion] doesn’t sharply divide the electorate. People like him and, more importantly, they trust him.”

Dion is not a polarizing candidate. His centered policies can unite the left and the right of the "big-tent" party. Pretty simple but also essential to a reinvigorated party.

3) Drawing attention from outside the regular rank and file:

What's also very interesting is that support for Stephane Dion seems to be coming from Canadians of all political stripes. Both Elizabeth May and Jack Layton were heard praising him and his integrity not that long ago. But David Orchard also supports his candidacy. So too do other conservative voters (particularly green conservatives) who would likely be swayed by Dion's run for PM.

Dion's support crosses political spectrums and that's important to take note of. I know that much of the attention will be devoted to narrowing the focus on the delegates over the next few weeks. But if we want to build a renewed party we'll need to choose a leader more people can support. Getting the attention of people who are outside the regular rank and file of the liberal party is a big plus.

Olaf said...


In all honesty, do you think the editorial would have provoked you enough to write this post if the board didn't take a shot at Dion in particular? And if it would have mentioned him in the Globe and Mail Best Minds category?

I'll be glad when this bloody leadership race is over just so you zany liberals can be united in your Harper-bashing. Otherwise it's just confusing.

I mean, look at Teds comment. Out of all the content of the post, it's the hidden barb against Iggy that deserves comment. Why, I wonder?

What I wouldn't give to read one liberal post or comment that wasn't churned through the preferred candidate meat grinder. I actually wouldn't give that much, but it would be nice.

Jeff Drebit said...


We are seeing everyday how deep the Liberal corruption permeated into the federal government - Phantom jobs, the lies about Kyoto, empty promises about the Kelowna Accord.

Let's look at each on.

1. Phantom jobs - this is a blatant partisan golden hand shake for ministertial aids. Creating jobs that don't exist, breaking government rules regarding Public sector employees. Interesting thing is no one is taken responsibility for this. Cowardly to say the least - stealing from Canadians at the worst.

2. Kyoto - The Largest Fraud perpatuated on the Cnadian Public - 6.5 BILLION dollars spent and Canada's enviornment is in worse shape. All the while the Liberals are lying about what a great job they were doing.

3. Kelowna - The liberals had 13 years to help our native communities but didn't do anything until 2 days before their government fell. Canadians saw through this. See election results.

There are good people in the Liberal party that want to do good for Canada but it seems to me that the only way they feel they can do it is by deception and fraud.

Canadians are getting smarter and realizing that the Liberal party stands for nothing or everything depending on who they are talking to. See Iggy.

Look forward to election in the spring.