Friday, January 26, 2007

Our defeat was no accident

Paul Wells’ latest column is an interesting read as always, talking about Stephane Dion’s recent trip back to his old high school and some of the usual Quebec questions. But his last two sentences (what we like to call the kicker) in particular make a very important point all Liberals should read:

St├ęphane Dion's first big challenge is not his broken English or his estrangement from Quebec's elites. It is the bedrock conviction among many of his troops that defeat was an accident that will correct itself.

You can talk about the strategic mistakes of the Martin campaign staff, or the hanging cloud of sponsorship. But the fact is our defeat in 2005/06 was a long time in coming. It wasn’t an accident we lost. Canadians sent us a message: smarten the hell up.

I’ve long been saying we need to stop apologizing for being Liberals. I believe that firmly. We have a lot in our record to be proud of. But we had also become lazy and arrogant in 13-odd years of government. We took power for granted, we developed a sense of entitlement…a deep rot took hold in our party.

That’s why I believe so strongly in the need for renewal and reform in the Liberal Party. We got a start on that with the renewal commission reforms passed in Montreal, and the grassroots revolution that propelled Stephane into the leadership. And he has mainly had a good start at continuing this since his victory.

But lest any among our party be toiling under any illusions, let’s be perfectly clear: our defeat last January wasn’t any accident. It wasn’t some aberration in the natural order that will be swiftly corrected for a return to business as usual. We need to work to re-earn the trust of Canadians.

While it won’t be easy, I think we can do it. But only if we all recognize the challenge, and work hard to meet it together.

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SUZANNE said...

There are many kinds of Liberals. But I think the kind of Liberalism that led to the defeat of the PLC is this businessman/lawyer driven "we're hot sh*t" type of Liberalism that looks down on the plebes-- and ideology isn't the issue-- whether it's socialist plebes or socon plebes, it's not the point.

It's a smug sort of Liberalism that combines a sense of what they, the knowledgeable elite want-- is obviously what's best for Canada, with a sort of electoralist mindset that tests to see where the political wind is blowing to know what their principles of the day are (in form, not in substance, though!) so they know what rhetoric to use.

All parties are guilty of electoralism, but in this crowd of Liberals, there's a smugness attached. You get the impression they joined the Liberals because they win elections, not necessarily for the values, and so they have an inflated ego about not being in the party of "those other losers".

These are the people who win elections (because they're out to win) but they also mess up governing with their opportunism and are the kind who go looking for political handouts.

I want to reiterate that not all Liberals are like this. But this is the impression when I examine the Liberal Party situation.

I hope for the sake of your own collective integrity, you can do something about this.

eugene plawiuk said...

Well said, and I enjoyed Wells article thanks for the link to it. What is important to understand is that the party has been hostage to the backroom boys under both Chretien and Martin. In that way Dion is a breathe of fresh air. Despite being appointed by Chretien, he was neither a Chretienite nor a Martinist.
It was Martins election to lose and David Herle and the other Martinists did it for him.
The Liberals being Canada's Natural Governing Party, forgot that it is important to be humble, even after the whole Gomery affair, Martin and company were arrogant.
And that arrogance lost them the election.

James Curran said...

Well said Eugene. Throw into that an all-over-the-place, what-the-hell-are-we-talking-about platform and you have the perfect tonic for election loss.

Good post Jeff.

The What Do I Know Grit

Saskboy said...

The Liberals federally are similar to the NDP in SK, they've been around since dirt, and think they are God's gift to their respective jurisdiction. The arrogance is palpable.

Congratulations on noting that the Liberals have a long way to go.

Steve V said...

On the humility front, important not to forget the favorable political landscape the Liberal Party enjoyed. The right was a divided mess for three elections, Liberals were almost elected by default. Reform/Alliance was never a serious option outside of the base, and the PC's were a joke. Liberals capitalized on circumstance, otherwise "13 years" probably would have been "7 years". The last couple of elections prior to Martin's defeat, I don't think people pulled the Liberal lever with any passion, it was more the lesser of a host of evils. It for that reason that the arrogance and entitlement, the brief "timeout" talk is so ridiculous.

Anonymous said...


The LPC was one more possible problem. That is the way Dion won.

He carried 90% of Kennedy's troops. Apparently due to some ethnic bloc voting.

If that ethnic bloc is owed something, then the LPC better watch very carefully when Harper sets a middle east trap for them. And you can rest assured that Harper will goad a middle east comment, or vote, out of the LPC well in front of the budget.

He wants to know whether there is any support left for Israel. If there isn't, expect him to use this as a wedge issue with skittish voters.

He will try and make the LPC look like it has sold its soul for an anti-Israeli voting bloc.


Ti-Guy said...

And you can rest assured that Harper will goad a middle east comment, or vote, out of the LPC well in front of the budget.

You'd have to be unconscious not to expect any number of cynical and desparate attempts by the Harpies. It's all they do, it's all they know.

There really isn't any effective way of challenging such immorality (playing with people's lives and safety for the sake of political gain) except to let it speak for itself.

I'm constantly surprised that the Conservatives/conservatives here think their political adversaries are interested in or care about their insight with regard to Liberal political strategy. How arrogant and presumptuous.

DivaRachel said...

I totally agree with the concept of defeat not being an accident. In fact, I felt last year that the Powers That Be just "didn't get it".

It behooves the Leader to recognize the problem in order to address it. Bravo Stéphane!

Steve V said...

"Apparently due to some ethnic bloc voting."

A problem Conservatives never have to worry about.

ottlib said...

No, the election loss was not an accident, the whole concept that any election loss is just an accident is stupid, but neither was it a unequivocal rejection of the Liberals.

As election losses go this one was pretty tame considering what the Liberals were up against. I have said it before, by all rights the Liberals should have been creamed. We should not be talking about an election this year we should be talking about one in 2010.

The fact the Conservatives were only able to eke out a slim minority victory should be a cause of concern to them and a reason for hope amongst Liberals. However, that does not mean Liberals should be complacent. Canadians expect the Liberals to renew themselves and get their act together and Canadians will keep them on the opposition benches until they do.

Anonymous said...


Some Harper supporters don't care about "winning", they just care about good government. It was what many voters thought was missing. If Harper does not provide good, honest government, he will apy the price.

Every time the government spends a tax dollar, they should think about whether it is necessary or not. Can the private sector do this better? Is it part of the job description? Am I being dishonest?

It's what the LPC keeps stumbling over. e.g. Cote

Martin was close to fitting the key into the electoral door.

He missed having a backbone, he was too partisan, and he was tremendously arrogant.

Dion needs to be bold and forward thinking, not nuanced and "bought". He will gain whatever soft CPC votes exist if he does this.


Gauntlet said...

It's all well and good to say that there was a rot in the party. But unless the people in the party, and particularly the leadership in the party are willing to say where the rot came from, how it got there, how they're going to get rid of it, and how they're going to keep it from coming back, what difference does it make?

I have yet to see Dion admit there's anything seriously wrong with the party as it stands. What I heard him say in Edmonton was that he wasn't interested in "philosophy department Liberals" who want to change things.

Marie Poulin has made some changes that are to her credit. But I don't believe she sees a problem to be solved as much as she sees new opportunities to be created. So the rot, if it exists, isn't going away.

So yes. It wasn't an accident. But we don't deserve to pat ourselves on the back for recognizing that unless we're going to do something to solve the problems.

Warren K. said...

You're a smart guy, Jeff.