Tom Axworthy makes some very good points in a Toronto Star column today, that should be carefully considered by all those who think a new leader is all that's needed to right the Liberal ship:
In their preoccupation with leadership, media and party insiders are missing the real issue. The primary challenge for the Liberal party is that its cause is no longer compelling enough to persuade Canadians to give up their leisure time to join its ranks.
Party renewal, therefore, is not some romantic notion pursued by idealists. Renewal demands hard-headed realism that requires a Liberal party overhaul; rebuilding itself brick by brick, riding-by-riding so it is once again competitive on the ground.
Good local campaigns can influence 4 per cent to 5 per cent of the vote; the addition of 100 volunteers shifts votes; signs shift votes and local campaign spending shifts votes. In the 2000 election, for example, Liberal candidates spent only 72 per cent of their allowed local limit. On average, candidates could have spent $19,000 more. If every Liberal candidate had spent to their legal limit, the Liberal vote could have increased by 5 per cent. And since public subsidies give the parties $1.75 per vote, unharvested votes cost the Liberal party millions.
Further, early data show that only three percentage points determined the winners in 25 ridings across the country last Tuesday. In southwestern Ontario, for example, five ridings were separated by 1 per cent. Four of these were won by the Conservative party and, had the Liberal party won them instead, Stephen Harper would be even less satisfied and Stéphane Dion less worried about the results of Canada's 40th election.
A reformed policy process should begin with a thinkers conference, preferably in Kingston, to remind Liberals of Lester Pearson's great initiative in 1960; every riding should debate the directions suggested and then there should be a great party rally or mass Internet vote to decide on priorities.I agree. At the polls in the riding I worked Tuesday, the amount of manpower the Conservatives and NDP were able to bring out was substantial, and impressive. The Liberals are out there, but we're not giving them a reason to get involved.
More than a leadership convention, the Liberal party needs a period of self-examination. The good ship Liberal is taking on water and needs to energize her volunteer crew to bail her out.
We need to start asking ourselves not who our leader should be, but what our party should be. What should the Liberal Party stand for? If you're a party member now, why did you join the Liberals, and not the NDP or the Conservatives or the Greens?
More on that in a future post. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers