Friday, May 13, 2011

Building liberalism beyond the Liberal Party

We’ve been necessarily focused on how to reform, restructure and renew the Liberal Party of Canada, as we should be, but to be successful at refreshing liberalism in Canada and the moderate, pragmatic values we seek to promote and embody, it’s also necessary to think outside the box and beyond just the Liberal Party of Canada.


It’s time to think about how we can influence, develop and promote liberal values from outside the formal party structure. I think a way to do this that could be very beneficial to the cause is to consider the think-tank model. Common in the United States, it offers several advantages over the traditional party structure: it’s a way to develop and promote shared values and ideals and push boundaries without being tied to the formal party.

The Conservatives have already brought this model to Canada with the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Created by Reform Party founder Preston Manning, it operates at arms-length from the Conservative Party itself. But it’s decidedly sympathetic to the conservative cause, sponsoring research and polling on conservative issues, promoting conservative values, and holding training and development colleges for conservative organizers and holding events with leading thinkers.

Operating at arms-length from formal parties, these organizations are freer to get creative and take risks. They’re places where policy can be researched, debated and proposed, as well as promoted. They’re also training grounds for the next generations of political activists and leaders.

For supporters of the Liberal cause, they also offer another significant advantage: they’re free of the fundraising and donation constraints facing Canadian political parties. While there’s no tax deductibility, for those that used to donate $5000 to the party and now face a $1100 cap, supporting such a foundation would be a way to further support the same ideas and values and help further the cause.

Who would be our Preston Manning? That remains to be seen, although certainly a number of likely and worthy candidates spring to mind. But as we seek to re-centre the Liberal Party and promote the values of liberalism, it may be time for them to step forward, because such an organization could be a crucial part of our rebuilding process. And we must not be afraid to look tot he example of out political cousins outside the country, and even our rivals here at home, for inspiration.

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6 comments:

A Eliz. said...

I like Marc Garneau he has had quite a life with people, but he wants to be interim leader, where he says he can help the Party the most.

Colin said...

I really like this line of thinking. My biggest concern about the whoel "reinvention" process is that we'll reinvent ourselves right out of liberalism altogether.

Liberalism did not change on May 2nd. So while the party needs to look carefully at how they present a liberal philosophy to Canada, the philosophy remains largely as it has been for over a century.

Who is our Manning? Well, strange though it may seem, it might be Ignatieff. No, really. He perhaps should never have been leader, but he's clearly capable of guiding an institution of intellectual thought.

This Liberal manifesto ( http://colincarmichael.ca/a-liberal-manifesto/ )delivered by Ignatieff in 2009 is, to me, the evidence that he is one of, if not the, foremost liberal thinkers of our time.

WesternGrit said...

We need a "Trudeau Institute", perhaps tied to the U of T.

I agree, that the philosophy isn't missing. What WAS missing was our utter lack of ability to sell ourselves. As a business person I know that the only way to sell your product is to sell your product. 24/7/365. Marketing is everything.

What happened to our marketing? Well, between elections it didn't exist. Harper was able to advertise roughly (over 5 years since 2006) 60 months. We advertised for 3 months. Being out-marketed 20 to 1 is NOT a recipe for success.

The CPC does not have a downtown Vancouver, or downtown Calgary office, but the LPC does. These invisible structures cost our party millions of dollars a year. They should be cut, and the spending shifted over to year round advertising.

Positive advertising is needed. Advertising with expounds the virtues of moderation. We will have 5 years of telling Canadians why they can choose between the extreme left or right rhetoric of the two front-runners, or choose the moderate center approach and have the best of both worlds - without the extremism. We're not the "wishy-washy middle" that Harperites like to call us. THAT has to be our message - repeatedly for 4 years, in 15 or 30 second ad spots in prime time on popular programs..

Not only will such advertising help us establish a position, but it will help raise funds and attract volunteers, as persons who share our values begin to "find" us. This is especially effective since we wouldn't be cloistered in hidden offices, only visible during elections.

Marketing works. Perhaps we should try it? No, really. Let's try to do it the right way.

Our marketing efforts should be built on a virtual party which (as we know) is the best established online. Google ads, Facebook ads (which can be targeted VERY effectively and easily - ask me how), and strategically placed ads on solid websites are critical.

Another element of the marketing effort is getting involved in think-tanks and community organizations. Some of us are working on a Vancouver-based think-tank which already has ties to independent media (which will be a great outlet for our ideas) and ethnic TV networks.

If we're in church we need to get involved. We need to get involved in our student unions. In our regular unions. Get involved in fraternal organizations. To grow the brand, we need to be out there to share it, and to be open about being a "member".

Titanium said...

I could be wrong but I think a lot of people see the Conservative party as the liberal party in terms of neo liberalism. So if the liberals want to renew liberalism in this country then they will have to differentiate from the neo liberalism that the Tories sell.

WesternGrit said...

Most people have no clue what "neo liberalism" is.

WesternGrit said...

The Reformers are Libertarians with a NeoConservative bent. They are of the same brand as the born-again Republicans in the US. They certainly aren't fiscally conservative - but it is not for want. They are just too stupid to realize that their ideological spending habits create debt. They may cut a few million with "austerity" in government departments, but replace it with billions in military, prison, and tax-cut spending. They are of the mistaken notion that "trimming fat" in tiny government departments (in the big financial picture), will save money - and unfortunately when Joe Q Public hears "$ Million" they think it's a lot of money. Structural deficits are their domain.