Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Moving forward

Before I return to blogging about how crazy evil the Harper Conservatives are, the Ontario election and other topic (I’d like to do more television-related blogging this season) let me offer some well intentioned advice to the LPC powers that be.

*What’s our message? What do we stand for? You know, I’m a Liberal and I have no clue. I mean, we’re for us being in power and the Cons not being in power, I’m clear on that. But we need a little more. I wrote just after the last election we needed to do policy/philosophy before we did leadership. We did leadership first instead. Now, let’s do the other thing.

*To that end, what about policy? I remember something about Rae and Hall-Findlay going coast-to-coast to consult on policy. Did they finish? Did they come-up with anything?

*With the throne speech dropping next month, and all the drama that will be surrounding it, it’s time to get serious about policy. We should write our own throne speech, Bind it up all nice, and release it when the Conservatives do theirs. Try not to leak it beforehand, keep it away from the mole. But lay-out the Liberal vision for Canada, what we’d do if we were in government. Not a response to the speech from the throne, that will come too, but our own SFTT. Maybe hold a rally the day after the Con SPTT and have Dion deliver the speech.

*Speaking of Dion, he needs to get his hands dirty and take off the gloves. Why isn’t he taking-on Harper on the Con-ad scandal? Or being more forceful in calling BS on a lot of the crap the Cons are spewing. Where’s the Dion I remember from the separatist fights? I get the sense he’s holding back, trying to stay reserved. Don’t hold back anymore. But also, don’t use lame talking points like ‘President Harper.’ We elected you for your smarts; use them to make Harper look dumb.

*Does Dion have a Jean Pelletier, someone with the experience and knowledge to tell him when he’s wrong and with the power and moxy to keep the team in line? I’m thinking no, and he needs to find one tout de suite.

*The LPC needs to reclaim the centre-left. I’ve been arguing this for some time. We had to put a lot on hold to get the budget balanced. Mission accomplished, now let’s get back to our traditional home. Let’s talk about a real plan for fighting child poverty. This was a big part of Dion’s leadership campaign, why haven’t I heard about it since? Let’s talk about rural economic development. Let’s talk about the skills shortage. Whatever happened to childcare? Let’s talk about early childhood learning, and come-up with a real child care plan that addresses the needs of both working parents AND stay at home parents.

*What happened to the Liberal dream team? I saw most of them on the stage in Outremont. But let’s leverage their strength more. Let’s get Michael and Gerard and Martha out there on the hustings. And Bob too, once he’s recovered. Let’s use these guys.

*Very quickly, assuming Bob’s health allows and he’s doing well, I’d like to see Dion hold a press conference, flanked by our candidates for all the other vacant seats: Bob, Martha, Joyce Murray and the others. He should challenge Harper to immediately set the date for the remaining by-elections. The message: we’re not scared. The fight is not over. Bring it on. I’d like the messaging of such a move.

*The nomination process was slowed over the summer. Speed it back up quickly. Fall election or no, get candidates in place in all 307 (yes, I know) ridings so they can start working now. We’ll need the time for local organization, and there’s no time to waste.

*Finally, here’s an idea. Every time an anonymous ‘senior Liberal mouths off to the media, every MP and senior party staffer needs to put a twonie in a jar. When the jar is full, it gets donated to the Conservatives. Kind of like a swear jar for politicians. Might be worth a try.

The media-fueled furor over Outremont will die down in due course. They’re a fickle bunch, the press corps. These recommendations I’d have made irregardless of last night. Things aren’t as doom and gloom as some would have us believe. But we also have serious work to do, serious work that hasn’t been getting done. Let’s get started.

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Demosthenes said...

Yeah. That collectivized "leak jar"?


I mean, the Liberals should also have one for when they use a Conservative frame, like Luntz made the Republicans use, but the leak jar's damned good anyway.

Though I'd make it a fiver.

The opposition speech would be pretty good, too, kind of like the Democratic response that you get after the State of the Union address.

As for philosophy, well... to be honest, pretty much all liberals and progressives are grappling with that right now. It's not like the Dems aren't having problems with that; just go read Matt Bai's The Argument.

(Or my handy discussion of same, for those that fear dead trees.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Excellent post.

Would that TPTB were listening.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I disagree with the idea of reclaiming the centre-left, I rather think we should claim the radical centre as this is where the most votes are and if we claim this, we leave no opening for Harper. It wasn't just the division on the right that helped us in the 90s, it was also that Chretien claimed the radical centre so the PCs were nothing more than a second rate Liberal Party so that is why they did poorly, while the Reform Party who did differentiate themselves from the Liberals were too far right for most Canadians. When we are centre-left the Conservatives can differentiate themselves from us without being too extreme for most Canadians. If we are in the centre, they cannot do this.

Many Canadians have this idea that we are a left wing nation, when in fact, by global standards we are pretty middle of the road. We are left wing compared to the United States, but right wing when compared to most European countries. In fact I would argue the reason we have done so well is we have avoided the bad policies on both the left and right that have hurt those countries.

Bailey said...

Another good post. Hopefully, someone out there is listening.

Steve V said...

Some people argue that we should wait on the policy until an election, lest Harper steal ideas. For a party desperate to turn the page, I don't think the Liberals have that luxury. We need something that captures people's imagination.

Good post Jeff.

Jeff said...

Though I'd make it a fiver.

Perhaps five for MPs and 2 for staffers. The clank of all those twonies as the jar is passed around the caucus meeting could be nice symbolism though...

I disagree with the idea of reclaiming the centre-left, I rather think we should claim the radical centre

Miles, I think it depends on your definition of centre-left. I suspect we're not really all that far apart on where we want to go. Perhaps a return leftward, from centre-right, to centre, would be a better way to put it, although at some point these monikers become better suited to hockey games than politics...

Some people argue that we should wait on the policy until an election, lest Harper steal ideas. For a party desperate to turn the page, I don't think the Liberals have that luxury.

I agree with both points, that's why I compromised with the throne speech idea. It's soon enough, will get media play, and it the Cons still out stuff then, right after they just laid-out their grand vision, it will be plainly obvious and transparent to all.

Anonymous said...

"You know, I’m a Liberal and I have no clue. "

'nuff said. So poetic.

Susan said...

Peter Mansbridge said at one point in the last few days that Dion was frustrated by having his message managed. I wonder why he agreed to that - it's taken away one of his srengths, his feisty conviction. It think he's being pressured by the right wing of the party. Let us not forget that Mr. Manley was a Liberal and Frank Mckenna has ties to the Carlisle (sp.?)Group, etc.

Demosthenes said...


There is no such creature, nor has there ever been, that can answer to the name of "the radical center".

What you describe is triangulation, and it loses elections. Just ask the Democrats circa 1994-2004. It loses, and they lost, because a party needs to stand for more than "I'm EXACTLY between the other poles, and thus must by right, by the tortured logic of people who take political analogy way too far".

By global standards, Canadian politics may be middle of the road, and by American standards, it may be leftist. What matters, though, is how Canadians see their parties and vice versa, and that requires a party to actually believe in something other than following the polls around.

Besides, the complete lack of volunteers in Outremont (and donations elsewhere) suggest that what the Liberals truly need is a base, and a base is never, ever, ever the sort of swing voters you're talking about. You need a base before you can build on it.

And BCer ain't wrong about the Liberal party's past, either- it's been pretty center-right, so a shift leftward might not be a bad idea. Considering that Outremont was a case of the Liberals losing a riding to the NDP, calls to give further ground to the "dippers" seem a bit, ah, misguided.

900ft Jesus said...

good post!

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

Demosthenes - While having a strong base is important, it can also have its risks. Yes the Democrats were reasonably centrist in the 90s, but it could be argued the main reason the Republicans lost the last midterm elections is they swung too far to the right and too many Americans who were not necessarily Liberals turned away from them.

I would say the Liberals were centre-right in the 90s, but under Chretien's third term and Martin's term as PM, they could hardly be described as centre-right, if anything there were probably more centre-left if you look at all the initiatives they adopted. Also the swing to the centre-right was largely to balance the budget and pretty much abandoned after then. It also was a way to prevent parties further to the right from gaining any traction, after all the West went solidly Reform Party in the 90s at the federal level and Ontario elected Mike Harris provincially, whereas neither of those scenarios, at least not the second one, apply today.