Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Centre, with left frosting and right sprinkles?

Much talk of late and, well, for some time, over where the Liberal Party should situate itself on the vaunted political spectrum. Have we gone to far left? Too far right? Do we need to go back to the centre? Do we need to fight the Conservatives for the centre? Is the battle with the NDP on the left?

Frankly, I think all this talk about centre, left and right is better suited to hockey. It also leaves us playing defense with the goalie pulled. Hockey analogies aside, I think this political spectrum positioning game is missing the point. And Canadians don't really think in these terms anyways.

The question we, as Liberals, should be asking ourselves is not do we need to be centre or left, but what do we stand for? What does being a Liberal mean? What are Liberal values?

We’ve become, or rather, had become, so good at the strategic game, at morphing to suit political changing winds, that we’ve lost touch with just what the heck we’re all about in the first place.

I’ve been a Liberal off and on, mostly on, for nearly 15 years, joining when I was a high school student back in Courtenay, BC. Hardly a Liberal hot bed, so I didn’t join because it was the thing to do. I had the political bug, I was concerned about issues, and I wanted to get involved. I looked at all the parties, and joined the one that best reflected my values. And that party was the Liberals.

I believed, and I still do, that we need to help those that need help, both at home and abroad. I believe having strong social programs and a strong publicly-funded health care system, supported by fair and progressive taxes, are wise investments that pay for themselves. I believe in sound financial management and balanced budgets. I believe Canada can be a voice and a force for good in this world.

Once we decide again what we, as Liberals, believe in, the policy will flow from there. And we’ll need to translate that policy into what it means for the everyday lives of Canadians. We’ll end up on the political spectrum wherever we end up.

We need to start with the abstract exercise though, and redefine Liberalism once more. We need to find out what we believe in again.

Because politics isn’t like selling soap, and Canadians can tell when your heart isn’t in it.

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