Where do the Liberals sit?

In 2015 (or thereabouts; fixed election dates are apparently anything but), Canadians will have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for this government or choose a new one. As a member of the third party, I would certainly prefer to see the Liberal party considered as that alternative option. To get there, we need to not only distinguish ourselves from the Conservatives but from the NDP as well. This is a difficult conversation to have; the media refers to “the progressive vote” as a single block and the NDP has taken a pitch to the right recently. The NDP has the advantage of being the Official Opposition and the de facto “government in waiting” so Liberals need to be able to articulate what makes us different than the NDP first and foremost.

For many Liberals, this distinction is a very personal one. For me, the two main points of differentiation between the Liberal party and the NDP come down to populism and realism. The NDP is a populist party; the Liberal party I support is not. I want to see a Liberal party that is a party of realism because I do not see this in the NDP. Populism is a point that I have addressed in the past and, in fact, the two are closely related. When I addressed removing the HST from home heating as populist nonsense, it’s nonsense because of the lack of consideration for real world consequences (prominent economist Stephen Gordon mockingly referred to it as “The Black Shift”). We both may be progressives, but we’re certainly different kinds.

Once we’ve established that there are different shades of progressiveness, it will be much easier to deal with the crowding around the centre that both the NDP and the Conservatives have attempted in the last few election cycles. With better positioning relative to the NDP, we will be much more able to carve out a niche relative to the other parties. As I said on Twitter, regarding David Suzuki’s comments that conventional economics is a “form of brain damage” and “not a science”: there has to be a place in Canadian politics for people who both believe in man-made climate change and who think Suzuki’s comments are idiotic. We Liberals get ourselves in trouble by claiming to not be ideological, but in this case that claim can be borne out.

From the economy to foreign policy, this type of analysis could be conducted on any issue. The Liberal party should be the party that offers non-ideological solutions to all of our problems, not just the current hot-button issue that is the environment. I believe our obstacles are interrelated and that as we solve each one, the other problems will become easier and easier to solve in turn. There are challenges, to be sure, but if we address them properly, I do believe we can put ourselves in the position to be considered the credible alternative in the next election. Liberals are attacked by both the right and the left; surely that means we’re doing something right.

2 Comments on “Where do the Liberals sit?”

  1. Great post. Some thoughts:

    If the Liberal party were going to open up that sober territory beyond party ideology, they couldn’t do it soon enough.

    As far as Suzuki’s comments as an opportunity for the Liberals: it’s one thing to offer analyses that create room for discussion and interest in what you have to say, but analyses are a long way from policy. This was the interesting part of your post: in your scenario the party couldn’t just say that they’ll create an environment where good science can become good policy. Their platform would have to be built on that principle from the ground up.

    For example, they’d have to finally build a good, detailed argument for a carbon tax, or a just-as-detailed argument for something else. If they want to stand out in Ottawa at the moment, they’d do it now.

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