I am giving some serious thought to joining the Liberal party of Canada.
No I haven’t lost my mind. Maybe.
From 1997 on, I maintained an eleven year streak of pointedly not voting for the Liberal Party. This despite the fact that I consider myself to be a centrist. But not all Liberals are centrist, and not all centrists are Liberals. In my opinion, my assessment of the Chretien and Martin governments has amounted to: right policies, wrong attitude. Back before Stephen Harper got his act together, I joked that Canadians wanted to replace the Liberals… with the Liberals. I suspected that most Canadians wanted to maintain the steady moderate government, while surgically removing the Liberals’ tendency to govern arrogantly, or mire themselves in corruption.
Now that the Liberals received the humiliation they so richly deserved in 2006, and now that the humiliation has been hammered home in 2008, maybe the time has come to move on, and take a fresh look at the Liberals? But what assurance do I have that the Liberals will again take up their centrist approach to government without their traditional sense of entitlement?
The answer may be to try and join the party and make change happen from the inside.
Starting with some Liberals’ attempts to blame their election loss on a failure to “unite the left” in Canadian politics.
All this talk about a “united left” irks me on a number of levels, one of which is the assumption that there is room for only two basic political points of view in this country: left and right. Um… excuse me? What if they’re both wrong? What if they’re both right?
I believe that this country has been best governed when it has been governed by the centre — and when that government has been balanced by two equally strong, equally vocal movements on either side of it. I think this country would be harmed if it abandoned that path. Polarization in politics is never fun — just look south of the border. More than that, asking me to abandon my political philosophy, come off the fence and pick a side strikes me as an undemocratic desire. Why the hell should I have to pick sides when I have already chosen my place? If you want to come to a compromise, let’s talk, but don’t ask me to abandon my political point of view.
So, why am I not a Liberal? Why, before this past election, hadn’t I voted Liberal since 1997? Because there is a principled form of centrism, and there is a lazy form of centrism. Guess which form I suspect the Liberal party currently favours? Whereas some parties swing from left and right, or from one geographical wing to another, Liberal politics swing between a pragmatic wing and an opportunistic wing. The opportunistic wing of the party snatches ideas out of the hands of the parties around it, creating a platform that appeals to as many voters as possible, regardless of whether or not those policies are good for the country. Pragmatic Liberals aren’t in it just for the power; ideally, they’ll consider and implement policies based on the good of the country. Medicare was an idea whose time had come in the late 1960s, and the country is better for having implemented it. Deficit reduction had to happen in the early 1990s, and the Liberals were right for having embraced it. Sometimes the right thing isn’t the popular thing. That’s what separates pragmatists from opportunists.
Now that the Liberal party has been reduced to its lowest level of popular support in history, members are starting to speak of renewal. It remains to be seen how interested the party apparatus is in that. But if one thing Barrack Obama showed to the American people, it’s the value in getting involved in the political process. One man alone isn’t going to change the world — I don’t care what shape his office is. But one man who motivates millions to speak out for their point of view? That’s different. And ultimately, the responsibility for changing our future rests with us and us alone.
I want to maintain a centrist political option, and ultimately if I want my desire to be more than just desire, I’ll have to act. And that means, perhaps, joining the Liberal Party, listening to other members’ ideas, and advancing my own.
With that in mind, I’ve crafted the beginnings of a proposed Liberal Party manifesto. If I am to vote Liberal again, this is the party I think I want to vote for.
We are a party of the centre, but we are not a party of the status quo. We are a party of pragmatists, but not a party of opportunists. We seek to serve our country as best we can, following policies, philosophies and ideas that are the best for our country, understanding that they don’t all necessarily come from the same place or the same point of view. We seek to do what is right, and not just what is popular.
With that in mind, the priorities of the next Liberal government should be as follows:
We advocate a system proportional representation, possibly regional-open Mixed Member Participation, so that fewer voices are silenced in parliament, and parliamentarians are forced to work together to forge a true majority in the backing of their policies.
We commit to enshrining property rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In urban affairs, we commit to honouring the spirit and the letter of the constitution, by finishing our current commitments, and getting out of the way of the provincial governments. Urban affairs are not a federal responsibility, and meeting these issues is best left to the provinces, with assistance through tax point transfers.
We commit to developing our national infrastructure, especially railways, broadband, and services to remote communities.
We commit to enhancing research and development in the emerging industries of the 21st century.
We recognize the family farm as having been the cornerstone of our rural wealth, and commit to a program of research and development to assist family farmers in diversifying their crops, switching to more profitable crops, and increasing the value and viability of their farms.
We commit to reinvesting in our military, so we can maintain our sovereignty, respond to natural disasters, and offer up our peacekeeping services to the world.
Comments, as always, are welcome.
P.S. If I do end up joining the Liberals, I will probably continue to maintain the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians, for a couple of reasons. One, I won’t be joining the Libloggers, because I believe there should be a blogroll home for bloggers who don’t want to feel obliged to join a partisan blogroll like the Blogging Tories in order to increase their links in the blogosphere.
More importantly, I’m not about to have this blog vetted by the party apparatus. I say what I think, and if anybody doesn’t like it, we’ll, let’s talk. But if you want to silence me, tough.