Friday, October 17, 2008

Bleeding Left

So I understand a former Liberal cabinet minister thinks the Liberals have "moved too far left". I happen think this is a total myth, but if you happen to think that moving the Liberals sharply to the right is a solution to its problems I invite you to take a look at the chart above which shows Liberals support from 1988 to 2008. From 1993 to 2008 we’ve gone from 41.3% to 26.2%. Over that same time the NDP has gone from 6.9% to 18.2%, while the Greens took another 7% from us in this last election. Liberals really ought to take into that into consideration when thinking about where they go from here.
Yes a divided right helped us win in 1993 and yes we won back some of the PC vote in 2004, but we can’t ignore that the combined Alliance-PC total was still 35% in the 1993 election that brought us back to power while the NDP went from 20.4% in 1988 down to 6.9%. So isn’t it pretty clear where bulk of our vote increase came from from 1988 to 1993?

And if you really believe the Liberals have gone “too far left” under St├ęphane Dion just what “left wing” policies would you suggest Liberals discard? Fighting poverty? The Kelowna Accords? National child care? Do you think cutting income taxes or corporate taxes is too far left? A carbon tax has also never been a left wing idea. You can’t just make blanket claims that the party has gone too far left without giving even one specific policy example of what you think should be different.

I personally don’t like these right-left labels that some seem to fall for. Myself I prefer socially progressive and fiscally responsible policies and I was very proud of the platform we had in the last election. No one can credibly tell us we weren’t proposing sound public policy that wasn’t going to be good for the economy and the environment. We will have new policies I’m sure in the next election, but I would recommend tweaking rather than an overhaul as I’d hate to see the party just start pandering to what’s more politically palatable than what actually makes for good governance.

But back to the point at hand, Liberals are going to do worse in the next election if move sharply right. We ignore the rise of the NDP and the Greens at our own peril.

I believe there are three things to ensure they do not harm our electoral chances further in the next election:
1) Stand up to Harper vigorously in the next Parliament. We shouldn’t fear voting against him, I am 100% certain either the NDP or the Bloc will vote to keep him in power time and again.
2) Put out a similar progressive platform but that is communicated in more bite-sized fashion
3) Endorse holding a referendum on electoral reform

I will have more on each on those points in future posts.

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jenn said...

Why does this surprise you? The Liberal party has not been a progressive party since Trudeau. Don't forget who Chretien supported against PET - the right wing candidate. Paul Martin slashed and downloaded and when he the government started running surpluses chose not to ameliorate the worst of them.I wouldn't call him a progressive. Dion is fairly progressive (although supporting those massive untargetted corporate tax cuts - Obama wouldn't approve). Look what the party did to him. Libloggers themselves are bemoaning the anonymous liberal insiders and leadership rivals unsheathing the knives and gleefully anticipating his demise. The NDP is the real progressive party in the Canadian political pantheon. The Greens aren't really progressive either since the majority of their candidates could best be described as libertarian even though May herself is closer to old-school PC.

noamzs said...

You say you do not want the Liberals to merely do what is politically palatable, but aside from this election, that is exactly what they always do. In fact, their failure to do so this time around is the reason they failed so miserably. If you look at all of the Liberals promises over the years, from opposing NAFTA and eliminating the GST back in the early '90s, to child care and staying out of Iraq, the Liberals have always done what the polls tell them to do, and would easily do the opposite if it were strategically advantageous.

WesternGrit said...

I think we were just not very descriptive about our "fiscally responsible" end. I think it got lost in the shuffle, and was not communicated effectively. I agree that we would never give up on any of those great social ideas.

As a matter of fact, I think we need to have a major item in our next platform, and I think fully funded national daycare, and university (maybe 1st and final year IF you graduate)... Wouldn't THAT be a big boost to pay off student loans? If the French can do it, and the UK (full drug coverage), why can't we? But we need to have our fiscal responsibility...

Jaytoo said...

1) Stand up to Harper vigorously in the next Parliament. We shouldn’t fear voting against him, I am 100% certain either the NDP or the Bloc will vote to keep him in power time and again.

Cheers to standing up to Harper. Cheers to doing so on principle. Not based on a miscalibrated calculation that doing to is "safe" because someone else will prevent the election you fear. Because the Bloc probably won't. And the NDP definitely won't -- no matter how many times Ujjal repeats that delusion.

jenn said...

Gee western grit - that would be very close to the NDP plan which was fiscally responsible. For example we had national day care, we had a tuition plan for family docs and we had pharmacare. The NDP said that they would hold the corporate tax rate at Paul Martin levels of 22.12% while keeping personal income tax and small biz tax rates the same. That tax plan coupled with the AFghanistan peace dividend would have paid for the NDP platform. In fact, after PBO report came out it was clear that there would have been a larger peace dividend than the NDP had anticipated so there would have been an even bigger cushion. The NDP platform cost half as much as the Liberal plan and I would argue that because it was focused it would have done more to help working Canadians that the unfocused GreenShift focused Liberal plan. I truly believe that the LIberals can no longer get away with poaching policy and watering it down and have that strategy work anywhere but Ontario. Hopefully it won't work in Ontario for much longer.

DeanC said...

I posted a similar response in another blog but I dont think it is a matter of purely left or right. Different policies play well in certain regions of the country and the conservatives have figured this out from there reform roots.

We can still be a party that supports heathcare and education, we get into trouble with gun control and taxes on western energy.

Hishighness said...

The support will come back if/when we get a leader that inspires people, we need a Barack Obama for Canada, once that happens it's back where we belong: Majority.

janfromthebruce said...

"Fighting poverty? The Kelowna Accords? National child care? Do you think cutting income taxes or corporate taxes is too far left? A carbon tax has also never been a left wing idea."

If you move your glaze beyond the liberal party, you will see that Norway, Sweden, for a few examples, and which are "social democratic nations" have a green agenda and some form of green taxation. And I am sure you are aware that they are "left" like in New Democratic "left."

The problem which is historical is that they campaign like NDPers but in power rule like conservatives. That is the liberal party history. The liberals, I will remind you continue to promise these very progressive programs but they are last on their "to do list." How convenient. So child poverty actually increased on their 13 year rule and they were more interested in giving taxcuts to those with lots and corporations. Ditto for first nations and national childcare. Dusting off "vote getters" and recycling from liberal redbooks circas: 1993, 1997, 2001 and so on, well liberals have a history that is glaring.

The fiscal conservative side of the liberals is the dominant side. So I will speak economically to why libs just never get around to doing anything about "inequity" which is what is really being talked about in this thread.

The liberals, like the conservative always put their first concern of how best to grow the economic pie, then how to slice it up. Thus their focus is always letting efficiency trump equity , to create wealth, and then consider latterly how to use the extra wealth created to alleviate inequality.

This makes a certain amount of sense. But when this rhetoric comes to dominate liberal politics, the problem of inequality is never addressed.

Now is always the time for growing, later is always the time to address concerns about equity.

The result has and continues to be predictable: In countries that have adopted the neoclassical policy prescriptions (including Canada - under 13 years of liberal rule and continued by Harper with Liberal backup), there has been an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. See CCPA monitor for details of this growing gap in Canada and the fact that "real wages" have remained stagnate and after inflation, at 1980s level.

Also, I suggest that you read how Chretien/Martin had different fiscal options during their reign and chose instead to cut social spending (structural adjustment of neoconservative Chicago school macro economic model). Each year, the CCPA monitor puts out an alternative budget that actually addresses that inequity.

So even in the good times, Liberals just didn't (or wouldn't) get around to that equity piece.

Dion for all his "progressive rhetoric" was an elected MP since 1996, and sat in both Chretien/Martin Cabinets. Dion was part of the "progressive game." He never tried to steer the ship in a different direction or speak out.

I whole heartily agree with your surmise that the Liberals have not "moved too far left".

It was a total myth when they were in power for 13 years, and continues to be just rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Greg said...

You would have had me as a voter if you had left out the referendum on electoral reform. Just promise proportional representation in your platform. If you are elected you have a mandate to bring it in. Simple.

Danielle Takacs said...

I think some NDP bloggers are just a little too focused on past Liberals leaders like Chretien and Martin who haven't been PM now in quite some time. Even Layton agreed Dion could be trusted to deliver on his commitments as PM. Either way, I'm focused on building for the future, not ruminating on the past.

I just point to the fact that moving to the right is NOT a solution for Liberals and would not likely help the party or lead us back to government to give Canadidans policies I believe in. I was proud of our platform in the last election and I don't think anyone could say it wasn't progressive, while at the same time being fiscally sound (yes Dippers disagree on corporate tax cuts but NDP Premiers have been cutting them too and the current economic climate definitely calls for them).

But while I ask Liberals to consider how the the NDP was able to climb from 7% to 18% support since 1993 at the Liberals expense and to really work hard to rebuild the party in many ways over the next while, I would advise NDP supporters to ask yourselves why you got only 0.7% more of the vote (and LESS votes in absolute numbers) this time than last election despite spending dramatically more money and having run a gaffe free well-oiled campaign.

I'm willing to admit problems that need to be fixed with my party (and will be writing about them) are you willing to admit any problems with yours?

rockfish said...

... and don't ever try to mention that it was a Liberal government that brought universal health care to Canadians sea-to-sea, because that'll bring out the NdP frothers and their Stanley Knowles stories (yeah, what cabinet did he belong in?)... Jan et al have their points and some of them are well-placed, but they do get shrill. Nevermind how much Jack and the NdP would need to prostitute themselves to ever get into 24 Sussex -- like support a war in Iraq.