A Lost Generation Of Liberals
There’s an easy way to tell when the sheen is starting to dull a little on a political candidate or campaign; supporters switch from promotion to defending. We’re starting to see some defending going on in the leadership campaign of Justin Trudeau.
It’s not all that surprising; his campaign’s lack of substance and his penchant for shooting from the lip were bound to catch up with him sooner or later. I imagine that those who put him forward as savior of the party were hoping it would be later rather than sooner.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
Mr. Trudeau has shown a remarkable lack of depth in his public pronouncements which border on what Lorne Gunter called “greeting card” sentiments and he’s right. Much of what Justin Trudeau is saying is about as deep and visionary as those pictures of cute animals with quotations that people insist on posting on their Facebook pages.
While it is all nicely packaged and even sounds promising, the fact is that the cracks are showing.
A few years back, Mr. Trudeau made the statement that he never reads the news because he figures if something is important, someone will tell him. His supporters have already started to defend that statement as being a brash comment from a younger man but the truth is he has made somewhat similar statements during this leadership race.
It isn’t just that he has made somewhat inconsistent and divisive statements in the past on everything from the gun registry to Alberta undermining Quebec’s economy. It isn’t even that his ethics are flexible enough to help him rationalize that charging taxpayers and charities thousands of dollars to hear him speak when he should be in The House attending to the job Canadians are paying him to do.
He is on the record in this campaign as saying that he thinks it is premature to talk about solutions prior to being elected leader and that it should wait until after he is elected so that he can confer with Canadians. It begs the question, what’s he being doing for the past year as he crisscrossed the country if not conferring with Canadians? Does anybody remember Kim Campbell’s famous stumble when she said she didn’t believe election campaigns were the appropriate time to discuss serious issues?
I can’t think of a better time to present solutions a candidate intends to implement than prior to them being elected to office or to lead a political party. What does it say about a political party that is prepared to anoint a leader that hasn’t revealed the specifics of what he or she plans to do?.
The Liberals have opened up the election of their new party leader to all Canadians but how does the electorate get to make an informed decision as to whether or not they are the appropriate person for the job if the candidates offer nothing but bromides and fatuous speeches about the middle class?
But then, this leadership campaign has nothing to do with the Liberal Party of Canada looking for a visionary leader who has a firm plan to deal with whatever issues this country is facing. It is about selecting the candidate they think can win an election and get them back into power and that candidate was identified before this pretense of a leadership race was even announced.
The problem is that the Liberals don’t really have a valid reason for wanting to form the government except for the fact that they want it or if they do, they’re keeping it a secret until later.
It is an unbelievable lack of foresight and understanding.
In 2010, the Liberals were reduced to third party status in Parliament, whipped badly by the New Democratic Party in Quebec and the Conservative Party in Ontario.
It was a fairly strong message that was being sent by the people of Canada but it appears the Liberals learned nothing from it.
They’ve had two years to reinvent themselves; two years in which to reconsider their purpose and their policies. They did neither. Instead, they poured more energy into designing the travelling stage for their leadership debates than they did into developing policy initiatives and reconsidering and learning from the mistakes they had made in the recent past.
The result is that they have, as Andrew Coyne pointed out in a recent column, reduced themselves to little more than a personality cult although to be honest, I think that does a disservice to personality cults. Usually in a cult, there is a strong leader with a strong idea of what he or she wants and intends to do once they have obtained power.
The same can’t be said of the Liberals.
It’s all stuff an nonsense; legalize marijuana (there’s an innovative new initiative for you), eliminate supply management (they don’t agree on this but even if they did, the Conservatives are already working on it) and, of course, Justin Trudeau’s bold initiative of ‘conferring with Canadians’.
At what point don’t they get it? Liberals are in trouble across the country. At both the federal and provincial levels Liberal parties have betrayed their own stated values; substituting expediency for governance. They are bankrupt of vision beyond trying to win or to maintain power and Canadians not only expect better — they deserve better.
It is a lost generation with few ideas and little sense of purpose.
Quebec’s Liberal government of Jean Charest was somewhat rudely replaced by the PQ because the people of Quebec were tired of a government that was devoid of ideas and soft on corruption. The Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty in Ontario which is now the Liberal Government of Kathleen Wynne is clinging to power by one seat in the legislature and the corruption scandals are threatening to topple them. In British Columbia, the Liberal Government of Christy Clark is going into an election this spring facing the news that her much vaunted jobs program has been an unmitigated failure.
And that brings us back to the federal Liberals; a lovely red debate stage full of red backdrops and Liberal logos but empty of any good reason to support them in the future.
If I was a Liberal, I would be embarrassed by this sorry excuse for rejuvenation of the party. I’m surprised that more of them aren’t.
While I don’t support his politics, I have a fair degree of respect for people like Ralph Goodale, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister, but I am disappointed to see him reduce himself to being little more than a cheerleader for vacuity.
As I watch this leadership campaign and listen to the candidates speak, I find it difficult to remember that this is the party of Laurier and Pearson; a party that expanded Confederation, which repatriated the Canadian Constitution from Britain and that established the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now, it is a party without much vision other than how to get elected to form a government and that, my friends, is hardly a good enough reason to want to form a government.
As for Justin Trudeau – well – even Justin Bieber can draw large crowds, say things his supporters will swoon over but that doesn’t mean he’s qualified to run the country and neither is Mr. Trudeau. Conferring with Canadians is all well and good before you get elected but once you’re elected, you’re expected to lead and you can’t lead by following public opinion or waiting until you’re in office to ask people what you should do.
It ain’t how it works. People vote for those they think have the ideas and the qualifications to deal with the complex issues we face today.
So far, neither Justin Trudeau nor the Liberal Party of Canada have presented either.
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