Friday, March 7, 2008


Sorry, but unlike some, I’m just not terribly keen to engage in the whole hand-wringing, emotional soul-searching and melodramatic Weltschmerzing that seems to be going on in certain circles about the current travails of the Liberal Party.

Given I haven’t been anticipating an election until the fall in any case, my sense of frustration certainly doesn’t match that of those who are eager to pull down the government at the first available opportunity on whatever pretext. After all, what would the objective of such a move be? Years of poll results would suggest another defeat in the offing, the only question being the order of magnitude. Um, and that would be useful… how, exactly?

Does anyone in their right mind seriously think that the Liberals could conceivably win at this point in time? Even if Team Dion somehow or other managed to eek out a minority… Nah, it’s not going to happen, so there’s no point speculating about how many weeks or possibly months that would last. I suppose you could say that another leadership contest might be a positive consequence of a losing outcome, but maybe not. Does the party really need more acrimony and division? On the downside of course, it could well provide Harper with a majority government until 2012 — something it’s safe to say that most “progressives” agree would be an absolute disaster.

Having said all that, it would be less than truthful to say that my party of choice hasn’t been a groan-inducing disappointment over the last year or so; what with its uninspiring leader, disturbing lack of policies, maddening penchant for spineless waffling, and most significantly, a curious inability to clearly articulate its own core values let alone credibly define an exciting or compelling new vision for Canada. Well, you can’t have everything, I guess.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think the Harper government has been all that monstrously awful. Far from the sky falling, for the most part they’ve governed from the middle of the road, and have carefully avoided steering too far to the right. In many respects, their governance has been indistinguishable from that of past Liberal governments. This naturally suggests the allegation made by the NDP that there’s no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Rubbish. Even though they can be hard to spot at times, there are very real differences between the two parties. Just because the Conservatives are pretending to be moderate centrists for the time being, this certainly doesn’t reflect their true sentiments or ideology. It’s only by virtue of finding themselves stuck in a minority position and their acute awareness that “scary” demonstrations of right-wing extremism would quickly lose them any realistic opportunity of attaining the majority they so desperately covet, that forces them to continue pandering to what Andrew Coyne derisively calls “the mushy middle” (i.e., traditional Liberal territory).

Although the Liberals’ performance in opposition has been immensely disappointing, I would argue that they don’t actually have to be terribly effective because their very existence as a credible government-in-waiting (a status the NDP has yet to achieve, I’m afraid) alone acts as a limiting effect on the Conservatives for as long as they’re in a minority position. Basically, Harper and the Conservatives aren’t going to upset the apple-cart unless it’s to their advantage to do so. In the meantime, so as not to alienate much-needed moderate voters, they’ll continue to hold their tongues and constrain their more socially conservative or ideologically extreme impulses for as long as they have to. And so it goes, as Linda Ellerbee used to say.

So, for the time being, colour me indifferent. The political dynamic isn’t a terribly happy one for any of the parties, certainly far less so for some than for others, and yes, it does get a little frustrating... now and again somewhat dispiriting even. I really can’t see the point in despairing utterly about it however, or getting furiously outraged into a tizzy at the supposed “failings” of the Liberals in view of the pragmatic realities of the situation. Neither of those reactions appear to serve much purpose if you ask me… which of course you didn’t.