Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Liberals are in serious trouble if they do not get their act together

This post is going to be something of a rant.

Today, I found myself defending Michael Ignatieff for his lack of a statement on the current crisis in the Middle East. Which is curious because I am still undecided in this race, but I have narrowed the field down to three possibilities and he is not one of the them.

So I began reflecting on the reason why I was defending him. That lead, in the convoluted way my brain works, to reflection on the leadership race as it has so far unfolded.

My conclusion is I am concerned about how the race is unfolding and I found the attacks on Dr. Ignatieff to be evidence of a malaise that has permeated the race. That malaise manifests itself as petty criticisms of issues that in the grander scheme of things will not have an impact on any future election.

In order for the Liberal Party to win the next election it must renew itself and all of the leadership candidates must articulate a vision of where they want to take the Liberal Party and where they want to take the country. That is the debate we should be having. We should be debating on what needs to be done to renew the Liberal Party. The leadership candidates and their supporters should be debating competing visions and competing policy options. That will give Liberals and Canadians a true sense of the leadership qualities of the candidates and of the worth of the Liberal Party.

It is useless, shortsighted and petty to be debating such things as whether Dr. Ignatieff should have made a statement or whether the reason why he did not make a statement was because of the death of his mother-in-law or he just decided to take a vacation. (WTF!!) Really, does anybody seriously believe that if the Liberals do not present a renewed party with a leader who can articulate a clear vision of where he wants to take Canada, that a statement or lack thereof, regarding the crisis in the Middle East will really matter? Conversely, if the Liberals can present a party and a vision that resonates and connects with Canadians do you really believe the impact of any statement or non-statement will be that great?

Judas Priest, Metallica and Motorhead, I have even seen people state that the quality of a candidate's website is an indicator of a candidate's leadership abilities. Excuse me! No, it is only a indicator of the competence of a candidate's web designer.

So far I have found that much of this race has been reactive. The Afghan debate, the Softwood Lumber deal, the crisis in the Middle East. All have elicited reactions from the various camps but so far I have not seen a coherent vision or a coherent set of policy options.

Liberals just went through two elections where the party leadership did not have a coherent vision or strategy, besides reacting to and lambasting the Conservatives. We all know how they turned out. If we do the same thing the next time we will have all sorts of time to renew our party and choose a leader, probably 4 years of time.

As well, if you look at the Conservatives they showed us what just having the appearance of a plan can do. Their 5 priorties are pretty thin gruel, but it gave them the ability to claim they had a plan and it worked.

Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are vulnerable. There is no real warmth and goodwill towards them amongst the electorate, he is pursuing a style of leadership that wears thin very quickly and he is on the wrong side of several issues that are important to Canadians. If the Liberals can present Canadians with a good reason to vote for them they have a real chance to take back the government. However, if all they do is follow the same strategy as the last two times they have no hope.

So in the humble estimation of this blogger I believe the Liberals have two choices. Get their act together, renew the party, have the leadership candidates debate real issues, and give themselves a chance to win back the government. Or they can continue to bicker and snipe at each other over relatively trivial matters and hand Stephen Harper a four year gift.


Blogger Dennis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 20, 2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

It wouldn't be a gift; Harper and the Conservatives have earned it, and ARE earning it. Its arrogant to think that the CPC electoral fortunes rest merely on whether the LPC can get their messy house in order or not.

Four years? If you're lucky, lol. The next election will be fun.

July 20, 2006 9:18 PM  
Blogger s.b. said...

I don't beleive that a candidates stand on Iraq, Afghanistan, International Law on coercive interoggation ie sleep deprivation, Canadian Unity, health care etc are petty.

I believe them to be very substantive issues on which to base a legitimate criticism of Mr. Ignatieff's candidacy.

July 20, 2006 9:27 PM  
Blogger Liberal Pebbles said...

The lack of a statement is indicative of his commitment to the needs of electoral politics.

Will someone who is MiA on a foreign policy crisis that is his area of expertise, attend rubber chicken dinners across our great land, specifically in Regina in the cold of January? - Likely not


Liberal Pebbles

July 20, 2006 9:51 PM  
Blogger Red Tory said...

Many number of things to take issue with, but let's stick to one. Perhaps it can be broadly extrapolated to the others.

A candidate's website is a reflection of him or herself and if they can’t manage to get this rather straightforward matter dealt with in an effective way, then no; it is not the fault of the designer, it is the fault of the leader or the team that is administering it. So, once again as I’ve said elsewhere it’s indicative of their ability to lead. Or lack thereof. I know it may seem like a trivial thing, but sometimes the devil can be disclosed in the details.

Party renewal and serious debate should be the focus but with 11 candidates stumbling around like dazed zombies in search of their next meal, I hardly see how that’s possible.

July 21, 2006 1:35 AM  
Blogger WesternGrit said...

We may have had plans in both elections, but what we lacked was the focus to sell the plan. We need to have "Red Book 2007", but we need to ensure that we build it like 1993, with a handful of key areas, and sell those - HARD.

Our problem lay in the ability to get a good message out. I knocked 100s of doors, and don't recall a single college student telling me they knew about getting 1/2 their 1st and 1/2 their final years' tuition funded. We did a horrible job staying on message. The press' love affair with Shrub didn't help. He won't have that going for him this time.

Looks like Reform-a-Tory ad firms won this round. Next round - Feb 2007!

July 21, 2006 2:27 AM  
Blogger Darren McEwen said...

In other words...

Pick Iggy or fall into chaos????

July 21, 2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Pebbles: The only person who should be speaking about the current crisis in the Middle East is the Leader of the Liberal Party, namely, Mr. Graham.

If all 11 of the candidates put out statements that are contradictory to each other and to the official Party line is makes Liberals look stupid, disjointed and weak.

For better or for worse the Liberals put Mr. Graham into that position to be their official spokesman until they could choose a permanent leader. So let him do his job while the rest of them get on with renewing the party and its vision.

July 21, 2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Red: Why are they stumbling around like dazed zombies?

Perhaps, because they all lack focus.

Well, since the Liberal Party needs to be renewed and Canada needs a leader with vision they could perhaps begin focusing on them.

Liberals might find that it will energize them and maybe even make Canadians take notice of the Party again for positive reasons, instead of for its failures.

July 21, 2006 9:04 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...


No. As I stated in the post he is not one of the candidates who I would consider voting for.

I just used his example because it was the current criticism of him that started this whole thought process of mine.

My point is the Liberals do not have the luxury of time to snipe at each other over relatively trivial issues. They have a party to renew, a vision to develop and a set of policy options to put together so that they can convince Canadians that they can be trusted with government again.

July 21, 2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger polfilma said...

Great post, Ottlib. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

July 21, 2006 11:42 AM  
Blogger Demosthenes said...

And, what, pray tell, is the renewal supposed to consist of, exactly? I keep on hearing rhetoric about it from various Canadian Liberals, but I never hear a damned thing about how the "renewal" is supposed to take place, especially if it's somehow not supposed to include a public debate on policy between the leader.

And yes, middle east policy matters as a part of foreign policy. This should be obvious, as votes and, perhaps, entire districts can depend on it.

July 22, 2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

"And, what, pray tell, is the renewal supposed to consist of, exactly?"

Good question. And that is what the Liberal leadership candidates should be trying to figure out. That is where part of their energy should be going.

"And yes, middle east policy matters as a part of foreign policy."

Agreed again. However, a single statement on a single event does not even come close to a foreign policy. It is a statement and a meaningless one at that.

July 22, 2006 7:07 PM  
Blogger Red Tory said...

…a single statement on a single event does not even come close to a foreign policy

Of course it doesn’t but as I’ve said time and again, it’s indicative of whether the candidate in question even has ANY foreign policy ideas or positions of conscience. It practically begs the question, does it not?

July 23, 2006 4:30 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...


Short answer: I do not believe so. (big surprise eh?)

I can see your point and this is probably one of those situations where there is no real "right" answer, just different perspectives. (Naw, I'm right and you are out to lunch.) :-)

You and I have different perspectives on this issue and we have discussed it at length over the last few days so as you say we will just have to agree to disagree. (At least we agree on that.)

I have enjoyed the discusssion though and I thank you for it.

July 23, 2006 12:58 PM  

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