Who wants some more coalition talk today?
Andrew Coyne muses today that Michael Ignatieff has self-imposed a terminal wound on his own party by refusing to immediately and firmly squash all talk of a coalition. In so doing, the NDP's hand will only continue to strengthen as the Liberals continue to flounder, all of which will result in the NDP claiming domain over the political left in Canada. The hopelessly-fractured Liberals will bleed away depending on where they rest on the spectrum, as people like me run far and fast away from Libby Davies and company, while those left-leaning Liberals continue the "anybody but Harper" march by running into the willing arms of Jack Layton.
The Liberal Party has survived far greater perils than it faces today. Remember the years 1984-1992?
In the 1984 election, the Liberals were decimated electorally against a Mulroney Conservative machine that took the largest majority in Canadian history and reducing the Liberals to a pathetic 40 seats in Parliament, only 10 more than the Ed Broadbent-led NDP despite the NDP getting more votes than the Liberals in five provinces. The Tories had a majority popular vote in 6 of 10 provinces and the Liberals won only 2 seats west of Ontario.
The 1988 election saw better results for the Liberals as they increased their seat count to 83 seats but still faced a Conservative majority government.
When you compare those awfully dark days to the situation Liberals face today, it seems like sunshine and lollipops relative to the mid-late 1980s.
The Conservatives have been unable to mount a majority in successive elections. Their leader is grossly unpopular outside of his own party. They have not been able to position themselves into the desired 40% support that is the baseline for an electoral majority. They rank in 3rd place in seat-rich Quebec and have seemingly abandoned hope of building a base there where they can plausibly claim they are the strongest federalist party in the province. They have alienated a number of fiscal conservatives with their reckless spending and true-to-form ruination of Canada's balance sheets. They have passed laws about when to hold elections, and then broken them. They are, simply put, fully capable of being defeated in an election.
However, this is unlikely to happen until the Liberals start to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get themselves in order. The 2008 election was a disgraceful result, with the lowest popular vote total in the country's history on account of having the worst leader in the party's history. Forget supposed CTV hatchet jobs or whatever other convenient excuses people come up with to rationalize the defeat, Dion was awful. That mistake was corrected shortly thereafter.
Michael Ignatieff is one of the most brilliant liberal intellectuals of our time. I pointed the finger at him way back in 2005 and said that he would be the guy that succeeds Paul Martin as the next Liberal Prime Minister. I still believe that can happen. But he has to be Michael Ignatieff the intellectual and bloody smart person, because Michael Ignatieff the politician isn't getting the job done. He is smarter than Harper and could probably debate a circle around him if he were given the opportunity.
The ideas and values that the Liberal Party stands for are timeless and central to the Canadian way of thinking. They need to be articulated fully. Where is our Red Book? Where is our plan? Why aren't the core values splashed front and centre on liberal.ca ? When you go to the "Documents" section, "Rules of Procedure for the Election of Officers of the Young Liberals of Canada" is posted higher on the page than anything to do with an action plan for Canada. That's sad.
This party needs to go about rebuilding the big tent that has served it so successfully for most of its existence. This listing lazily to the left may be a maneuver that can outwit a Star Destroyer gunner, but it's doing nothing to assuage the many concerns of those socially progressive/fiscally conservative members that want nothing to do with the NDP. The Conservatives have failed miserably to "Stand Up For Canada"; it's well past time the Liberals did just that.