Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Forget Dion, the Liberal Party just isn't a solution

The conventional wisdom is that the problem facing the Dion Liberals is Dion.

And why not? Stéphane Dion's now legendary indecision has hurt. His flat performances in question period have hurt. His ill-fated edicts to appoint candidates over the local riding association have hurt. Coming behind the NDP in almost every Quebec by-election has hurt. The on-again-off-again policies on everything from Afghanistan to letting sponsorship figures back in the party have hurt. And ordering his caucus to be subsumed as Stephen Harper's silent partners has hurt.

But all the moaning about leadership is hiding a deeper sickness that Jim Travers puts his finger on: renewal. In other words, the Liberal Party today hasn't changed one iota since their defeat over two years ago:

Lost in the last election's ethics and accountability noise was that a lot of voters weren't buying what Liberals were selling. Blame it on the billion dollar gun registry fiasco or public dissatisfaction with federal service delivery, but when given a choice Canadians often opted for small change in their pockets over another grand social scheme.

That's particularly problematic for a party that still believes, with considerable justification, that government remains an agent for good but has yet to brainstorm what it means to be a progressive political force in the 21st century. Liberals skipped that step in their rush to Montreal. They now find themselves with a leader who can't tell the party story Liberals have yet to write.

As has been on full display in Ottawa, the Liberal Party doesn't know what it stands for anymore. The only ideal left to guide them is a hollow longing for limousines and the perks of power.

But say, didn't Dion put someone in charge of party renewal? Yeah, he did. Too bad it was the same guy he put in charge of election readiness.

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