From an interesting piece by James McNulty in the Vancouver Province today (h/t National Newswatch):
With the heady days of Canada's largest-ever leadership convention seven monthsAll this talk of culture shifts and setting the world on fire got me to thinking: has the Liberal party ever really, fundamentally, changed in the last four decades? Given that it has become a party centered around the pursuit and exercise of power, would it not be apt to compare the Liberal Party to a woman who undergoes cosmetic surgery, and then only when between husbands? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
past, federal Liberals find themselves idling in the polls.
Leader Stephane Dion has not caught fire with the public, enthusiasm for him within
Liberal ranks remains muted, and the party is millions of dollars behind the Conservatives in fundraising.
. . . Liberal renewal is an enormous job, readily acknowledged by Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae.
During recent interviews in Vancouver, the two former leadership contenders admit that new political fundraising rules require a challenging Liberal culture shift from cocktail-and-banquet party to grassroots money machine.
Kennedy says the internal rework is a work in progress. Adding a new leader has made the process "like painting a moving train."
"The convention wanted it to catch fire right away . . . and I don't think that was in the cards," Kennedy admits. “Stephane Dion is a slow burn . . . and, yes, there's a bit of an impatience from the showbiz side of politics."
The fundraising changes (which are hardly “new,” having been law since January 1, 2004) are a case in point. The banning of corporate and union donations to central parties (but not ridings or individual candidates, though this was eventually implemented by the Harper government) did not spring from the Liberal “grassroots,” but solely from Jean Chrétien’s gut.
They were, along with the proposed decriminalization of marijuana, one of the radical policy changes he sprung on the public, after announcing his retirement in 2002. Pronouncing that he could now do what he wanted since he was not running again, Chrétien put forth legislation that he would never have proposed during an election (we are seeing a similar phenomenon in Toronto, with David Miller proposing taxes he never breathed a word of in the election barely half a year ago). The fact that the party has still not developed a small donor base underlines the fact that, even though the finance laws were changed by a Liberal prime minister, those changes were hardly Liberal.
And, apropos of the foregoing, McNulty’s article is short on details of whatever big changes are coming to the Liberal party, and Kennedy’s and Rae’s comments predictably deteriorate into veiled and open attacks on Stephen Harper:
Kennedy notes that while Harper runs the Conservatives as a one-man band, Dion
has given his leadership rivals prominent roles and the caucus more
decision-making power. "That's not a threatened leader, that's not insecure."
The public jury on Dion remains out. Meantime, Rae says Stephen Harper
has much to explain on Tory policy around Afghanistan, limiting federal spending
power, failure on social policies such as daycare spaces, and a green back-step.
One of the Liberal party’s most successful leaders, Wilfrid Laurier, famously predicted that the 20th Century would belong to Canada. It ended up belonging to the Liberal Party. In the Liberal party’s estimation, that was probably good enough, as will be any “renewal” they eventually undergo.