The centre cannot hold

The Liberals, it is said, are the natural governing party of Canada. This is generally stated to be either because they:

  1. sell out their principles in a naked thirst for power, or,
  2. adapt their policies to conform to the perceived will of the people.

These are in fact the same thing; the first statement merely emphasizes the hunger for power shared by all political parties. Yet the Liberals have something of an image problem these days. The natural governing party has been tainted by a scandal which most Canadians feel makes it unfit to govern. There is a giant Liberal-shaped hole in the middle of the political spectrum, and the Liberals are no longer up to the task of filling it.

The Conservatives, in contrast, have spent several years and three incarnations waiting for either:

  1. the electorate to truly understand and recognize the wisdom of their policies, or,
  2. Canadians to grow so sick of the Liberals that they eventually were desperate enough to vote for a party they disliked slightly less.

A recognition of the futility of this approach has slowly spread through the party, and the move to the centre is approaching a full gallop. The social conservatives get angrier, but you won’t lose an election in Canada by missing that boat. One by one, old Reform-era policies fall by the wayside. A Conservative party that supports a woman’s right to choose? A Conservative leader that tries to place himself as the moderate choice in gay rights?

The trouble is, people aren’t buying it. Anyone concerned about a neo-conservative or social conservative agenda has only to look at the Conservative caucus, or the leader’s own history, for a few plum examples of opinions and policy proposals that are anathema to the average liberal voter.

So why can the Liberals fluidly shift their policy around to follow the votes, while the Conservatives can’t? Well, for one thing, there is a lot more room to work with when you start in the middle of the field. A budget that inspires the Conservatives to more or less support it can instantly become an NDP budget without losing credibility. Whichever direction the Liberals choose to travel, it’s easy going; the ground is broken by someone else first.

The larger factor, however, is that the people trust the Liberals to do what is popular. Surely a recipe for success, as what is popular is determined by the people. We know the Liberals aren’t idealogues. The Conservatives give off the opposite impression. We think that once in power, they will set policy not according to what is popular, but what they think is right. They may try to change or downplay their more conservative policies, but I don’t think that Canadians will ever buy the new line coming from the old guard.

So what could the Conservatives do to convince us that their reformation into a pragmatic, centrist party is genuine? Expedience, thy name is Stronach!

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4 Comments

  1. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 11:41 am

    I get the feeling Belinda would be a memeber of the Liberal party right now, if it wasn’t for the sponsorship scandal. At least the Liberals can be glad some good came from this mess.

  2. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 12:17 pm

    She could be whatever she needs to be. That’s the beauty of politics, when done right.

  3. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 7:25 pm

    She needs to be a better francophone.

  4. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 9:33 pm

    She’s taking lessons!


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