Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 Bye-Election Navel Gazing

So what did we learn Monday night?

Well, we learned that some polling can be pretty darned accurate.  Polls showed the Liberals about 3-5% back of the Reform-Conservative candidate in Calgary Center, and they were pretty dead-on.

We learned that there are strong rifts within the CPC - most pronounced in AB.  We also learned that voters are not “overjoyed” by Stephen Harper’s performance.  So unimpressed, in fact, that they actually voted for... wait for it... a... a... LIBERAL!!!

We learned that an incredible, well-organized campaign cannot win on it’s own merits.

We learned that cooperation with other parties is a NON-STARTER.  The LPC must build back to what it was, with a discussion of ideas - but more importantly - a means to consistently and effectively convey those ideas.  For all serious talk of “mergers”, “coalitions”, and “cooperation”, discussing it openly appears to be the “kiss of death”, and certainly leaves the ones wishing for it appearing desperate.

We learned that the NDP also has reasons to fear it’s own standing.  BC should have been an easy “layup” for the NDP after the “Orange Crush” of 2011, but the fear and mistrust of Mulcair within that party is showing.  There are divisions within the NDP which are starting to fester. Word is, there are some speed bumps ahead which may just rattle the Orange jalopy apart.

We learned that the Greens ARE a factor... and it’s NOT only because they’re another “alternative” to this or that party.  It’s because people in North America as a whole are WAKING UP to the realities of climate change and WANT to do something about it, no matter what the mainstream parties say.

We learned that the LPC didn’t actually do bad at all - actually did exceedingly well in a Conservative bastion.

So, where does the LPC go from here?  

The LPC leadership contest will provide a partial answer to that question.  Liberals are fairly preoccupied with the leadership right now (for good reason).  There is still much work to be done.  Much of the excitement around an LPC leadership race won’t really translate to activity on the ground until the new year.  At that time we’ll see the BC LPC AGM (with several candidates from BC, this will be a key stop for all candidates), an OLP leadership race involving many LPC members, MPs and former candidates (this will draw out a lot of new supporters), and a general strong focus as April draws near. Add a busy Quebec Liberal leadership race, and you're going to see a lot of the word "liberal" in the media over the next 6 months (like it or not).

Once the leadership battle is “joined” in earnest (and before the membership cut-offs), we’ll see more of an effort to recruit and grow the party from the leadership camps.  You’ll see more discussion of details behind platforms and strategies, and you’ll see a general increase in media and public attention.

The convention - like many before it - will help define the “personality” of the party.  Is the Liberal Party youthful and brimming with new ideas, as we saw at the 2012 Biennial Convention?  Is it a party mirroring the LPC that existed merely 5-7 years ago?  Or, will it reflect the moxie, energy, and verve of the Chretien years, and the Trudeau years before that?

The January 2012 Biennial did much to begin the process of renewal.  The new LPC National Exec has taken the lead in pushing along the communication required for a dialogue - with what resources they have.  The party has been growing, raising funds, and building on new ideas.  The raw membership and supporter numbers are most encouraging.  With them we’ll eventually see the increase in funds, but the increase in numbers also means that the message - the IDEA - of a moderate centrist party of economic responsibility with social conscience, still resonates with Canadians.

Making a dent in “Fortress Alberta” (Firewall and all) was a great “show of force” during the Liberal comeback...  Hard work and a vigorous leadership contest should help clear the rest of the way. Hard work will be required in rural Canada, and a strategy to cut into the Green and NDP vote needs to exist. In the West, Liberals will face tougher competition from these two parties in urban centers. In the East the LPC must draw in Progressive Conservatives who want a government that practices "fiscal competence".

Tough task? Always has been. For over 100 years the Liberal Party of Canada has pragmatically done what was right for Canada and Canadians. It has balanced the rhetoric of the far left and far right with policy which benefits most Canadians. Policy which helps grow the "middle class". Policy which helps build this great nation. When Canadians are once again able to clearly hear that Liberal vision painted boldly by a party comfortable with itself in conveying it, the LPC will be back.

Don't be surprised if this happens some time before 2015.

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