05.07.2011 09:01 AM

The Liberal disease: five points

Along with others, my pals Jane and Linda have stories out this morning about the Liberal defeat, here and here, respectively.  (I note that there’s one name that is common to both stories.)

There’s five points I’d make about this crap.  Take them for what they’re worth.

1.  The country utterly repudiated us federal Liberals – and not just the leader, either.  All of us. Self-justifications and anonymously-sourced back-biting, post-apocalypse, are as destructive as they are transparent.  It’s the sort of behaviour that got us where we are, and it’s behaviour that’s been getting worse since the leadership wars of the past decade or so.  And I say that as one of the warriors, too.  It has to stop.

2.  This one ain’t a temporary setback, Liberals.  It’s a decade or more in the wilderness; perhaps it was an actual death warrant, like the one sent to the Bloc, but not (yet) as comprehensive.  Canadians don’t like how we did business.  Case in point:  “How can I trust them to run the country, when they can’t even act unified and/or disciplined, for more than ten minutes at a time?”

3.  Regulars, here, know that I favour unifying progressives – but they also know that, with the NDP as strong as it is, I think Jack Layton would be crazy to give us even a moment of his time.  He doesn’t need us to do what he wants to do.  So, for the next while, Liberals need to focus on riding-by-riding rebuilding.  Post-election-subsidy, it’ll be hard, but it’s the Number One job.  Whomever your interim leader is won’t be as nearly as interesting to the media or the public as you currently think it is.  Near-total obscurity generally has that effect.

4.  Obscurity, in circumstances like these, isn’t a totally bad thing.  The country has said to us – very clearly – they want us to go away, for a long time, and get our shit together.  I welcome the opportunity, personally.  The only reason some media are still writing about us is habit.  They’ll move on, soon enough, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

5.  I haven’t repeated my little pledge since before the Liberal rout – so, in case you think I chose discretion over valour, I still intend to take a shot at a Liberal nomination somewhere in the Toronto area.  Call me crazy (and plenty do), but I think it would be fun to try one more time.

Anyway, that’s what I think after reading the morning papers.  Now, it’s off to a wedding that’ll be attended by lots of Liberals, and then it’s up to Ottawa to give a speech about politics.  Have a great day.



  1. James Curran says:

    I sure hope we break our own constitution and delay leadership. ^not.

  2. W the K - No, not Warren says:

    The Liberal campaign in Beaches East York was shameful. The message from the local candidate was, to this Liberal constituent’s ear, scattered and unfocused. It mirrored the national narrative. In retrospect the NDP candidate deserved the win.

    I will contribute if you run here. Come up with something truly inspirational and I may, for the first time in 25 years, knock on doors for a Liberal candidate.

  3. Craig Chamberlain says:

    Great post, Warren.

    Especially agree with how Canadians have benched us and and are essentially saying, get yourself sorted out or you’re done — it’s up to you. And an important part of that is to end the back stabbing. If the Liberal Party dies, it will be because Liberals couldn’t stop fighting Liberals. Not because of the other guys. So, yes, we need to own our mistakes and our past, towards owning our future. This election result can give us the time and focus to actually dial down on our issues. But we have to make the most of it — a progress report of sorts to Canadians is due in four years and that is not much time.

    Gorgeous day for a wedding.

  4. Dr.J says:

    WK, Why not try Beaches/East York? As a conservative who lives here I would actually listen to what you have to say before making up my mind (candidate over party), but the crap from up top is happening all over again with JC calling caucus pushing for Rae as leader….as someone who lived through Bobby’s version of leadership in Ontario that would be a kill shot for the party!!

  5. Colin Pye says:

    I still intend to take a shot at a Liberal nomination somewhere in the Toronto area.

    Only a shot? If current trends continue, they’ll be giving away nominations on Craigslist.

    Which, to be fair, is pretty much how the NDP did it in Quebec.

    • Craig Chamberlain says:

      Well, if you actually think that this situation will diminish interest in being a Liberal candidate in the next election, after a few years of Conservative and NDP foolery, I guess that’s your business. But chances are, you are dead wrong.

      • Africon says:

        Keep under estimating your foes and see where that gets you – more of the same would be my guess.

  6. Craig Chamberlain says:

    Kill shot — and a big step towards a merger?

  7. H Holmes says:

    The liberals were still the second choice is most Toronto ridings.

    What you witnessed was a serous case of blue liberals scared of Layton.

    The issues with the party is deep and by putting former leaders or candidates of other parties as our party leader it will only diminish the brand more.

    As long as Toronto stays a banking capital there will be little drive to keep it orange.

    Calgary Toronto and Vancouver will have a third of the seats and the only choice for majority of the voters is red or blue.

    I wish you luck with your campaign with a real ground game and a lack of whinning you could be successful.

  8. Patrick Hamilton says:

    at the risk of sounding like a broken record……Heres a good start…..http://cdn.liberal.ca/files/2010/05/change-commission-report.pdf

  9. James says:

    Hey Warren, when the Liberals have MP Jim Karygiannis acting as an unofficial spokesperson and representative of the Liberal Party (see the headline article in today’s Saturday Star), you know the party is really in trouble. Karygiannis has been too busy fighting and arguing with Macedonian-Canadians over their name and identity to be regarded as a credible official. This is why the Macedonian community overwhelmingly supported the Conservatives in this election.

    • Brian says:

      I don’t know about Karygiannis. I do know what I saw in the campaign, and the Star’s analysis today mirrors exactly what I thought seemed to be happening behind the scenes. I thought the moment Ignatieff lost the election was the moment he or someone else decided to spend all of his precious national airtime on the debate repeating petty negative shots instead of talking about positive alternatives. Meanwhile, a friend thought the decisive moment was when Layton hit him on attendance and he had no reply. Either way, we’re both right, and the drop in the polls from that point showed it. Iggy’s debate performance was the decisive moment, and a disastrous one. I also like the Star story’s points on Kenney’s argument that the Liberals could have been doing exactly what Kenney had been doing for five years, if only the Liberals hadn’t taken those voters for granted.

      I’m not just saying this out of historical interest; it speaks to the problem of “vote entitlement” that seems to have been at the heart of the Liberal campaign. The Liberal Party needs to wake up and realize that no one remembers Mike Pearson, Jean Chretien is retired, and Pierre Trudeau is enjoying the afterlife somewhere. Ancient history is ancient history. No one cares what you did for Canada yesterday. They want to know what you’ll do for Canada tomorrow. No one cares if you say Stephen Harper sucks today, if you haven’t given them any proof that you won’t suck just as badly tomorrow.

      • nastyboy says:

        “I’m not just saying this out of historical interest; it speaks to the problem of “vote entitlement” that seems to have been at the heart of the Liberal campaign. The Liberal Party needs to wake up and realize that no one remembers Mike Pearson, Jean Chretien is retired, and Pierre Trudeau is enjoying the afterlife somewhere. Ancient history is ancient history. No one cares what you did for Canada yesterday. They want to know what you’ll do for Canada tomorrow. No one cares if you say Stephen Harper sucks today, if you haven’t given them any proof that you won’t suck just as badly tomorrow.”


      • The Doctor says:

        Great post, Brian.

  10. Michael Behiels says:

    The best post-mortem to date!

    I trust all Liberals and liberals will pay heed.

    Let Jack Layton do his thing and perhaps Canadians will eventually realize there are serious limits as to what the NDP can do for Canadians.

    Harper has brilliantly crafted a new/old form of conservative nationalism (has deep roots in the British-Canadian nationalism of the era 1870-1920) that speaks to English-speaking, middle-class Canadians the way that the Liberal Party’s post-war liberal nationalism spoke to Canadians from coast to coast.

    He has not convinced, as of yet, a majority of Canadians to buy into his refurbished form of conservative nationalism. It is still perceived by a majority of Canadians as being a very white, anglo-saxon, protestant, male version of nationalism. This will have to chance if Harper’s Conservatives want to become the natural governing party. A huge challenge but one that can be overcome. Laurier, Mackenzie King, St. Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, and Chrétien managed this challenge but it took a long time.

    • Frank says:

      Here’s some helpful advice from an NDP’er. If the Liberals are waiting for:

      1) The NDP to screw up.

      2) Crazy WASP’s in the Tories to scare away new Canadians.

      You are going to be waiting a long time. Because, taking the second first:

      2) New Canadians in the GTA embraced Harper this election. Why would he throw that away?

      1) You are gambling the federal NDP will be like a Rae Ontario NDP government, and not like a Prairie NDP government. What party is Bob in again?

      Liberals have to decide what they are and sell it to Canadians. The other guys’ produce seems pretty good. How fresh will yours be?

    • Liz J says:

      What do you mean “let jack do his thing”? Jack has no power to do his thing and certainly can’t keep his promises to Quebec, that little scheme backfired, a majority happened from the ROC.

      As for the Conservatives being perceived by a majority of Canadians “as being a very white anglo-saxon, protestant, male version of nationalism” is pure bull crap. Conservatives don’t marginalize one entity to elevate another as the Left is wont to do.

  11. eattv says:

    Well put. I’ve been thinking a lot of the same about the Libs for a few years now. Hopefully, your reflections will be taken to heart by others in the party. It wasn’t the ads. It wasn’t the leader. “It’s not you, it’s me”, said the electorate.

  12. ben burd says:

    If leadership politics is the name of the game and the local candidate is only worth five percent of the vote you need to wait more than one election to let the tide sweep you in – points for effort though

  13. Michael says:

    And please for the love of all that is holy, can we please, please, please stop talking about “the brand”. We aren’t selling soap here.

    Isn’t politics suppose to be about values, ideals and principles? Liberals should be talking about what are liberal values, ideals and principles, and why the average Canadian should also support those values, over say conservative values.

    I want to vote for a party that shares my values and wants to take the country in the direction I believe it should go in.

    • Lord Kitchener says:

      that is right on —

      I dont want a corporation worried about its image running my country — how about some quality candidates who know what they are doing..and some voter education clinics would help our democracy as well

  14. Leon Brule says:

    When you run, can I volunteer for your campaign?

  15. Erik says:

    Hi Warren

    You really seem on the ball when it comes to the internal problems of the Liberal Party. While I’d certainly support you if you ran for the nomination in a seat, I think maybe you should consider running for the party executive, or perhaps even president. We need people on top who have a clue what’s going on and how to fix it. I think you could do some good there.

  16. Bill M. says:

    Rhetoric amplifies through time.

    The LPC is down, not out.

    Everyone take a Valium and watch the circus unfold. Narratives have been changed for awhile. Gold wasn’t terribly popular at the beginning of the 2000 either.

  17. RP. says:

    WK, for sure run again, but pick your moment. Also, run against a Conservative.

  18. gretschfan says:

    Three points: 1) Two years from now, the sovereignty chickens will have come home to roost in the NDP. That, coupled with the end to party subsidies will make united left appealing to many. Whether that’s going to be enough to get things rolling, I don’t know. I’d hate to see it take another general election and vote splitting like we saw in Ont and NB to drive the point home.

    2) What is abundantly clear now is that we’re up against an opponent that’s playing the long game. They’re confident that their support out West is locked in and that Ontario will stay on side as long as nothing dramatic changes in Ottawa. The smart ones know that the full depths of the conservative agenda is a deep, deep pool and that we’re still in the shallow end.

    3) Lots of talk about rebuilding for the Liberals…but what exactly does that mean? As I see it, much needs to be done to re-legitimize liberal way of looking at problems. For too long we’ve relied on notions of tradition and normative values. And that’s just not washing anymore. We need to invest in thinktanks…maybe more than one.

  19. MississaugaLibPeter says:

    Sorry WK, I disagree.

    The NDP support can just as easily crumble as Liberal support accelerate.

    Stating a decade in the wilderness is not based on the fact that almost anything can happen in a term. If we really do get the Reform agenda, or Layton steps down, a progressive Liberal leader could become prime minister. Just like it took less than 2 weeks during a campaign to change the outcome of an election, 4 years is an eternity to be forecasting the next election’s outcome.

    My cup is half full. We have a brand that still has a tradition that many feel comfortable with. The end is not here. And I do not think you really feel the same, otherwise you would not be talking about wasting a decade of your life on a potentially lost cause.

    • Curt says:

      I agree the NDP support in Quebec might crumble back to the Bloc. This will still leave the Liberals with only 30 some seats. The Liberals need “I have a Dream ” leader. Carbon taxes, left wing policies no longer motivate Baby Boomers who are retiring and thus are becoming more conservative.
      Having a 60 year old pay for an education fund through higher taxes was just plain stupid; especially since they just finished paying for their own to complete university.

  20. The Doctor says:

    There was a good article in the Globe & Mail this weekend, I can’t remember who wrote it, but one of the quotes in the article was from Ralph Klein (who, whether you liked him or not, was one damn successful politician, both as Mayor of Calgary and as a provincial cabinet minister and premier). Klein’s quote, and I’m paraphrasing, is essentially to the effect that the secret to success in politics is to “find out where the parade is going and get in front of that parade.”

    That to me, in a nutshell, goes right to the heart of what’s been wrong with the LPC’s political strategy, particularly going into this election. The Liberal Party’s strategy was precisely the opposite of what Klein recommends: rather than gauging where Canadians were at and what was really important to Canadians, the LPC braintrust decided that it was going to try to impose its own view of what was important on to Canadians. So, for example, despite the clear polling evidence that this whole scandals & respect for democracy thing was not really resonating or top-of-mind for the average voter, the LPC brain trust nevertheless barged ahead and tried to make that the ballot issue — and, predictably, failed. It was the political strategy equivalent of trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

    I find that generally, the LPC’s failure over the last 3 election cycles has been of that nature. Instead of trying to divine what matters to voters and then come up with policies and strategies based on that, the LPC does the opposite: it decides what’s important to the LPC and its hard-core fire-breathing partisans, devises a communication and campaign strategy based on that, and tries to then convince Canadians that that’s what’s important. Dion’s green shift, btw, was another example of this.

    • Curt says:

      You are able to communicate an idea much btter tan me. I agree with you 100%.

    • smelter rat says:

      Klein never had an original thought in his life. He summed up his political career by stating that he looked to see which way the parade was going, then got out in front of it. Oh, and the coup de grace…getting pissed and throwing money at homeless people living in a shelter. Classy.

    • Kathy says:

      I agree with you, Doctor. The fault for the campaign lies at the feet not of Michael Ignatieff, who performed admirably, but with the “braintrust”, who obviously are out of touch with Canadians. They should resign en masse. Internal battles don’t help the situation either.

      Finally, the Liberal Party also needs to stop looking for a Messiah. It isn’t the solution.

  21. Bill Dever says:

    What Liberal’s should do is to stop airing their dirty laundry in public and provide Canada with a confident vision they can get behind. Set the agenda, stop reacting to someone elses. Its time we placed reason over passion once again.

    Bring back and re-assert the JUST SOCIETY

  22. Blue (Da Ba Dee) says:

    If anybody wonders why Canadians may or may not be inclined to support a leader.. consider how lame all our political parties are at choosing leaders. We either have delegates inside a party adding up to some 2000 odd priviledged people choosing a leader or we have a one member one vote system where still…. a few more select people choose a leader to RAM down people’s throats.

    We criticize the Americans but one must appreciate their “primary” selection process. For one full year.. a candidate has to dog it out in all the states trying to earn the vote of citizens. Hello– you can bet the winner of that system will have broad citizen support. I say the Liberals think outside the box and get Canadians from all walks of life engaged in the next leadership selection process.

    Imagine the fundraising potential and the attention and support that would garner. You’re pretty well asking all Canadians… hey .. get involved to shape your future Canada.. and by the way.. who do you want to lead it. Please don’t stick 10,000 stuffy suits at a convention centre and ask 2000 delegates to choose the next leader.

    • You can bet the winner of that (American) system has a hundred million dollars.

      • Marco A says:

        When I moved to USA and lived here for more than a year, the biggest change I realized in US politics over Canadian was summed up by one Americans view, who told me that: “When you are electing someone who will have control of a nuclear arsenal that matches Russia’s and the world’s most powerful military, you are going to want someone who is steadfast in their policies and is not a hot-head.”

        The US Primary system is designed to weed out the hot-heads and flip-floppers on policy. Those that actually make it to party nomination get found out in the in the general election like John Kerry. Those that stick to their policy statements after 18 months of campaigning and don’t act overly emotional end up winning if enough voters agree with the policy platform (ie. Bush I, Clinton and Obama).

        It’s hard to see Obama winning in the Canadian political system in 2010 election cuz he was an outsider in Democratic party that overtook the mainstream(ie. Clintons) through the primary process.

  23. Hollywood says:

    So, Liberals, to which policy trend do you wish to jump to the front before the Conservatives or the NDP?

    > Global warming is basically a scam where companies will trade carbon credits in a ponzi scheme fraud?

    > Canada went too far with bilingualism and now needs to focus on making more opportunities for the unilingual in Ottawa?

    > More free votes, referendums, and private member’s bills? (For more detail on this check Preston Manning’s Reform Party platform from 2000 or so.)

    > Give the provinces more free reign over health care etc.?

    > Triple-E senate?

    > Cut back politicians’ and civil service perks and pensions?

    I would like to see what potential issue you intend to raise.

    • Michael says:

      Glad you could join us Preston.

      Whatever the merits of your suggestions, you have pretty much given us the Reform Party platform circa 1993. Even though Reform renamed themselves the Conservatice Party, they have chosen not to act on any of them. With the possible exception of

      Is it because they no longer believe in them? Or is it because it is easy to criticize as “outsiders”, but once inside it is hard to give up the perks and pensions? Or have they come to realize that if they go down that road Canadians will not go with them?

      • Michael says:

        Should be:

        With the possible exception of doing nothing on climate change.

      • Hollywood says:

        My point is that the issues around which people may “rise up” are anathema to the Liberal Party. (At least as currently constituted.) Although some Liberals have favoured a EEE senate in the past.

        Although a coast-to-coast listen-fest may give the party a chance to repudiate some ancient policies which damage them in the modern world. (e.g. perks and pensions, bilingualism, and provincial rights come to mind immediately)

        • Michael says:

          My point was that the Conservatives repudiated the polices of perks, pensions, ect and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them.

          They started out being against perks, pensions, special status for Quebec, a EEE Senate, more free votes and referendums. However they have reversed themselves on ALL of them. They now they the perks and privileges that come with office. They have recognized Quenec as a “nation”. They have stacked the Senate. When was there last a free vote in the House? The PM does not let his MPs and ministers speak, let alone vote according to their constituents wishes.

          Has it hurt the Conservatives electoral chances? No. So being against the issues that that would cause people to “rise up” doesn’t seem to matter.

  24. Kilgore Trout says:

    Re The Doctor:

    “find out where the parade is going and get in front of that parade.”

    How about starting a parade and attracting enough interest in it to make it grow? If Libs spend their time running around looking for the next “parade” to get in front of, they will continue to be seen as shallow and opportunistic. This outlook of The Doc’s seems too ‘marketing’ centric, not to mention the infatuation a lot of liberals have with the word ‘brand’. For a party that was recently done in by ADscam, the use of all this marketing jargon probably doesn’t reassure the public.

    • The Doctor says:

      I think you misunderstand me. I’m not really into that “brand” crap at all. Really what I’m saying is, you have to have a finger on the pulse of Mr. and Mrs. Main Street Canada in order to be successful in politics. Jean Chretien had that and got that — even though Chretien spent decades of his life in Ottawa at the highest levels of government. He still understood what motivates, concerns and animates the average Canadian voter. I still say the current Liberal Party braintrust does not. They’ve got it backwards. They’ve been trying to impose the world view and concerns of Liberal Party partisans (mostly from Toronto) on to voters, and it’s not been working. They spend too much time amongst themselves, listening only to themselves and other people who see the world exactly the way they do. That’s not a recipe for success in politics, IMO.

      • Frank says:

        I think the Liberals are currently one level below taking the “pulse” of Main Street.

        You can only go after the “average” voter once you understand who your core support is. Who is the bedrock Liberal voter now?

        Both the NDP and the Tories can point to who their core voters are, and only then the ones they have to win over on Main Street.

  25. R says:

    You said you plan to nominated in Toronto in fall election

    who can be apply to be join that election as nomination or put their name as candidate
    what they need to have to join liberal or act as independent?

  26. wannabeapiper says:

    Dude-BEACHES/EAST YORK-I will help you. Lets kick the tires man! Perfect timing. Gear up…………

  27. Jeremy Bloom says:

    It’s now or never. Let’s face it, we all know the reason we haven’t had a unified left all these years is because the party elite would never let THOSE people into OUR party. Well, the Liberal Party must now crawl to the NDP on hands and knees.

    Yes, the Tories have a majority – for now. But they are just six by-elections away from a minority. Unite the center-left, and we can win every by-election for every seat that opens up. Or stay divided, and continue to lose.

    What happens if we elect a new leader and take a couple of years to rebuild? Here’s where we’ll be in May of 2013: A weakened NDP that’s been on the front lines and taken some hits, and a “resurgent” Liberal party (in our own minds, at least) that has just invested lots of time, money and effort into proving how different we are from THOSE people, thank you very much.

    No, the time for unity is now or never. If the Liberal Party can’t swallow its pride after the worst defeat in the nation’s history, do you really think it’ll be able to do it after two years of rebuilding?

    It’s big-tent time for the left. Yes, some of “them” are far-left cranks and kooks. Some of the Tories are far-right cranks and kooks, but that somehow didn’t stop the party from appealing to centrists, did it?.

    And as for the idea that “Jack Layton would be crazy to give us even a moment of his time”… I think he’s already proven himself a bigger man than that. Why don’t we give him a chance?

    Then we can spend the next four years building a strong, unified Juggernaut that can take on the Tories.

  28. Lord Kitchener says:

    The LPC will be built from the ground upwards — meaning that it will be the Riding Associations, those dinky littly groups that are often forgotten about by the rookie MPs, MPPs, MLAs, as they are sucked into the Ottawa, or QP, scene. — those rookie Legislators quickly forget who got them there in the first place.

    The next Liberal victory, or at least party resurgence, will come from the liberals in each riding who meet once a month at the local coffee shop (or bi-weekly if they are really eager) to simply relationship-build, and get to be on the same page…and will eventually get to who their next candidates will be.

    i wish i could share in your optimism, warren, with the distinction between the LPC and the OLP — but, I fear that the average voter can’t differentiate, and that McGuinty will suffer the same consequences unleased by the voter’s view on “how we do business”

    you should run provincially before going to Ottawa, you can eventually do both, you are still young.

  29. kitt says:

    Ignatieff lost because of his political naivety. Thinking the political debate is like debating in college is so dumb. Just dumb. And not responding to attacks is even dumber. Even if he didn’t have the funds to mount a counter ad campaign, the media would have been only too happy to print his responses to the ads. Just elect a leader with some political smarts who is a team player and utilized ALL his resources, MPs, media, members, riding associations especially………….

  30. Jeremy Bloom says:

    Sorry, thinking sideways. 🙂
    Yes, it’s TWELVE by-elections. Same argument stands, though.

  31. Political Outsider says:

    Two questions:

    (1) Is it typical for a party pollster, like Marzolini, to give insider, tell-all stories following an election?

    (2) Who is the pollster for the McGuinty Liberals this fall?

  32. Top Can Inc. says:

    Hi Warren,

    Thank you for speaking some truth to this matter. I am one of those rare ‘blue’ Liberals that are still out there, that voted Conservative the last time because Ignatieff was not someone I could see as a Prime Minister, and that I knew Liberals were dead in the water anyway. You spoke of uniting ‘progressives’, to rebuild what’s left of this party, but what about those of a more centrist, or even conservative minded persuasion that joined the Liberals because of the reputation of fiscal responsibility? Also, what about social conservatives who were in the Liberal Party (not that there are many of them left anyway); are you telling those people to take a hike?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *