10.12.2011 03:53 PM

Liberals dead?

Chantal Hebert is way, way smarter than me.  But this column has me befuddled.  To wit:

“Notwithstanding the party’s victories in Ontario and Prince Edward Island, the decline of the Liberal brand in Canada has continued unabated this fall.”

Well, no.

Grits were written off as dead in Ontario – and we did a 20-point turnaround to win a minor majority.  Grits were supposedly in big trouble in PEI, and came back with a big majority.  Quebec Grits were supposedly beyond hope just a few months ago, and now it is their main opponent that is dead or dying.  Newfoundland Libs, with a new leader, were supposedly going to be replaced as Official Opposition by the NDP – but they weren’t. B.C. Liberals had joined the ranks of the walking dead, too, until Christy Clark made them competitive again, and the NDP aren’t looking nearly as smug anymore.  And so on.

I’m not one to be complacent – we won the Ontario election because we weren’t, and because we took our opponents very, very seriously.  But these periodic obituaries being penned by the commentariat are really starting to piss me off.  They’re just wrong.

Anyway, I shouldn’t let the crepe-hangers irritate me, I guess.  As Chretien once said to me, when some of his opponents were (again) spreading rumours that he was dying:  “The best way to disprove these rumours about me dying,” he shrugged, “is to keep on living.”

And so he did.

And so will we.


  1. Ted says:

    Minor Majority? I thought Dalton running around calling it a Major-Minority was pushing it…

  2. Cynical says:

    With all respect, not many people of my acquaintance consider the BC Liberals, at least in the current iteration, as real Liberals, so I am not sure their success is good evidence for your thesis.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      Yes, the BC Liberals are a melange of various groups(which has been discussed on this site many times), but the fact is Premier Christy Clark is a Federal Liberal, and quite frankly, I hope she continues to tweak the nose of Mr. Harper.

      Gordon Campbell, despite the good he did for the province, was a Harper fartcatcher…..

    • The Doctor says:

      Agreed. The BC Liberals are, as they say in the wine business, a blend.

      • The Doctor says:

        I should add that WK’s description of the situation in BC is a bit too much on the sunny side in this respect: in the most recent poll, the NDP had opened up quite a nice lead on them.

        And the other thing that may well royally screw the BC Liberals come the next election is the BC Conservative Party under John Cummins, which is a very real threat to peel away crucially needed right-of-centre votes. Every time the centre-right vote has split in BC, the NDP has won.

        • Robbie says:

          “B.C. Liberals had joined the ranks of the walking dead, too, until Christy Clark made them competitive again, and the NDP aren’t looking nearly as smug anymore” And so on.”

          Ms Clark and the BC Liberals are not competitive, Warren. The press that so adored her every move in February is tiring of her already. The honeymoon is over., especially after the HST debacle. The BC Liberal braintrust knows they cannot hold together the coalition of Federal Liberals and Federal Conservatives with her at the helm.

          Why did she approve the John Cummins attack ads, when the BC Conservatives are polling under 15%? Unfortunately for Christy, there will not be a Hudak moment to rescue her on the trail to oblivion.


  3. Neal says:

    I do not believe the Liberals are dead federally either… which is why I question why Jean Chretien of all people is calling for a merger with the socialist horde.
    As far back as September 2009, I was saying that Michael Ignatieff woul not be Prime Minister, and in March of this year questioned wy he was pushing for an election when it was clear to me that the best the Libs could hope for was to hit 90-95 seats. In the summer of 2010 i even said that the one path the Liberals could take to a certain minority and possible majority govt. would be for Ignatieff to resign, and Chretien himself come back and take over. That is ater uundr the bridge now, and the Socialist Horde sits in opposition.
    To return to my point about the Libs not being dead yet, the NDP leadership contest, if nothing else has revealed to one and all the lack of depth in that caucus.
    If the Libs can choose the right leader, and shift back to center, I believe that they will be official opposition again in 2015, and will contend for government in 2019. In caucus their best bets are Trudeau, LeBlanc & Garneau (tradition has it that it is a Francophone’s turn) From outside caucus, Frank McKenna is an option (fluently bilingual from NB, and as centrist and pragmatic as you can get). I would not rule out Jean Charest either. Of the 59 NDP MPs from Quebec 53 of them are placeholders, and 4 of the other 6 are tenuous. at best This opens the door to a massive swing to the Libs, where netting 40 seats or more is not impossible. This would help fortunes in Ontario, many of whom voted Tory last time out of fear of an NDP led government. Like it or not though, the Liberals need a Quebec strategy, so whomever tehy choose needs to be able to communicate easily with the Quebecois in their language, and being a homeboy would be another bonus.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Jean Charest was a Progressive Conservative. He would not make a good Liberal leader. Although he survives to this day, there is no political survival more curious than that one. He was not too astute as a minister and his judgment was so questionable. I based that opinion on the following: 1) he called a judge while he was a minister; 2) he sat in the corrupt cabinet of Martin Brian Mulroney along with Lucien Bouchard; 3) he lost to Kim Campbell. KIM CAMPBELL!

      • Dan says:

        To be honest (and take this with a grain of salt coming from a New Democrat), I think the only hope for the Liberal Party IS to become the Progressive Conservative party, if only in spirit.

      • Neal says:

        He is also the most successful politician in Quebec since Maurice Duplessis…. One more week in that leadership campaign, and he would have overtaken Kim Campbell. That was supposed to have been a coronation.

        • The Doctor says:

          Your memory of that campaign is very accurate. Campbell started out WAY ahead, Charest way back, and he almost caught her. Charest seems to have had more peaks and valleys than any politician I can think of.

    • The Doctor says:

      I really wonder about the wisdom of the federal Liberals focusing on Quebec as a linchpin of their “return from the near-dead” strategy. To me, that’s an interesting and important debate to have. There’s a counter-argument which holds that Quebec is too fickle and unpredictable to pin your hopes on, plus the problem that everyone is fishing in that pond, including, of course, the Bloc. But I’d be very interested in hearing some real political pros opine on where they think the LPC’s best chances are for picking up seats. For example, should they continue to basically assume that they won’t win any seats from Windsor to Greater Vancouver?

      • Philip says:

        Good points.

        I don’t put a lot of stock in the Quebec electorate being overly fickle and unpredictable. They are much quicker to embrace something new but fickle seems a stretch. Your point about every one fishing in the same pond is completely on target. Big seat numbers mean lots of competition. While the federal Liberals must put those seats in play, they can’t focus on those seats exclusively.

        Most importantly there has to be a coherent Western strategy, urban centers to start and then move out from there. Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton are natural starting points. The urban/rural combined ridings make Saskatoon a stretch at this point. B.C. would obviously have to be tackled as well, Vancouver/Victoria being the main focus. Play to our urban strengths to start and then look to craft a compelling rural strategy.

        • Neal says:

          Fact is, to get back into second place, they need to pick seats off from the socialist horde, and Quebec is the lace to do it, given the calibre of candidate the NDP got elected. 1st tier ridings ae ridings that should never have been lost: Pierefonds-Dollard, NDG-Lachine, LaSalle Emard,, Honroe mercier, Laval les Iles… second tier ridings are ones they have held and been competitive recently: Ahuntsic, Brossard LaPrairie, Brome Missisquoi, Compton Stanstead, Shefford. Hull Aylmer is another one that should not have been lost, and Nicle Turel will be 73 when the next election happens. She may not even run again. Pontiac should be a target, as well as vaudreuil-Soulanges. Now that Meili Faille is goe, a strong candidate could take it. Suppose the Grits could take 25-30 seats from the NDP in Quebec alone? that would move them into neck and neck status for official opposition. The Tories should take back a couple of seats, and even the Bloc might win some back from the NDP. so Quebec alone could position the Grits well for the election after.
          There needs to be a complete overhaul of the policy. Instead of tying to be “progressive” wh not go back to doing what worked best? being pragmatic. Think outside the box, and don’t let ideology drive teh agenda. The Liberals past success was due to their being a brokerage party that could cobble together the various interests of people across the country.
          With an apparent recovery happeneing in Quebec, and a pragmati policy book, some Toronto and 905 ridings could come back. that would happen at the expense of both the Tories and NDP. The North should be a point of focus too, as that could help push back the NDP. I would not rule out the Hamilton area either. Especially if Sheila Copps becomes president. They did hold the Hamilton seats before the Martin disaster.

      • Dan says:

        The Liberal party has actually been sick for much longer than a few years. The Liberal party was sick in the 1990s. Most Liberals think of that as a Golden Age, but it’s only because of the vote split on the right. The easy wins only galvanized their opposition left and right, not to mention the corruption that followed.

        Most of the Prairies have hated the Liberal party for generations. Quebec has voted for Liberals only when their desire for federalism outweighs their desire for social democracy. (e.g.: child care) The NDP has found a niche by providing both.

        The Liberal Party could stake its fortunes on being a regional-Ontario party. The problem is Ontario is multi-regional, unlike most of the other provinces. There isn’t a party in the world that can unite Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, the Suburbs, and the Cities.

        The truth is… the path to victory for the Liberal party requires that one of the other parties blows it. There’s literally nothing that the party can do other than holding the line and waiting for a mistake.

        That may sound fatalistic and negative…

        But the good news for Liberals is a mistake is very likely.

        Harper’s friends have a lot of corruption bubbling up for such a young majority, and it could reach a tipping point. Or the reform element could get restless and wonder why there’s no action on the sexual issues they’re obsessed with. Or even worse, they could get action, and most of Canada would revile in horror at the crackdown on civil liberties. There would be lots of room for a Liberal party funded by Bay Street to win over that progressive conservative bloc.

        And then there’s the New Democrats. The “crazy” element in the party is overstated. But it’s there. On organized war room would be able to capitalize on their slips.

        I do think the other parties know that the Liberals are hungry and looking for a mistake. So I expect them to be very very disciplined. Which party will hold it together longer? The first to crack will have a LOT to lose.

        • Neal says:

          I would add at least 6 ridings back to the Lib column already in QC (NDG-LAchine, LaSalle Emard, Piereefonds-Dollard, Laval les Iles, Honore Mercier) Outremont goes into playa again if Mulcair doesn’t get the leadership. I think he’ll take his marbles and go home at that point. Quebec is anybody’s game at this point,
          Also worthy of note is that the NDP is not much stringer than the Grits on the prairies anymore. they too have fallen into an urban trap. Is it no longer possible to have a party that can cobble together a diverse coalition of people who can offer their expertise on rural issues as well as urban?
          I think we can go a long way toward rectifying that problem by passing a by law which would require EDAs to nominate a candidate through unversal suffrage of their local membership by a certain time in a government’s mandate. The party head office would only appoint candidates in cases where an EDA faile to nominate someone on their own within the deadline. That way you get a cross section of people who have a handle on the local issues, instead of just a bunch of talking points based on what the national (Toronto) media is talking about.
          The leader should be less of a stand alone lone ranger with all the answers and instead have an inner circle of people with expertise in certain fields… for example, imagine the leaderhanding over the mike to say Ralph Goodale to address western agricultral concerns, or Justin Trudeau to address Quebec/canada issues… or Gerry Byrne talking about fisheries etc. A Party that focusses on Toronto/Monteral Vancouver isn’t going to cut it.

    • Kev says:

      Some of us were saying that in September 2006.

      • Neal says:

        Blame Martin. the so-called “great right hope” pulled the Libs sharply to the left from the moment he took over. IMHO< Chretien should have stared him down one final time, and gotten him out.

    • Lumipallo says:

      Neal says: “. . . the NDP leadership contest, if nothing else has revealed to one and all the lack of depth in that caucus.” AND “Of the 59 NDP MPs from Quebec 53 of them are placeholders, and 4 of the other 6 are tenuous.”

      Neal, Neal, Neal, there’s that old Liberal arrogance escaping again. In case you hadn’t noticed, the last 2 Liberal leadership contests were notably lacking in quality candidates from within or without caucus as one reasonable candidate after another chose to sit on the sidelines rather than risk taking on Harper and company. Time has passed them by (Manley, McKenna et. al.) and now the field of potential candidates is almopst certainly less impressive than the NDP’s. That was the last two Liberal leadership [i]contests[i] I was talking about, mind you. The last time the Libs had to select a leader, they saw their prospects as so unappealing that they they decided to forgo the contest and just anoint Iggy, avoiding all that messy democracy stuff. Yep, worked out real well.

      As for placeholders, as recent electoral results have shown, when the Libs were the only federalist alternative in Quebec they had a few dozen of those in their ranks who were knocked off as soon as there was a reasonable alternative. And a lot in Ontario, too, where rather unremarkable citizens were swept into MPs’ seats on a tide of anti-Mulroney revulsion. I think of my former MP, Joe Volpe – not exactly a heavyweight – who, feeling he was being overlooked for cabinet glory by Chretien, joined uop with the Martin putsch.

      Suggest you follow the advice of our host here and never, ever underestimate your opposition.

  4. Some good points – except calling the bunch in BC Liberals is a stretch, everyone who lives there considers them Socred’s rebranded.

    OTOH, the Alberta PC’s are far more “liberal” in the (free spending-pissing-away-money-sense) than the BC lib’s will ever be. That’s why no credible threat to the PC’s in Alberta will ever come from the left, they already own that side of the spectrum.

    Now the Wildrose, THEY have the PC’s literally crapping themselves..

    good times!

    • The Doctor says:

      “everyone who lives there considers them Socred’s (sic) rebranded.”

      Well, not everyone does. Some people do — mostly people on the left side of the spectrum. A lot of people on the right side of the spectrum consider the BC Liberals to be wet, useless, ideologically impure centrists. These are precisely the people that the BC Conservative Party is courting and recruiting.

  5. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    Whats Chantal been smoking?…….Never since joining the party have I seen more activity, especially in BC(which is not exactly a hotbed of Federal Liberal support) My own once moribund EDA(jeez I hate that term) is showing signs of life, and it appears that the grassroots(of which I am proudly one of) are finally being listened to…..

    For me, the only option of seeing the Canada I want to see, and for future generations, is the LPOC….

    Rome wasnt built in a day, Chantal…..

  6. Annie says:

    Clark in BC is a Federal Liberal, she says.

  7. Islander says:

    As far as I can remember, the Island Liberals have never been in real trouble since taking office under Guiz. PNP ought to have affected them, mind you, but I don’t think that a single poll showed them taking a real hit in popularity since they won in 2007. While I agree that Hebert’s column is probably overstating the decline in Liberal fortunes, you can’t suggest that Ghiz’s “comeback” serves to disprove her, as there was no comeback. The only question was just how hard was he going to kick the PC’s asses and the answer to that question was “huh, not as hard as we’d expected”.

  8. james Smith says:

    Seems to me this woman once said of the present PM when the Grits & Dippers almost became a coalition government something like:
    He gone, it’s done, it’s over.
    When the CBC news reader on the Tory panel asked if there was a chance the present PM could come back her reply was:
    Not a chance!
    Pity she was wrong then, wonder if she’s wrong agin.

  9. David_M says:

    I’m sure I’ve read and heard Chantal chirp about the death of the LPC on several occasions since May.
    Does she have an agenda? I usually appreciate her insights but she seems obsessed. Maybe its just me.

  10. How does losing somewhere around seventeen seats signal a “bounce up”?

  11. Cam Prymak says:

    and that’s because only Conservatives have a lock on rebirth and renewal?

  12. Sean says:

    Libs will be back in 2nd place about one month after the Federal NDP leadership convention.

    • James Curran says:

      sorry brother, it ain’t gonna be that simple. We’ll be starting to eat our own very shortly. The January convention will be more of the same old same old where everyone old is new again.

  13. Welby says:

    Chantal Hebert loves the NDP – she was so critical of Stephane Dion even when he was doing well. from my point of view with the election of the federal Conservatives and the Fords in Toronto – liberalism has rebounded iwht the election of the McGuintty government and others.We all have to prove her wrong

  14. Woody says:

    First off, BC is like the Bermuda Triangle of Canadian politics. Standard rules do not apply.

    And I dunno Warren, Chantal’s numbers may not suggest an impending death, but there seems to be a legitimate growing concern for the patient. “Since the New Year the Liberals have lost a total of 60 seats at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. The NDP has gained 81 seats.”

    So much of this to me is the absence of a LPC leader that Canadian’s can back, LPC policies that are bold enough to support (when and if the electorate is ready for change and the economy *cough* improves *cough* – trouble lapping at our shores and all that blah blah) and a fundraising machine that can match the CPC menace.

  15. patrickDeberg says:

    ONE MUST REMEMBER THIS IS JUST HER OPINION! She spins for a living. A great many of us are not dead or heading for the hills……. Too often in this country people fight to believe opinion is in fact news. And those who write for publications like the sun or the national post begin to believe it.

  16. Pat says:

    Yeah.. the tories have never been in the dumps, eh Gord?

  17. K-Dawg says:

    “20 point turnaround”? Give me a break. Anyone who puts any stock in a poll six months before e-day needs to have their heads examined. The reality is that Tim Hudak blew what was probably a true 5-point lead and ran a brutal campaign. The Liberals threw everything but the kitchen sink and them, aided by their union buddies spending millions to further trip up Hudak. Result: The Liberals *still* couldn’t even pull off a majority, in spite of completely blocking the PC advance in the GTA. Loss of 19 seats. Barely squeaked out ahead in the popular vote. This is the Warren Kinsella evidence of a Liberal resurgence!

    No, this is a re-run of the federal Liberal Party, circa 2004. It’s the same shrinking base, the same inevitability collapsing down. You’ve bought yourselves a little time, but done absolutely nothing to reverse the long term trends.

    • Warren says:

      Uh-huh. And what is your campaign experience, “K-Dawg”?

    • Pat says:

      Who’s paying for Wind Concerns Ontario? I’m pretty sure that WCO has been given credit for hurting the LPO in rural Ontario, but who funds them? I guarantee it is either PC-funded, in some way or another. So don’t give us your union-backed Liberals crap. All parties have their backers. The difference here is that the grits earned the trust of the unions, whereas the conservatives dealt only in fear (health problems from wind turbines? Give me a break).

  18. Patrick Deberg says:

    If wishes were horses Kdog then beggars would ride………….

  19. Kyle Mac says:

    The needs of a newspaper columnist to provoke discussion aside, the blanketing of the Windsor-Ottawa corridor in blue (apart from metropolitan islands of red) is something I think the Liberal party needs to take actions to address. If the PCs make inroads in to Toronto and other municipal centres before that happens, it could be a replay of what happened nationally to the Grits over the last decade.

    • Woody says:

      Federal platform that includes a risk management program for farmers might be a starter. Ontario committed to one but Harper hasn’t matched.

  20. Craig D says:

    Look I am not fan of the Liberal party federally or provincially and even less a fan of the McGuinty regime, but it is an ugly thing indeed to try to minimize the effectiveness of their campaign in the recent election. I’ve often encountered this attitude in business — the more brilliant the results the more nasty comments come out attempting to put it down to luck, lack of competition, so obvious anyone could have done it and so on. Anything other than the people producing the success and actual results are smarter than the nitpickers. Maybe it is a Canadian insecurity thing or maybe not but attempting to build yourself up by minimizing the success of others is the ultimate losers game. Fact is McGuinty and his team won fair and square. We (Conservatives) can try to explain it away or we can try to learn from it. I know what I am doing. Congratulations to everyone who worked on the Ontario Liberal campaign you did an awesome job.

  21. Gpeter says:

    It seems to me she’s saying “notwithstanding this evidence to the contrary which I’m acknowledging but choosing to ignore as I make this argument which is disproved by the evidence I’m ignoring…but that’s okay; ’cause I’m ignoring it.”

    I like Hebert, but I think she’s a tad off the mark on this one.

    • The Doctor says:

      She’s written some really lame columns lately, which disappoints me because historically I’ve considered her one of the better political journalists in Canada. Not surprisingly (duh) she’s more in her comfort and credibility zone when she’s focusing on Quebec matters.

      To her credit, she’s usually reasonably objective and not predictable (unlike, e.g., Lawrence Martin).

  22. Kev says:

    I bet Chantal wrote columns saying the same thing about Conservatives back in 93,94

  23. Kev says:

    Didn’t Nfld. Liberals just GAIN three seats in an election thing where they’d been written off as lucky to keep 2?

  24. MikeLondon says:

    One is welcome to discount her arguement, but her numbers are right. I don’t really agree with her, but the comparison between the federal PC’s and the federal Liberals, at this point in time, is true. Only time will tell though.

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