01.23.2012 03:02 PM

LPC branding

A nice person from Post City, Michelle, asked me to offer up my thoughts on the rebranding of the Liberal Party of Canada, and whether their pot thing helps them do that.  Here’s what I told her, below.  Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

The pot thing is a sideshow.  It’s relevant, in a serious way, to perhaps no more than a few hundred people in the entire country.  It’s not the kind of issue that captivates enough people to matter to the outcome in a general election, let along a by-election.

The things that matter to voters are the things that have always mattered to voters: economic and managerial competence.  In era like the one we all live in, with all sorts of economic drama going on in Europe and the U.S., Canadians want to see a stable governance, and no surprises.  That’s why Harper has so studiously played against type, and avoided the sorts of pitfalls (abortion, gay marriage) that so many in his backbench want to see gone.

The Liberal Party will become relevant again when it stops talking about itself, and it starts talking about the country.  It’ll become relevant when it recaptures the two things that helped it dominate governance for so many decades: strong central government and managerial competence.

As long as it preoccupies itself with trivialities, it’ll continue to be relegated to the sidelines, where the other trivialities can be found.


  1. I couldn’t agree more, Warren. So why at a time when Harper is avoiding the issues I know Canadians care about (strong central govt being one of them) are the Liberals seemingly shying away from them as well? As Harper backs away from Health Care discussions even, we seemingly shrug our shoulders. Are we waiting for an election to make the points? Shouldn’t the Libs be taking the fight to the CPC now?

  2. Greetings From BC says:

    In the 2000 election the Marijuana Party did surprisingly well, eating away at Liberal votes across the country. Liberals did the pragmatic thing and pretended they were for decrim of small amounts of weed, and co-opted some of the MP’s leaders into the Liberal Borg. Of course, they weren’t serious about decrim, they just wanted to stop bleeding votes to a very successful single issue party. Anyhoo, had you said it matters to no more than a few hundred *thousand* people in Canada I think you’d still be understating it, and holy cripes, are they ever militant about it. I agree with your main point, though: jobs and the economy still matter more, and to more people.

  3. Sean says:

    I don’t smoke pot, but I strongly feel there is more to this policy that meets the eye. This isn’t about getting a gaggle of wild eyed yahoos to switch from the Marijauna Party to the Liberals. This policy is about the wildly mismanaged, fanatical waste of tax dollars known as the “war on drugs”. Middle Canada is being pounded in the pocket book by bafflegabbing cops / police union schmucks who produce no results except for inflating their own salaries. Again, I’m not a pot guy at all, but my perception with most folks on main street is that they are fed up with their taxes wasted on unenforceable laws that virtually no one takes seriously. Not the cops, not the judges, not the dealers, not the users, nobody cares anymore. The status quo is achieving nothing but creating gangs and lining the pockets of their lawyers. Enough is enough.

    • Chris says:

      I agree – it seems that increasingly even if you don’t smoke pot, you have a cousin/neighbour/co-worker who does and the question starts to become “Why do we care about this any more?”

    • Stefan says:

      Not to mention that unnecessary marijuana-related prosecutions are a large part of the reason our justice system moves so slowly.

  4. Cath says:

    good comment. Although every sideshow needs a leader….wait for it….”sideshow” Bob works here and in context with pretty much your whole statement WK.

  5. Mulletaur says:

    Well stated, Warren.

  6. JM says:

    I respectfully disagree on one aspect — I don’t think the discussion of pot laws are a triviality, but can be an example of the stupidity behind the Tories’ rule. And the Young Liberals gave the LPC a gift by bringing up legalization. Why? Just read this Nat Po story — http://www.forumresearch.com/news_public/20120117-NationalPost-MajorityCndsSupportLegalizingMarijuana.pdf&pli=1

    I think the discussion over pot laws and regulations can be used to help craft the narrative that the federal Tory caucus are a bunch of bums ruled by professional conservatives like Stephen Harper and Ontario’s idiot trifecta (Clement, Baird and Flaherty) who, when they touch any governmental policy, turn it to garbage. See, CIDA (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/CIDA+being+into+ground/6014489/story.html#ixzz1jqrEWCj3 ). Or the mess they’re making of the EI bureaucracy.

    People need to be constantly reminded that the CPC is, as Ottawa Citizen managing editor Andrew Potter said, “party of neither the left, nor of the right, but of the deeply stupid.” (link: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Policy+neuronally+challenged/6029379/story.html#ixzz1kJZ3jTfQ). The Conservatives, who do have many intelligent members in both caucus and staff, as A PARTY IN GOVERNMENT act deeply, deeply stupid.

    The CPC talked a good game about patronage, until it got into power and larded every available space they could with a crony (list here: http://sixthestate.net/?page_id=1381). They’ve bizarrely decided to celebrate the War of 1812, which only a few Canadians could actually give two toots about. Compare that to Chretien, who gave Alberta a goodly sum to celebrate the province’s centennial. Instead, we’ve got James Moore bravely taking out $28-million out of the overall arts (which could have gone to support innumerable programs across Canada that would generate far more economic/cultural activity) to fund this silly celebration for pretty much exclusively southwestern Ontario

    These disparate examples must be crafted into a narrative. But how do we get there?

    Pot laws are the biggest example of the stupidity and absurdity behind the Conservatives governing ideology.

    The fact of the matter is that in an era of austerity, we need to have a frank and adult discussion about taxes, service cuts and new forms of revenue. Using data from this article (http://c2cjournal.ca/2009/07/the-price-of-pot-prohibition/), let’s say that we rake in a 2-billion per year on pot legalization (spitballing using this: http://c2cjournal.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/47WLuq25xZ.jpg), plus save about $400-million or so in policing costs. This is not insignificant — that $2.4-billion saved per year could be spent in Aboriginal communities, or going toward the purchase of advanced medical technology for remote communities. Or spent building more effective cross-Canada rapid transit. Or towards deficit/debt-reduction. Or affordable housing in my home town of Fort Mac, which DESPERATELY needs some.

    But the CPC is strengthening pot laws. They’re wasting more money on imprisoning more people — to the tune of $1-billion in Ontario ALONE. We’ve already seen what these types of policies do. Look to the States — they’ve created a new underclass of ever-harder criminals who lose their skills and humanity in an increasingly cruel prison system. That’s just deeply frickin’ stupid.

    Lastly and most importantly: it’s an effective wedge issue. The lowest percentage of people who are for in favour of marijuana legalization are in Quebec at 61 per cent. http://www.forumresearch.com/news_public/20120117-NationalPost-MajorityCndsSupportLegalizingMarijuana.pdf&pli=1 Just look at support ACROSS CANADA for this motion. It may be a triviality, but it’s a triviality that can be turned around and shoved down the CPC’s faces until they choke on it. It allows for the pro-pot party to make right-wing libertarian arguments against the CPC, which may erode their base.

    For one, whomever comes out in favour of pot laws will find themselves with a sudden influx of young volunteers. Ron Paul has such a strong young voter base not because he’s a fantastic speaker (he isn’t), or because of his views on race (in fact, young voters are less likely to vote for him when they find out about his race problems). Why do they want to vote for him, campaign for him, sweat blood for him? Because he wants to legalize weed. That’s it. Really. Let’s not kid ourselves. His stance on drug prohibition is a large part of his appeal to young voters.

    That appeal could be a huge boon for a supposedly moribund political party in third place. If a smart politician in the LPC started attacking the CPC from the right on this issue (PRO TIP: civil liberties, economic development + what Sean says), I genuinely think the CPC would lose support all across Canada. Maybe only one or two percentage points — but when the CPC needed 6002 votes to get their majority, surely even a few percentage points may make the difference. This would play well in civil libertarian-leaning prairies, where voters are already looking for an alternative to the CPC who take advantage of, then ignore, them.

    It may be a triviality. But more trivial issues have damaged campaigns in graver ways.

    (Note: I’m not a Liberal, nor am I a dipper, nor am I a seasoned campaign vet. I’m just an unaffiliated under-25 progressive who wants to grind Harper’s CPC into dust)

    • pedro says:

      Very, very well said JM.
      I no longer need to comment on this one. Most often, I agree with Warren, but I think he has missed the mark with the importance of the resolution to thousands of non-users, users, and medical patients alike. There’s a lot of non-users who are sick and tired of paying for police, prosecution, and jail for people who they don’t feel are criminals. They are likely also tired of seeing gangs be aided and abetted by public policy.

      Anyway, you hit the nail right on the head, multiple times!

    • pomojen says:

      The pot thing is important only because it’s policy based on evidence, facts, science, etc. If the Liberals can clearly rebrand as the party that actually pays attention to things like evidence, facts, science etc…vs. ideology, anger and knee-jerk fear, they might really be onto something.

      The response to the attack ads could be pretty funny/ engaging/ convincing.

  7. Dan says:

    Have you noticed that whenever someone says “hey, why don’t we vote NDP if we like civil liberties, diversity, and a government that takes care of peoples’ economic necessities,” the Liberals don’t have any response except “… uh, cuz we’re competent, and stuff.”

    This isn’t a new strategy, Warren. It’s the strategy that’s gradually failed over the past 10 years, because of the narrative of Liberal Entitlement. Whenever you say “the other parties are incompetent”, people point out the Sponsorship Scandal, or E-Health, or whatever other scandal du jour because of the Liberal fetish for “Triple Ps”. And the argument that you HAVE to pick the Liberal party for competent government is exactly why people are more than happy to stick it to the Liberal party.

    As for the strong central government brand, it’s going against the trend, for better or for worse. There has to be a few areas where you’re willing to give into the provinces, so that we can protect the truly important areas of federal jurisdiction. “Strong Central Government” will shut the Liberal party out of Quebec and the Prairies.

    • Sean says:

      hey, why don’t we vote NDP if we like civil liberties, diversity, and a government that takes care of peoples’ economic necessities,” the Liberals don’t have any response except “… uh, cuz we’re competent, and stuff.”


  8. nic coivert says:

    I think you’re right Warren, but that is an underestimation of being pot friendly. After all, it is one of Canada’s big exports, especially in BC.

    • MCBellecourt says:

      Estimates ranging from 7Bil to 9Bil a year in BC. Not exactly chump change.

      Even if no revenue were to stem from legalizing pot, the savings in law enforcement dollars and the improvement of society itself by taking a big fat chunk out of organized crime coffers will be worth it.

  9. I try not to pay taxes says:

    the drug gangs that control the marijuana industry are far less harmful to Canada than its current federal government is.

    my marijuana use increased about 4000% on may 3rd

  10. pol says:

    Chocolate was illegal a few hundred years ago… people had to meet in secret ‘underground’ clubs to indulge. Why is it that YHWH commands the priests in the OT to use cana bosm’s flowering tops in the incense for worship? Drunkards, in the Bible, go to hell, but marijuana is prescribed by YHWH for worship! It’s my body, why can’t I use my sacred herb, as YHWH commanded? Why is fornication legal, which YHWH forbids? Why is adultery legal, also? What Judeo-Christian nation? Not Canada, not our PM? It’s the beast, his mark and his bizness that count here, folks. A good old-fashioned revolution is called for, throw the bums out of the Bastille!

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