So after that last post, which essentially amounted to a lengthy apologetic for twentieth century Reformed Liberalism, it may come as a bit of a surprise, at least to my Canadian readers, that I am neither a member nor a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada. The reason for this is very simple: this party does not, in my opinion, actually embody this philosophy any more, and has not done so for quite some time.
It wasn’t always this way, mind you; I would have happily called myself a Liberal under Lester B. Pearson, or under Pierre Trudeau; I even occasionally (although somewhat grudgingly) considered myself to be a Liberal when Jean Chrétien was Prime Minister (although I was not, strictly speaking, yet old enough to vote). But the Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, and the hobbling wreck of the LPC which rode into battle against Stephen Harper a few months ago (only to have its ass spectacularly kicked) is no longer the party of Pearson. Indeed, I would not describe it as being the party of much of anything.
In retrospect, I suppose that it became clear that the party was not what it once was by the fourth of fifth time it made a campaign promise out of providing “Universal Public Daycare” to Canadian parents. That’s not to say, mind you, that I think that Univeral Public Daycare is a bad idea- in fact, I’m totally in favour of it. So my problem isn’t the promise itself, so much as it is the fact that they obviously had no intention of keeping it. Indeed, they have made this same promise in every single federal election since 1993. The Liberal Party was in power for twelve of the last eighteen years (and had a majority in the House of Commons for ten and a half of them); if they had been serious about implementing Universal Public Daycare, they could have done so at almost any time in the 1990s. By the seventh time that they ran this promise (i.e, earlier this year) it had become, for me at least, emblematic of the cynicism with which they had come to view left-of-centre voters. The Liberals, being the party which signed NAFTA into law in 1994, introduced ‘austerity measures’ amounting to massive cutbacks/privatizations of the social security net in 1995, involved Canada in the Afghan war in the early 2000s, and turfed their own ‘progressive’ MPs in 2004 after Paul Martin ascended to power had long since stopped being a centre-left party in any meaningful sense. Even in opposition, they helped the Tories pass a free trade deal with Colombia. But when it came to elections, I gradually came to realize that they believed that if they paid lipservice to centre-left ideas (such as Universal Public Daycare), they could still count on progressives to vote for them if for no other reason than that they are still demonstrably more in line with our priorities than the Tories.
And for a long time it worked. But then everything changed (once again for me, at least) when the federal New Democrats surged in Quebec and, in so doing, made themselves into what I had long sought: a credible alternative which actually does (for the most part) reflect my values. That’s not to say that I think that the NDP is perfect; in particular, I find that they have an annoying tendancy to speak out of both sides of their mouths regarding federalism, one side speaking English and other side speaking French. But as I do not believe that the status of Quebec is going to be a major concern in the immediate future, I relish the prospect of voting for someone I like rather than against someone I hate.
And that is why I am not a Liberal.
*Readers will notice the deliberate use of the uppercase.