People will recite bitter claims that Canada has chosen style (Trudeau) over substance (Mulcair, or even Harper). And while that may be true, I absolutely disagree that the Liberals only won because of Justin Trudeau’s good looks and famous name. Simply put, Trudeau was the first Liberal leader in decades who was actually able to put forth a coherent vision for what he thought Canada should be. For a long time (certainly since Jean Chretien left, if not well before that), it felt like the Liberals were just going through the motions and reciting stale platitudes. People like Paul Martin and Michael Ignatieff could never articulate what the party believed in beyond some vague mumbling about healthcare. It is difficult imagine either of them ever standing up in front of a camera and saying–in as many words–that they believed that convicted terrorists should be allowed to maintain their Canadian citizenship because that’s what citizenship means, and then daring Stephen Harper to put it into an attack ad; but Trudeau did exactly that, and he got away with it because, you got the impression that he genuinely believed it. This may just be his background as a drama teacher showing through, but it’s been a very long time since I have heard anyone defend the principles of liberal democracy without sounding like they’re reading off a cue card.
In this respect, I think that the Liberal Party has actually benefitted from its appointment with the gallows in 2011. This was a party that had governed Canada for seventy years out of the previous hundred, and dominated Parliament for so long that it had ceased to embody any particular ideology, and become instead a vehicle for ambitious technocrats to advance their own careers (the ultimate example of this, once again, being Michael Ignatieff in the previous election). But the rout that the party faced last time around got rid of the last of these people, making it far easier to finally answer the question that the Liberals have been avoiding since the departure of the first Trudeau: namely, what is a Liberal Party for?
This is a lesson that the NDP could stand to take to heart, as we deal with our own rout. In the build-up to this campaign we (ironically, as it turned out) pulled-out all of the stops to make ourselves “electable;” we got ourselves a new leader, late of the Liberal Party of Quebec: a man who is on recordpraising Margaret Thatcher for sending “the winds of liberty and liberalism” that “swept across the markets of England.” After decades of resisting the diktats of the corporate media, we even finally gave in and did the Tony Blair thing, and replaced all reference to “socialism” in the party constitution with the far more vague and milquetoasty “social democracy.” In short, we made ourselves into the kind of party that someone like Andrew Coyne, editor (up until a few hours ago) of the National Post, could unashamedly admit to supporting. And then, of course, the actual population of this country responded by kicking us to the curb. What we have learned is that Canada neither needs, nor wants, twoLiberal Parties.
So, the question that we must now face is: what is a socialist party for?
I submit that the answer is socialism.
Now, of course, should we go this route, we will hear the inevitable wailing from the national newsmedia about how this will make us “unelectable.” But in this day and age, to what extent do you think that you can trust the national newsmedia for an impartial assessment of such things, really? And, more fundamentally, assuming for a moment that it would make the NDP unelectable, is there any point to getting elected if, in government, we’re just going to do the same things that the Liberals are already doing?
In my humble opinion; any NDP that the editor of the National Post would feel comfortable supporting is an NDP that has fundamentally lost its way.