The Blue Liberal (Red Tory) myth

October 21st, 2008
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The Liberal electoral defeat last week generated a lot of analysis, and much public hand-wringing on the part of disconsolate Liberals (as well as euphoria on our part). While not quite an existential crisis, there has been free advice galore on how to “re-boot” Canada’s “natural governing party”.

One of the more succinct ones was here, by Kelly McParland in the National Post. Although I confess to agreeing more with the first of the comments below it: “All great points Kelly. The only one you forgot: we don’t need the Liberal Party. There is just no purpose for it”

The Globe and Mail featured an enlightening discussion between two long-time Liberals, Scott Reid and Rob Silver. One interesting comment from the many raised in that piece was Reid’s assertion that the Liberals “need to reassert ownership of the centre by elaborating a balanced and sensible approach to the economy.” McParland gave similar unsolicited advice, stating that “ideas matter”.

We have had quite a discussion amongst ourselves about what a “balanced and sensible” approach to the economy means. I see this as being mere weasel words for standard Liberal tax and spend policy – using the private sector as a perpetual milch-cow for interminable government programs meant to bolster Liberal electoral fortunes. Corporate leaders should look in the mirror before supporting such a party. History shows they’re frequently trolling for government handouts (“targeted strategic investments”) and/or competition-limiting regulation. And boy, do they get it!

I contend that virtually every instinct big-L liberals have is to the Left. Every private enterprise is seen as a source of revenue and, as Mr.K. has observed, every dollar in private hands merely a dollar the state has graciously refrained from taking. This was most obvious in Stephane Dion’s reaction to the Harper government’s reduction of the GST. He indignantly stated that $34 billion would be “lost”. Well, lost to whom? The state, of course.

This was underscored by a recent conversation I had with a senior journalist in Ottawa. When asked how Dion could demand this $34 billion and what he would use it for, the journalist sheepishly replied, “Programs”. How many more “programs” do we need? As many as the Liberals can dream up, and there’s no reason to think they won’t keep dreaming them until the end of time.

A great deal of Liberal talk about “balanced and sensible” economic policy is either delusional or disingenuous. The “balanced and sensible” Paul Martin routinely ran surpluses only to funnel money to favoured vote-buying causes and groups near the end of the fiscal year.

What “ideas” might the Liberals dream up in planning their resurrection? Past president Stephen Le Drew, who seems remarkably level-headed these days, says the party hasn’t had a new idea since the Kingston Conference in 1960.

They’re facing what the Post’s Jonathan Kay calls the “Dion/Manley dilemma”. We would reduce it simply to the Manley, or “Blue Liberal” dilemma. Dion is ideologically consistent in his belief in a dirigiste state or, as he stated it during the election campaign, “a government that believes in government”.

So it’s worth asking whether any of the self-described blue Liberals disagree with the overwhelming, intrusive role of the state in the economy? If they do, then they are simply respectable economic window dressing for the socialists and Fabian socialist in their ranks.

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By John Weissenberger