Non-partisan partisanship

The conversation about rebuilding the Liberal party has been dominated by two different narratives. The first is that there is no shortcut to power and that a sustained renewal will take modesty, hard work, and time, rather than just a new leader and more divisive partisanship. The second is that while we have to pay lip service to the first position, Harper has forced our politics into a presidential mode; since people voted for Harper or “Jack”, we can do nothing without a name of equal measure to put on the ballot. That second position, one which I have generally favoured, took a beating yesterday with the allegations surrounding the attempted recruitment of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney. This is a bad situation so we should take this as an opportunity to redefine our rebuilding conversation so that something like this does not happen again.

I can understand, completely, the impulse to recruit Carney; from the Globe piece on the subject: “Mark Carney was cast as the perfect alternative to Justin Trudeau.” He is a substantial figure, trusted nationally and internationally, and he covered just about every flank the Liberal party needed shored up with his combination of Western roots, fiscal credentials, and charisma and likeability.  Even better than his impressive résumé  is the trust that he inspired in Canadians. In a relatively recent piece by Andrew Coyne, titled In Canada, credibility trumps power. And it isn’t even close, he writes that people trust Carney in a way that they wouldn’t trust a Prime Minister. This trust is “partly personal, partly institutional” and it means that we recognize Carney as a man of principle who puts public service above his own interests. And, much of this is true; Canadians do have a high opinion of Carney, likely much higher than their opinion of Harper, making him a very attractive candidate for leader (on paper). The problem that his Liberal boosters didn’t seem to consider was how fragile that trust could turn out to be.

Partisan politics has become very ugly and with that has come a need to keep certain institutions above the fray. The courts, the Governor General, the Bank of Canada; all of these need to be kept beyond reproach for our political conversation to function. And while our history has been by no means perfect when it comes to keeping these institutions non-partisan, generally they function as such and enjoy the credibility that Andrew Coyne outlined. It is difficult to overstate how bad a politicized Bank of Canada could have been and so after the piece in the Globe ran, the reactions were predictably strong. One of the best was the sustained (but completely lucid) outrage from Mike Moffatt on Twitter:

Why central bank independence is important. Carney, IMO, has been too tight with policy. Honest mistake or is he trying to sabotage the CPC?

— Mike Moffatt (@MikePMoffatt) December 15, 2012

If I’m the NDP, I’m questioning how non-partisan Carney’s Dutch Disease comments were.

— Mike Moffatt (@MikePMoffatt) December 15, 2012

We’ve seen what happens when monetary policy is used for partisan ends.It’s a disaster.As such needs to be avoided at all costs.

— Mike Moffatt (@MikePMoffatt) December 15, 2012

I know the LPC want to reform, but trying to become like the sleazier parts of the Nixon Administration is not a great direction.

— Mike Moffatt (@MikePMoffatt) December 15, 2012

It’s important to include the last point, the Nixon comparison, because of just how damning that accusation could have been. Stephen Gordon, writing in Maclean’s, took a similar position to Moffatt’s about the damage this could do, saying flatly, “if we are extremely lucky, this episode will be quickly forgotten.” To be clear here, I think this is the most likely outcome; Canadians seem to be forgiving about attempted shenanigans and I predict the response generally will be “no harm, no foul.” So I’m speaking to Liberals when I say we need to accept and understand just how bad this could have been. We’re reacting here to the possibility of a recruitment; an actual recruitment could have been a disaster.

From the Globe article, Carney is alleged to have be Frank McKenna’s choice for leader. That needs to sink in because that means we’re talking about the Messiah’s Messiah. But instead of the second coming, we’re left with pre-made attacks from both sides just waiting for him. Rather than a new direction with a Liberal saviour, there would be a direct link that could be made between him and every sin of which the Liberal party has ever been accused. In context, an attempt to rise above the ugliness of partisan politics may have succeeded only at tarring another good man with the same ugly brush. And this is the lesson: there’s no rising above it.

As much as I hate to see the Liberal party pulled through the mud on account of some “unnamed senior Liberals” (again), on balance, I would say the controversy that is emerging around the party’s failed recruitment of Mark Carney gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. We are not going to get past the leader-driven reality of our political conversation but we also can’t short-circuit it; credibility is not all that transferable. There is no eminent Canadian, beyond reproach, who can step forward and lead us back to the promised land. They will get pulled down into it. That’s why, if Carney is the anti-Trudeau, I support Justin Trudeau now more than ever. Our only hope is a fighter who can get in the mud and get dirty, clashing with the other parties, who at the end of the day will remember their principles after they win. That, right now, is the best we can offer Canadians.

This is the counter-intuitive lesson of this whole experience: if we want to be non-partisan, we have to be partisan first. If we want peace and electoral reform and cooperation, we have to fight for it first. The Liberal party is full of good people, passionate about their ideals, who want to do good for this country, but so are the other parties. We’ll keep having these kinds of problems, as long as we keep pretending.

We’re not above partisanship.


Trudeau the Diplomat

In early 2011, Justin Trudeau got himself into trouble by denouncing the use of the word “barbaric” in the citizenship guide, something he had also done in 2009 when it was added. This time, however, under pressure from always effective right/left team of the NDP and the Conservative party, Mr. Trudeau apologized and was forced to retract his remark. According to then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff: “If you want to use the word barbaric, use the word barbaric. Mr. Trudeau has already made a statement about that so the matter is closed.” And yet, here we are entering the race to replace Mr. Ignatieff over a year and a half later and we’re treated to the following from Andrew Coyne:

We don’t know a great deal about [Trudeau’s] character or judgment — though what glimpses we have been given raise doubts about both: his bizarre objections to a government document’s description of female genital mutilation as a “barbaric” practice; his scatology in Parliament; his musings that a Canada led by Stephen Harper might cause him to support the separation of Quebec, and his petulant performance when called out on it.

Leaving aside Trudeau’s separatism (which I will return to in a later piece), perhaps, with respect to Mr. Ignatieff, the “barbaric” matter is not fully closed. There are those of us who supported his remarks when he made them and continue to support them now; speaking on my own behalf, Trudeau’s retraction was to me, an offer of truce rather than an admission of fault. This government has proven itself, time and time again, completely and intentionally incapable of understanding nuance; Trudeau gave up trying to engage this government at the intellectual level required for this debate and relented. If this truce is not going to be respected, however, it becomes necessary to explain exactly why the use of the word “barbaric” in a Canadian citizenship guide is wholly unacceptable.

The offending line:

Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.

Allowing myself to wade into the same “semiotic weeds” that Trudeau found himself in, I’m going to address the problems with this section in two parts: the structure of the passage and the word itself.

Rather than saying simply “female genital mutilation is barbaric”, as it has been implied, they structure this line in a much more problematic way. We are condemning “barbaric cultural practices that tolerate” violence against women, rather than practices that are violence against women. It is not the commission of those crimes that is forbidden in this sentence, but the tolerance of them. This is no less than the intentional indictment of an entire culture; in fact, because of the structure of the sentence, it cannot be claimed that “barbaric” here is used simply as a pejorative version of the word “cruel” (or, as in Trudeau’s comments “absolutely unacceptable”) because it is specifically making a judgement about the culture and its practices, rather than the crimes themselves. It is the culture that tolerates the violence and it is the culture the “neutral” citizenship guide is condemning.

Regarding the word itself, “barbaric” is obviously a loaded term but it’s worth exploring why. Just like “cold” cannot be defined except as the absence of “heat”, “barbaric” cannot be defined without a “civilized” reference point. Trying to pretend that Canada is the civilized referent when determining one’s achievement and levels of sophistication when it comes to women’s rights and violence against women is setting the bar too low. It bears repeating that ours is the government responsible for the maternal health initiative designed to reduce women abroad to a function of their biology and to deny them safe abortions. Even ignoring overt examples of discrimination, Canadian women still face so many examples of passive sexism in their daily lives that our culture tolerates. But, with the choice available of any word (abhorrent, cruel, etc.) they settle on barbaric, insisting on setting themselves up as the standard. Canada, even more broadly than the Harper Government, should be sufficiently cognizant of its own failings on women’s rights to avoid the implication that it is the civilized opposite of those barbarians.

Overall, this sentence positions Canada as a magnanimous, civilized nation warning the savages who wish to pollute our country with their barbaric culture that they will not be welcomed here. This sentence needs to be changed, first to condemn the acts, properly, rather than the culture and second to stop pretending that we have nothing to be ashamed of.

Canada’s openness and acceptance do not extend to cruel cultural practices like spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.

In all of this, it’s easy to forget that the real issue is violence against women. Ironically, overshadowed in all of this was Trudeau’s plea that the government “introduce a national strategy to combat violence against women.” That he can do so without the racism and self-aggrandizement displayed by our government certainly tells me something about his character and judgment.


Framing the Abortion Debate

Despite Stephen Harper’s insistence that he had no intention of reopening the abortion debate, he signed the nomination papers of someone who did. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth sponsored Motion 312 to study when a human life begins; though innocuous sounding enough, M-312 was a kind of dog whistle, bringing out troops on all sides of the debate, ready with their usual rhetoric. As I see it, in this debate, there are three main parties: the social conservatives, eager to finally achieve this legislative Holy Grail, their opponents, who declare the debate closed and settled, and (what I’ll call) the moderators, generally against restrictions on a women’s freedoms in practice but in theory open to debate. Why this debate keeps being reopened seems, with glaring obviousness, to be the fault of the social conservatives but I would argue that this is not the case. I believe, in their desire to be fair and balanced, it is the fault of the moderators that we have not been able to bring this argument to a close.

Quickly surveying the conversation in the Twitter echo chamber, various prominent and generally neutral political commentators and watchers have aligned themselves with the view that this debate should be open for debate. None more so than Andrew Coyne, who spent the better part of the evening of the vote on M-312 tweeting in frustration, mentioning his articles on the subject from Maclean’s and the National Post.

Overall Coyne’s point is that we should be having the debate so that we can finally settle the issue. On this, we agree. Settling the debate would avoid situations like Harper’s maternal health initiative, which defunded abortions abroad. Because the debate is not completely settled in Canada, Harper was able to deny women abroad access to what is often lifesaving medical services.

Where Coyne loses me is the way that he frames how we should be having the debate. If order to have this debate, it must be framed in such a way to put the moral argument that social conservatives make on a continuum with the more pragmatic position that their opponents take. The way Coyne presents the argument is helpfully summed up in his National Post piece in four points (which I have numbered):

Any honest defence of the status quo must concede:

[1] that whatever its merits, the status quo — abortion on demand at any stage of the pregnancy — is at one end of the possible legal regimens surrounding abortion, with absolute prohibition at the other. That is, it is objectively extreme.

[2] that it is the result neither of any judgment of the Supreme Court nor the decision of any elected legislature. In fact, the House of Commons accepted the court’s invitation to redraft the law and, after two years of debate, passed one. It died by a tie vote of the Senate.

[3] that the legal vacuum that prevails in Canada is unique in the democratic world. Every other democratic country imposes some conditions on the right to abortion, with greater restrictions in the later stages of pregnancy.

[4] that polls have consistently shown the Canadian public is divided over the question, with the largest proportion somewhere between the two extremes.

I will address each argument in turn.

1.

Coyne’s first argument has two parts: first, that our law is objectively extreme and second, that it is counterbalanced by absolute prohibition as its opposite. The appeal to objectivity and reason is, in my opinion, disingenuous (especially since he expects us to concede this point before we can defend the status quo) and it crumbles under the simplest of logical scrutiny. To be glib, by his measure, our laws regarding breathing are objectively extreme since there is no restriction whatsoever on the practice. Likewise with theft, murder and so on; each of these laws would be deemed extreme, in one direction or the other. Glibness aside, the Canadian laws regarding abortion are not extreme, they are simply as far in one direction as any country is currently willing to go. This is an important distinction; absolute prohibition leads to back alley abortions and the deaths of pregnant women so an equally extreme position would be, say, allowing anyone to perform an abortion at any time. Since the procedure must be performed in a regulated medical environment by trained medical professionals, there are clearly some regulations in place.

Claiming that the status quo is extreme is a rhetorical trick to muddle the meaning of the word ‘extreme’ so that it can no longer be used as an effective weapon against those in favour of absolute prohibition. If we accept that both sides are being extreme, we simply need to calm down and have a rational debate. This argument is an accepted narrative that has to be presupposed for the current debate to happen in the first place. This is why it is so dangerous; if we concede to have a debate on these terms, we concede the debate in advance.

It’s important here to note, because Coyne uses the word ‘extreme’ as a covert way to denounce the status quo; in his plea for moderation, he is implicitly supporting some restrictions on abortions. Deploying the word ‘objectively’ as he does is making an argument in itself (which further cheapens his use of the word).

2.

For his second argument, Coyne appeals to the higher ideals of our democracy. Love the status quo or not, surely we must concede that the method by which it was reached is unbecoming of a country such as ours. It was never properly codified in law and was reached by an accident of the Senate. That it was the Senate that led us here is particularly odious to Coyne; he goes out of his way to mention that this was “the non-decision of an un-democratic [house]” (Maclean’s).

Coyne’s error here is two fold: first, that the method by which it was achieved is undemocratic and second, that we have arrived here by accident. A law was struck down by the Supreme Court and no law has ever managed to take its place. At a glance, this would seem to be a problem, as if it had happened by neglect. But Coyne, explaining the history at length in Maclean’s, makes it very clear that this is not the case; the Mulroney government made several attempts to put in a law and subsequent governments made their positions clear when they faced voters. That Mulroney was unable to get a law passed is not a failure of democracy, it is a victory of our checks and balances. It’s not as if they couldn’t have tried again if a law was so necessary and the support for it overwhelming. On the subject of Liberals demonizing their rightwing opponents for their pro-life positions, surely we can recognize that, even if Liberals were being dishonest by casting themselves as the defenders of the status quo (as Coyne in Maclean’s implies), gaining votes for doing so should be considered support for the status quo. Every party to get elected after 1988 campaigned on maintaining the status quo; if this is not enough to consider it deliberate and democratic, I’m not sure how else we can prove it.

In the framing of his second point, Coyne privileges the Supreme Court over the Senate, allowing his personal bias to cloud his argument. Claiming that the status quo is somehow not valid because the Senate itself is undemocratic is an argument that could be applied to any law, passed or not. Coyne has made himself clear that he is in favour of reforming the Senate several times but trying to apply this to specific arguments is absurd.

3.

Here Coyne mentions that Canada is unique in having a legal void where an abortion law might sit. Why we should take seriously the “everyone else is doing it” argument is not made clear (e.g. someone had to be the first to ban slavery etc.). He takes care to mention that other countries generally restrict abortion more as a pregnancy progresses and, in his Maclean’s article, mentions that opponents of the status quo are right to point out that, in Canada, abortion is legal at all stages of a pregnancy. He is alluding here to the fact that in Canada, late term abortions are technically legal, which allows for the hypothetical potential for viable, healthy fetuses to be terminated. Ignoring the fact that this is a solution looking for a problem, that is a policy issue and one that we can’t get to until we stop having the debate in this way.

4.

Coyne saves his best point for last: opinion on the matter is divided. Polling shows quite regularly that a great deal of people would be open to a law that restricted abortions in certain cases. This is a difficult assertion to address directly, except to say that a poll is a poll and a vote is a vote and the parties that promise to keep the status quo are parties that get elected. Beyond that, it’s difficult to dismiss an appetite for change.

In explaining that opinion is divided, Coyne mentions respondents to the poll were offered three possible answers to the abortion question: no restrictions, some restrictions, and complete prohibition. The problem here (aside from privileging complete prohibitions as a reasonable position) is that this is two questions conflated into one. The first question is the moral question, “Should we allow abortions?” The second question is applicable only if we answer “Yes” to the first question and is “Since abortion is legal in Canada, what’s the best way to handle it?” The second question is a policy question, not a moral one. This is where the useful conversation begins; we get answers like support for single mothers, improving the adoption system, and better sex education for teenagers, just to name a few. The problem is that as long as the first question is open for debate, the second question will be drowned out. As long as we are still talking about pro-choice versus pro-life, every argument will be reduced to one category or another. Right now, it’s difficult to even suggest offering emotional support to women who have abortions, for fear that the implications that abortions can be traumatic might be construed as a pro-life argument.

Conclusion

As a man, I don’t have any more of a stake in the abortion debate than wanting to see the best possible outcome and I get the impression that Mr. Coyne is arguing from a similar position. The problem as far as I see it, is in trying to be a fair moderator between two irreconcilable positions; social conservatives are trying to engage in a moral debate and their opponents are approaching the problem more practically. A useful analogy is that at one point, opinion was deeply divided on the subject of the legalization of alcohol because at its core, it was a debate on legislating morality. Once we took morality out of the debate, it became a policy issue. Now we try to moderate the harm of alcohol, we offer support and treatment for alcoholism, and we have reasonable restrictions in place. There is a glimmer of that now, in Canada with abortion; in Maclean’s, Coyne explains that “even without an abortion law, the incidence of abortion is falling, and has been for a decade” and that “[i]f the objective is fewer abortions” the status quo might be the way to achieve that. We should be building on that success.

There is a vested interest in resolving this debate but we must do it from a position where we explicitly avoid making the concessions that Coyne insists we do. It’s not enough that Motion 312 was voted down; we need to stop having this discussion this way. Until we do, every debate is going to be taken as a thin wedge, a slippery slope or a dog whistle. The debate is more in the framing rather than in the argument itself; frame it properly and we can finally stop worrying long enough to have a productive conversation.


Strange Bedfellows

I am a big fan of Mike Moffat’s – I follow him on Twitter and read his Economy Lab column regularly. Today he posted an article about Justin Trudeau – someone else of whom I am a big fan – suggesting that the less than stellar environmental plans of a provincial Liberal cousin in Nova Scotia might rub off on him. Because Trudeau has been light on policy in the lead up to the beginning of the Liberal leadership race, we can only look to clues like these to discern what his future policies may be. Moffat’s reaction is only natural for someone trying to evaluate economic policy from a neutral position. That said, the tacit endorsement of his presence is a far cry from the actual endorsement of adopting those policies. I’ve met Trudeau and heard him speak on several occasions; from what I know, I do not think there is any danger of Trudeau adopting these particular policies. If that’s the case, this leads to the much more interesting question: what does Trudeau’s support of, in his words, “Stephen McNeil and the Nova Scotia Liberals” mean?

McNeil has “vowed to remove an ‘efficiency tax’ from the bills of Nova Scotia Power consumers” in a plan that sounds very similar to the federal NDP’s plan to remove the HST from home heating. I’ve mentioned before that this NDP plan was populist and purely ideological so it, and plans of its ilk like McNeil’s, would be completely out of step with Trudeau’s post-ideological message. That said, it’s no secret that the federal Liberal party is in a period of rebuilding and that the Maritimes are key to building any kind of electoral coalition for the Liberal party. Having access to an organization and allies on the ground, at the provincial level, will be a major boost to any federal campaign. Simply put, to win (however we might define that term) Trudeau needs allies within the Nova Scotia provincial Liberals.

It is likely, as two Liberals, that Trudeau and McNeil have quite a bit of common ground but it’s rare in politics to have two people, let alone two leaders, who agree on everything. At a time when many progressives in the United States are deeply disappointed in Obama, it’s important to remember that compromising is a learned skill that it is impossible to govern without. If Trudeau is so ideologically firm that he can’t deal with the MacNeils of the world, his supporters are going to be as disappointed as Obama’s. In evaluating two competing ideas, it would appear Trudeau has compromised. But rather than see this as a crack in Trudeau the Idealist’s facade, we should view this as a preview of Trudeau the Leader.

As the young and idealistic opposition member, Justin Trudeau has had many opportunities to work on the issues he’s passionate about and believes in. What he’s had are very few opportunities to show that he can make the type of compromises and sacrifices that are demanded of a Prime Minister. On the environment, the federal government has a much greater lever to pull than the provinces do so briefly lending your popularity to a provincial leader, with whom you have a particular disagreement that is unlikely to be resolved, in the service of a better federal plan sounds like a good trade off to make. Idealism is great for a third party; statesmanship is what is required for government.


What does a real Parliament look like?

The NDP feted May 2nd, 2011 as a great victory for progressives, in light of their electoral performance, and so after more than a year in it seems worthwhile to review their progress. Since they have never legislated nor formed government federally, all we have available to judge the NDP is their record as the Official Opposition. If we cast an eye back to shortly after the last election, Brian Topp, a prominent NDP strategist and failed leadership candidate, gave us a preview of what the NDP opposition would look like as the “new sheriff in town”.

Another session of Parliament has begun and it already feels quite familiar; it brings a disheartening sense of déjà vu. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives are planning on serving up another omnibus bill which, if the last sitting of Parliament was any indication, will go unread, undebated, and thoroughly unchecked. Though the NDP has promised that they will make every effort to see that the proper work of Parliament is done, it seems unlikely that the eventual juggernaut of a bill will even be slowed down.  Among other things, Topp promised that the NDP “will work, within the rules of our democracy and long into the night, to shine a light on misjudgments and misgovernment.” However, since then, the NDP has done nothing to curb the instances of committees being brought in camera or the use of closure to force through bills; Elizabeth May made a solid argument that the last omnibus was illegitimate and the NDP couldn’t even debate it, let alone break it up or slow it down. Aside from taking a beating on their various socialist policies, it’s hard to point to a single accomplishment of theirs since the last election.

Before I am accused of judging the NDP too harshly, keep in mind another quote from Topp: “[b]efore May 2, there would have been relatively little debate on Mr. Harper’s intervention, since the Conservatives found a like-minded partner in the former Liberal opposition.” Topp knows as well as I do that the Liberal party was no great fan of the Conservative government (given that he was one of the main architects of the failed coalition with the Liberal party in 2008), so then he must mean that Liberals were guilty of allowing Conservative legislation to pass. If this is the standard that the NDP was planning on surpassing, then we could reasonably expect them to do something in that direction though this is not the case. Even on the issue Topp mentions in his article, “whether or not people have the right to withhold their labour”, progress is the same. Topp mentions labour being legislated back to work at Canada Post, a failure for the NDP, and implies that the next time, the NDP will be there to help. But when the same issue came up with Air Canada, the Conservatives were able to walk all over organized labour again, a thorough beating under the NDP’s watch. Even if we hold the NDP to the low bar of simply having to “shine on light on issues like this” (Topp again), they have not even been able to do that. The last time we talked about organized labour in Parliament was a joke about legislating the NHL back to work.

Just as a we judge a government’s performance based on its election promises, we judge the NDP based on their promises when they took over their current role. As Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery reporter Dale Smith points out, the NDP does not seem to fully understand the role and function of the Official Opposition. According to Topp this what “a real Parliament looks like”, a characterization that would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic. At its best, the Official Opposition should oppose bad policy and improve legislation; judged against that bar, the NDP is far from ready to form government.


Attack attack attack

“Attack, attack, attack. Whitaker said, ‘You can’t wage a defensive campaign and win!'”

In light of that quote from The New Yorker, I would like to shift from my last two articles, which were decidedly defensive, and go on the offensive somewhat against the NDP.


Don’t let “merger” be our 2015 version of “coalition”

In my last post, I discussed the need to distinguish the Liberal party from the NDP as a prerequisite for our party returning to power. Unfortunately, any such discussion will be hampered by the specter of a merger between our two parties. The “merger question” has the potential to be just as damaging to our electability in 2015 as the “coalition question” was in 2011. It is important to put this issue to rest as soon as possible and now, with our leadership race imminent, we have the perfect opportunity to do so.

Over eight months, the Liberal party is going to choose its next leader. Though there has been much talk about moving the party away from being completely leader-driven in our agenda, the supporter class will almost guarantee that this remains unchanged. By opening up the voting to anyone, the traditional power structures and power bases will be circumvented – anyone among the public who so chooses will vote – and since the leader has enormous power under the Elections Act, they will have enormous power within the party. Moreover, the voices of the Liberals who stayed loyal and worked hard during the dark days of 2006 to 2012 (or thereabouts), will have their voices drowned out by the throngs of new fair-weather supporters eager to have their opinions counted. Though the temptation is to take a hipster-like attitude towards the party (“Oh, I volunteered during the 2011 election when we had no chance under Ignatieff. You probably haven’t heard of him.”) we need to accept this situation as the opportunity that it truly is: all of our ideas will now be vetted by the engaged segment of the liberal-leaning public. Elections are decided by the undecideds; we’re lucky enough that our leadership candidates will now endure a trial by fire.

Though I have (clearly) not always been in favour of the idea of a supporter class of Liberals, the role that supporters will play in the next leadership race has the potential to help us a great deal in the quest to kill the “merger question”. With this in mind, it becomes vital that we have a pro-merger candidate participate in this race, who then makes their case to the country and is defeated soundly. Should this happen, we can fairly say that the idea of a merger has been put to the general public, since anyone can vote in our race. As credibly as Stephen Harper can say that voters have rejected the Green Shift, the Liberal party will be able to say that voters have rejected a merger.* At that point, we’ll be in a much better position to talk about Liberal values and positions relative to the other parties and specifically the NDP.

The Liberal party will not return to power until it has properly made its case for its necessity. The call to merge, in a lot of ways, has muddled this discussion. It is difficult to view the Liberal party as a necessary entity when the plausibility of a merger implies that our similarities are more salient than our differences. Just as the NDP elected a candidate who has made it clear that a merger is off the table, the Liberal party would be wise to make a great show of doing the same thing.

*should the pro-merger candidate win, well, maybe us anti-merger Liberals were wrong…