By Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, May 25, 2011
“The people of Canada gave the Liberal party a very clear and tough message in the last election,” Rae said. “We simply have to, if I can coin a phrase, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.”
Rae spoke at length Wednesday about the need for Liberals to become more than an electoral machine or an organization — it’s time that the party connected to Canadians again through their values, as a “movement,” Rae said repeatedly.
“Our party has to become, which it has always been at its best, a bit of a movement — a movement for change, for progress, a movement for things that we believe in,” Rae said.
He said his own focus will be trained on big policy issues such as health care, national unity and the imbalance between aboriginals and non-aboriginal people in Canada. But the Liberal party overall must remind Canadians that its own, deepest-held values are very close to ones held by a large segment of the population, Rae said.
This Liberal vision was described this way by Rae: “A profound belief in the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms), a profound respect for the diversity of the country, a dislike of authoritarian governments, a dislike of narrow mindedness, a determination to move beyond ideology, a rejection of cheap and easy solutions, a rejection of the bumper-sticker approach to government.”
It will not only be a "rejection of the bumper-sticker approach to government" that turns the tide for the federal Liberals. A brief conversation from the May 2 election day may illustrate my point.
Serving as scrutineer for the local candidate, I was engaged in the simple and significant tasks of that assignment when a middle-aged woman approached me, one whose shift as scrutineer had ended earlier.
She sat down to pass some files of instructions over, and just volunteered some words of wisdom:
"I'm really sympathetic to the NDP but I really believed that the Liberal candidate was the most likely to defeat the Conservatives here. Yesterday, when Jack Layton came to the NDP headquarters, I went to hear him. You would not believe the difference between the way I was treated in the two campaign committee rooms. In the NDP, I was welcomed with open arms, whereas in the Liberal campaign office, not a single perons even spoke to me, no one welcomed me, no one cared whether I was there or not...and you know, that kind of memory really stays with me."
In politics, there is a kind of intuitive knowing about how one is being received. Certainly the Liberals, whose history as the "governing party of Canada" is well known and respected, will have to demonstrate that they are willing to accept the gifts of humiliation, the gifts of being the outcast, of being the outsider in the Canadian establishment.
The NDP have fifty years of being the outsider, and they know, not only from their experience as a party, but also statistically, there are a lot more outsiders than there are insiders in the political class. And, if the Liberal party can identify with, and can speak for as well as to those millions of outsiders, the poor, the dispossessed, the wounded, the sick the struggling, the homeless and the hungry and the jobless...in ways that do not create another party espousing a "nanny state" but in ways that will integrate all of those millions into the mainstream of Canadian life, with attitudes, policies and programs that bring a fresh imaginative, compassionate and long-term program, including the people necessary to articulate those policies and programs... including an emphasis on world hunger, world environmental changes, globalization of the economy and the shifts in both capital and human deployment....
As Ken Dryden put it in his small book, we can not accomplish big things by thinking small.
Harper is a micro-manager, both in his leadership style and in his political philosophy...and he uses wedges to divide people, segments of the electorate.
The conditions could not be more appropriate for the Liberals to shed their shame following the sponsorship scandal, and their "shellacking" on May 2...from both of those ash heaps, could come the new Liberal Phoenix...but only if the outsiders are permitted inside the tent.