By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, January 10, 2011
The Liberals’ youth wing is pushing to cut the final cord with Britain. It favours a policy resolution calling for the election of a Canadian as head of state....
In Canadian history, the cycle of independence has been authored chiefly by the Liberal Party. It was under the Liberals in 1929 that the Statute of Westminster, which eliminated much of Britain’s authority to make laws for Canada, was negotiated. It was under Lester Pearson in 1965 that Canada got its own flag. It was under Pierre Trudeau in 1982 that the Constitution was patriated. It’s natural that the Liberals should be the party that takes the final step.
A decoupling from the monarchy would be popular in Quebec, the province where that institution, for obvious reasons, is least popular. The Liberals need to rebuild their old base in Quebec. The monarchy move would help.
The monarchy is most popular with older Canadians, a demographic that the Conservatives have well in hand. But if you’re looking to be the party of the future, it’s the younger generations to whom you must appeal. Although William and Kate were a big hit in Canada with all age groups, the monarchy is less relevant to the younger set. And it’s less relevant to an increasingly multiethnic Canada.
Of course, we all know that Quebec would welcome the move to move to total independence from the monarchy. They see the crown as a symbol of everything wrong with Canada, as its British heritage is waved over them, and the rest of the country, like a badge of pride, honour and victory rendering many in Quebec as 'second class' citizens in this picture.
And of course, the Liberal party has traditionally held the largest cadre of seats in Quebec, leading to their many majority governmments, as well as several minorities. However, the loss of Quebec votes from the Liberals is rooted in their own dirty hands, and the embarrassment of the sponsorship scandal, not from having a monarchy.
Separatism, sovereignty-association...these have some connection in their motivations to the monarchy and there are some, likely, who would see decoupling as another method of dampening down the separatist cause.
However, if the Liberals think and believe that decoupling from the British monarchy is their silver bullet back to power, they are smoking something very dangerous to clear thought.
A big idea, like a mega-energy project of the seventies, is no longer a ticket to power. Just watch the wrangling over both the Keystone and the western Canadian pipelines. It will take a compendium of medium, modest fundable and long-range targets in several files to capture the imagination and trust of Canadian voters for the severely damaged Liberals.
And that compendium of policies will have to strike a new balance between the ignored (by Harper) social policy side, and the rapidly emerging foreign affairs policy side, also clearly above the head of the Harper gang.
Canadians may not like what Harper is doing and has done on many files; however, he has done what he said he was going to do. And bad policy, as Mike Harris proved, is always trumped by "fulfilling the promises made."
Canadians really don't care how much a government screws up in policy, so long as it does what it says it is going to do. How pathetically tragic!
It seems far easier for the Canadian population to wrap its head around "did they do what they said they would do?" when they are in the voting booth, than to examine critically the nuances and the broad strokes of where the government is taking the country, and how many unwarranted changes will have to be undone to clean up the mess after their gone.
Similarly, we elevate the Auditor General to the status of "protector of the public purse" when the power of that office is limited to the information made available to its occupant. And this government clearly "does not give a fig for how it conducts itself on the paper trail".
Why does the Liberal government not consider a national citizen education program, to inform and debate with Canadians the future of our country?
Why does the Liberal party not consider a list of researched options on a number of files, linked to public lectures, television specials and documentaries, and followed by a series of party straw polls on the options, as another bridge between the tragic elitism and arrogance of its recent past and the ordinariness and common touch of its needed future?
If the monarchy proves to be one of the fundamental changes Canadians desire, so be it. However, the Liberals have a golden opportunity to "do politics differently" and that means bold thinking about the how, as well as the what in policy terms.
And, so far, there has been very little bold thinking coming from any of the cubbieholes in Ottawa commonly known as offices of members of parliament. Has the oxygen been sucked out of those cupboards in the recent retrofit of the buildings?