Friday, June 22, 2012

Liberal party brooms in danger of sweeping honourable past away

Letter to Globe and Mail, June 22, 2012
With due respect to Michael Ignatieff (The Liberal Party Belongs To The Young – June 20), that “old mantra” that Liberals are “fiscal conservatives with a social conscience” was the core philosophy of the party of Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien that kept it in government for decades. The best half of the Conservatives and the best half of the New Democrats put Liberals squarely in the centre of the political spectrum, and in the hearts of Canadians.

We are above all a people of prudence and conscience. The new brooms that swept the Liberal past away failed to allow for that.
John Bryden, former Liberal MP, Lynden, Ont.
It is becoming more and more clear that desperation, at least in the Liberal Party, permits a purging of what is considered "old" in favour of what might be considered by some, including Mr. Bryden and your scribe, as rampant ageism, in a 'youth take-over' that will merely pander to issues barely relevant to the adult and senior segments of the electorate.
In some cases, 'former' needed to be replaced...as in party president, Apps.
In other cases, previous practices, as in twisting the rules to permit the anointed one to mount the chair of leader, also needed to be replaced.
Third, the former bag-men approach to fund-raising was clearly wide open to abuse which still haunts the party's public perception.
Fourth, the "messiah" complex as the defining parameter for electing a new leader has to "go"...
However, there are far too many policies, attitudes, personalities and bridges, culminating in a party/national culture of modesty, mutual respect for all, including political enemies, and pragmatic vision built in the name of the country that became Canada, primarily under the Liberal governments of outstanding leaders and cabinets, for the past to be wiped clean from the Liberal party 'slate'.
Captive to neither big business nor big labour, the Liberals were able to balance, for the most part, the interests of differing languages and cultures, different economic sectors, and with less success, disparate regions. There is still much work to do to bring the disparate regions into a working relationship, not based on passive acceptance but on vigorous debate on all issues, in predictable, frequent and regular public discussions about how best to make the federation function.
But, and this has become painfully evident in the most recent government's approach, the economy is not the nation; the markets not the holy grail of the country's people, and the wealthy not the owners of the best and the brightest minds, hearts and visions of both the present and the future prospects for Canada. In fact, pandering to the market, trade, investment and the corporate blind/mind-set has left the people of the land hanging by a thread 'out to dry' as the vernacular puts its.
Bringing only a youth-cadre back into the Liberal party will further balkanize the country (and the party), where ageism is already a far-too-virulent virus. In fact the party missed a significant opportunity when it permitted the last convention to be over-run by "youth" and failed to select Sheila Copps as party president.
Ignatieff makes less contribution by pointing only to the youth than he would if he remained silent while the party's future is both debated and decided.
It was he, after all, who promised to "keep my mouth shut" from future debates, when he so eloquently addressed the most recent convention. Perhaps he could start by keeping that one simple promise.

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