Posted this over at "Far N' Wide" in response to a good, thought-provoking post over there...
According to the author, there seems to be a general malaise among voters, who are basically saying, "a pox on all your houses" when looking at the "big 3" political parties (if you count out the bigger, but regional Bloc, and leave the NDP in).
It's like the UK. People are not happy with the majors. While there are enough distinctions of "policy" between the parties, when you have the conservatives constantly lying about their actual agenda (PMO says no debate on abortion, while their MPs clamor to put forth Private Member's Bills), and people perceiving party policy as simply platform planks, they just don't see the difference. Fact is, with a populace so illiterate in politics in general, it is hard to describe/explain what a socialist is, vs. a moderate centrist, vs. a right-winger/reactionary. We need better civics lessons in school (perhaps mandatory ones). I've knocked far too many doors to see people who I quite rightly think should be voting NDP who say, "I'm voting Reform"... There are also many cases of the opposite. They seem not to understand the basic policy goals of any party (based on party ideology, and what the party stands for, and who the party is made up of), but rather only decide/vote when they see a platform ("Let me see what they promise"). Very often the average voter lacks the depth of understanding to read through platform "platitudes" and lip service, and really figure out what the end result of the policy will be for them personally. I've been saying this for years, but what Liberals DO need to do is SELL IDEOLOGY. A series of ads defining "what is a Liberal?" What do we stand for. Not platform promises, but TRUE IDEOLOGY. We are the party of "middle/moderate Canada". Instead we are trading votes with parties who are extremes on either side of the spectrum (when compared to us in the middle). Contrast us with a definition of "conservative" - straight out of Websters. They can't argue with that. People will realize the "not-so-hidden" hidden agenda, when they understand what a real right-winger wants. As far as that old chestnut about liberals having "no convictions" - that's just a NeoCon machination. The very struction of modern Liberal Democracy is based on egalitarian liberal principles. Principles rooted in the ideals of Plutarch, Voltaire, and great free-thinkers throughout the ages.
There may be less distinction between our parties, because the parties we have all agree on the system we have. The Cons might not like some parts of our system (courts, Senate, etc.), but they won't honestly admit to what they would do with those institutions - they just trickle through incremental change, hoping to destroy those bodies from the inside. The NDP would be more socialist, but they too agree that Canada has a great liberal-democratic system.
Can we draw distinction? Sure. But we do need to be bold. We need to have a vision like we did in the late 60s/early 70s. Does that mean going "back to the future"? If we have to. No issue is ever dead. With groups like the religious right wing in the Conservative Party "hell bent" on changing abortion laws, same-sex issues, etc., there are people who have made it their life-long ambition to fight liberal democratic values. The issue of women's choice may have been debated, but we have become complacent in it's defence.
We have become complacent in the defence of a LOT of our liberal-democratic ideals. It allows people like the So-Con Harper to make small incremental changes in policy without much public ire. We have done little to draw the "line in the sand" and say, "no Steve, not here". It's because we have stopped slagging the Cons for being the right wingers they are. We let the press humble our "fires in our bellies", because Parliament is so "unworkable". C'mon. We need livlier debate in those hallowed halls. The right-wing owned (most of it) media will continue to talk about the "decorum" in Parliament as long as they want to continue to see the Opposition cease to OPPOSE. They want us to all nicely sit on our hands and "co-operate" with Harper and his reactionary parrots.
So how CAN we escape this malaise? An election would certainly focus the public - but once again, the focus would be on platform platitudes and not true ideology. If we've learned anything from history, its that a political movement will say what it can to impress voters through platform promises, but few of those are ever kept. The party will go on to govern based on it's ideology - weighed against the economic and political realities of the world at the time. If all nations are fighting Nazis, then we will be too. If all nations are fighting a recession, then so will we... Etc., etc.
What to do? What to do...?
Truly the only thing to capture public opinion, is a bold new vision (carefully costed) that will win over the population, because they just can't say no. What would that be? There are a few ideas WE have been tossing about at WesternGrit:
- Universal Day Care
- National Pharmacare plan
- Universal Access to Post Secondary Ed ("You get the grades, you go")
- National public transit initiative. New rail links to improve commute times (and save the environment) throughout Canada's metros
We all know there are Conservative "pet-projects" we can cut back to make these ideas realities (perhaps more than one or two of them).
Oh, one more for good measure:
- Green Energy Retrofit program. If you put in geothermal heating, solar, or wind power, at your home or business, the governments (fed/prov/mun) will kick in a certain amount to help promote it. Individual responsibility sometimes trumps a "green tax" (even though there is a need for some green taxes in certain areas), and there are 100s of thousands of Canadians who are ready to retrofit their old gas furnaces...