As folks in political circles and the circling media predicted, Justin Trudeau, son of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau, launched his campaign for the party leadership yesterday.
Like him or hate him, Trudeau has star power. Whether he wins or loses the leadership contest, Trudeau’s name recognition alone will help the federal Liberals arrest the attention of Canadians.
But in our opinion, if he runs a successful campaign and becomes the next Liberal leader, he’d better give them something more than a smile, a handshake and a few one-liners to hold that attention.
Because when it comes to federal policy and election platforms, the Liberals have been lost in the wilderness.
Whether you agree with their politics and policies, the federal Conservatives and the NDP stand for something. In this regard, the Liberal Party seems lost in the wilderness.
Take a gander at the Conservative policies, for instance, — conveniently placed under the no-nonsense heading of “Where We Stand” on the party website — and you see an issue by issue explanation of what the party members have agreed upon as their core values.
They prefer balanced budgets and want to keep taxes low. They support agricultural marketing freedom and the expansion of markets into Asia, the Middle East and the United States.
The Tories seek to “better align the Temporary Foreign Worker Program with labour market demands” to prompt businesses to hire from the domestic labour pool before looking outside the country.
And they opposed — and voted to end — the long-gun registry brought in by a previous Liberal government.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, we have the NDP, which define themselves as defenders of the rights of minorities, the working poor, labour, and safeguarding the environment. They would rather grow the role of government to improve the lives of Canadians and expand government services rather than reduce them.
Last week in the House of Commons, NDP MPs voted en masse against a Conservative motion to strike a committee to study whether a child is a human life at some point before they are born, and defended a woman’s right to choose.
Liberal Party supporters might be tempted to say this criticism is unfair, as they point to their own website, which — like the Tories — has a convenient “what we stand for” link at the top of the page.
But take a closer look and you’ll see very little to differentiate them from either the Tories or NDP. The Liberals say they stand for equality of opportunity — so do the NDP. They stand for true fiscal responsibility — the Tories say the same.
Liberals stand for a clean environment — while both the NDP and Tories claim this one, the reality is that the Tories have done little good on this file.
On crime and punishment, they want to see evidence-based crime policies. It’s a good start, considering that the Tories are forcing the expansion of prisons even as national crime rates drop. They could hammer the Conservatives on this policy, but they have done a poor job explaining to Canadians exactly why they’re right and the Tories are wrong.
As columnist Zach Battat on iPolitics.ca recently wrote, Justin Trudeau — or any Liberal that wins the leadership contest in our opinion — would inject some much-needed energy back into the party. But a new face without a policy rethink simply isn’t going to cut it.
Battat suggests the party membership look to past examples of policy creation as a way to build a new future — in this case the example set by Lester B. Pearson, who created a “national rally” out of the Kingston conference in 1960.
If the Liberals want to find a way out of the political wilderness, they had better choose a leader who’s got a map of ideas to build on, and a sound political compass.
Whether that leader is Justin Trudeau is anybody’s guess.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 3, 2012