Monday, May 30, 2011

Which world is Bob Rae living in?

Today there was a 15 minute interview with Bob Rae, the interim leader of the Liberal party, on the Current on CBC Radio One.  It is interesting the focus of the interview more or less completely ignores the Conservatives accept when specifically prodded by Host Anna-Marie Tremonti.

Much of the interview focuses on the need to rebuild the Liberal Party.   Rae says the party was the author of its own problems and the party can come back.   He talks of needing to reconnect with their progressive roots in the country.   He talks of needing to build a party of large scale membership.  He never once gives a solid reason of why the Liberals matter and are relevant, why people should join.

The best he can do is to say that the Liberals are the party that basis positions on evidence, the implication of this is that the NDP and Conservatives are too ideological and will not base their decisions on evidence.    This is one of the subtle digs he has against the NDP, but he also has some very specific attacks on the NDP.

Rae says that in Quebec the NDP were the lucky recipients of a wave in Quebec, effectively that their support in Quebec is ephemeral and will dissipate.   He ends up saying that the decision of the people in Quebec was not rational and no one knows what they were thinking in making this choice.   This conveniently avoids the fact the NDP beat the Liberals in 7 of the other 9 provinces and won 44 seats in the Rest of Canada compared to the Liberals 27.  The only two provinces where the Liberals beat the NDP were the two with the smallest population.

He accuses of Layton for pandering to Quebec and being contradictory in his approach to a vote for separation.   The whole issue comes down to what is a clear majority and what is not and I know of no one out there that can effectively define the difference between a clear majority and a majority.    Rae calls this populism and says it can not last.

Listening to him I expect that we will be seeing at least several years of the Liberals focusing on the the NDP as the enemy.   His statement that the election was not a permanent statement of public opinion really says to me that he wants to battle with the NDP and has not accepted the Liberals role as the third party in Canadian politics.

When he was asked about the lessons to be learned from the Conservatives, he his eastern roots show.   He says the sitaution is very different because in 1993 one party split into parts that took time to reconnect as one.   He argues that the Liberals and NDP are of different traditions and have not been one party the way the Conservatives were before 1993.

The reality is that the Conservatives have been several amalgams of different political traditions and directions in the past and have either defacto or dejure been more than one party.   The very creation of the party name Progressive-Conservative speaks to one of those mergers.   Interestingly is that in the demise of the Progressives many more of them became Liberals than Conservatives.  In fact there were a number of MPs elected as Liberal-Progressives, one as late as 1953.

There is much that could be learned from the Reform/CA and PC merger for the Liberals, but the lessons are likely not ones that they want to learn.  

In listening to Rae, there was a this constant undertone of not accepting that the Liberals are the third party in parliment and not even close to being second.   He rounds the percentages of the three major parties which means the Liberals and NDP are as close to each other as the NDP are to the  Conservatives.   In reality the NDP is 8.99 percentage points behind the Conservatives but 11.72 ahead of the Liberals.   That rounding is a significant attempt to make awful look better.

He also tries to make the idea of only winning 2,783,175 not look so bad.  It is in fact the lowest vote for the Liberals since 1958.  If more people in the country outside of Quebec understood the Liberals were truly in a freefall, the NDP would likely have taken a lot more votes from the Liberals.   There were numerous Liberal candidates that were endorsed by various 'non-partisan' interest groups which did very badly and a New Democrat could have won.
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