Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Role of Dr. House Will Be Played by Andrew Coyne

Andrew Coyne has a fascinating piece up at macleans.ca about the future of the Liberal Party. Coyne's diagnosis of the problems facing the LPC is pretty close to spot on, his prescription may kill the patient. Coyne makes a long list of suggestions about policy issues for the party to champion. As a member in good standing of the Liberal Party of Canada, I can't say I agree with most of Coyne's list. In fact, I'd be severely tempted to leave the party if it adopted this kind of agenda. Let's go down the list.
  • Democratic Reform: The biggest question on this one is of course, why? While there are certainly Liberal proponents of reform, the issue is not a vote-getter. Electoral reform is a terrible issue to try to run on if you are, as Mr. Coyne accurately points out, trying to differentiate yourself from the NDP and the Greens on the left. Senate reform is a bit of a political white whale in my mind. Finally, while leadership and nomination rules are important I don't believe in dictating to political parties how they run what are fundamentally internal matters.
  • Human Rights Commission and Hate Speech: This looks like it's straight out of the Tory playbook. To me the whole human rights commission controversy is all not-so-vaguely anti-Muslim. That's not a direction for any political party, particularly a party as committed to multiculturalism as the LPC. What's the tagline: If you like hate speech, Vote for Ezra Levant and the Liberal Party of Canada?
  • Agricultural Import Tariff Reduction: I'm actually all for this one philosophically. Tariffs on agriculture make food more expensive for Canadians and directly contribute to the starvation of the third world. Having said all that, a party without a whole bunch of rural seats outside of Atlantic Canada would be raked over the coals if it went after farmers. A Tory majority government is probably the only way this could even theoretically happen.
  • Flat Tax and Guaranteed Income: While this would be consistent with the LPC's history of being simultaneously right wing and left wing, I can't bring these two ideas together philosophically. More importantly, they're both bad ideas. In order to avoid bankrupting the government any flat tax would have to be imposed at a higher level than that of the lowest tax bracket. That means higher taxes for Canada's poor. Guaranteed income would help the poor but it is fundamentally inflationary and doesn't really encourage people to get a job.
  • CPP Privatization: Wait, so the LPC is supposed to take policy advice from George W. Bush? CPP is by all accounts in decent shape, especially relative to similar programs in other countries. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • Carbon Tax: Um. NO! You can go through my archives and find my arguments about why I don't think it's great environmental policy. More importantly, if the point of all this is political revival, we know it's a dud politically.

1 comment:

popthestack said...

And that exactly proves my point about why the Liberal will never be able to get unstuck. Because they can't open themselves to these possibilities. What else is there really for the party to run on? Your gut reaction to points 1 and 6 is exactly why things can't change. The Liberal party seems to be experts at knowing what is a political dud and what isn't, only apparently, they're not.

Here's my take as a former Liberal party member (not in good standing).

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