BRYNNA LESLIE Capital Muse
’m writing this column before the ballots have been counted. Despite the wildly inconsistent polling numbers in the final week of the campaign, I’m going to presume the further decline of the already-deflated Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberal Party, after all, has failed to be relevant to voters in the wake of successive majorities under Jean Chretien. And as three leaders in five years proves, this is not merely a leadership issue, but a party-wide issue. After years of infighting, which turned party loyalists against each other and their own party, Paul Martin finally took the helm, only to lose the party’s majority in the 2004 general election, and then losing the government in 2006. The party had an opportunity at that time to shake off its sense of entitlement. It failed. The surprise election of Stephane Dion to the leadership further demonstrated how out of touch the party faithful are with the Canadian public, especially in vote-rich Quebec. Dion is an
intellectual, capable politician. He is also uncharismatic, an emotional ideologue and one who was and remains widely disliked in la Belle Province. He was, after all, the author of the Clarity Act. The final nail in his leadership coffin came in the 2008 election when he failed to sell his green shift policy and reduced the Liberals to just 26 per cent of the popular vote. In the most recent campaign, many Canadian commentators have blamed Conservative attack ads for Michael Ignatieff ’s uphill battle to gain popularity. Certainly, it was a challenge to overcome. And the leader did well in his cross-country town halls over the past five weeks, and last summer, winning over pockets of voters with his apparent openness and his obvious intellect. But those in the party who thought Ignatieff had a chance to turn things around forgot two important things: First, there are still card-carrying Liberals who have refused to accept the legitimacy of Ignatieff ’s leadership. His leadership has never been contested within the party. And although his position was ratified by 97 per cent of delegates at the party’s 2009 convention, it’s thought many voted for the acclamation, but held their noses in the absence of alternatives. Second, Ignatieff has the most appalling attendance record for votes in the House of Commons. Only a handful of Toronto-area Liberals come close
to matching his abhorrent attendance record. This left him wide open to criticism from NDP leader Jack Layton in the English leaders debate that if Ignatieff wanted to be prime minister, he had to learn to be a parliamentarian first. It also undermined Ignatieff ’s own criticism of Harper for disrespecting Parliament. Nothing says disrespect like truancy. And while the numbers, alone, don’t tell the entire truth – party leaders, cabinet ministers and critics do have important work outside of the Commons – Ignatieff ’s record demonstrated extreme truancy. And for Canadian voters, it was enough to turn away from the “Big Red Tent.” And on that note, the “Big Red Tent” is, I would wager, the biggest failure of this and past campaigns. The Liberals need to go back and read marketing 101 materials. The first thing any organization must do is differentiate itself from the competition. The sprawling big red tent is anything but niche and Canadian voters looking for a place to park their votes were conscious of this fact. The party did nothing to call on its own unique and rich history as the creators and protectors of bilingualism, multiculturalism, multilateral trade, and public healthcare, and they failed to offer a vision of the future based on their past success. Instead, they offered carrots to as many voters as they could, costed for just a few years to try and get people into the big tent. And as I write this on May 2, I think the Canadian voters will best determine the success of Liberal marketing methods.
Web Poll THIS WEEK’S POLL QUESTION What do you think of the government’s historic changes from this election?
A) I’m happy for the NDP, even if their success led to a Conservative majority.
B) A Conservative majority is what Canada needs to move forward.
C) A Conservative majority will hurt everyday Canadians and move us closer to American values and systems.
D) The Liberals should use this opportunity to start to rebuild.
LAST WEEK’S POLL SUMMARY How do you plan to cast your vote in the Federal election on May 2?
A) I always vote for the same party
no matter what the issues are.
B) I will vote for the candidate who
will best represent my riding, regardless of their party.
C) I intend to vote strategically, to bolster a particular party’s chances even if I don’t support their politics.
D) I don’t intend on voting.
To participate in our web polls, review answers, and read more articles, visit us online at www.yourottawaregion.com.
May 5, 2011 - OTTAWA THIS WEEK - EAST