“Our main enemy today is our own worst nature: our indifference to the common good; vanity; personal ambition; selfishness; and rivalry. The main struggle will have to be fought on this field.” This warning from Václav Havel can serve the Liberal party well as it searches for its new leader.
In choosing its “next face” the Liberal Party can rescue itself from the petty squabbles and Shakespearean dramas of the Chrétien - Martin feud and transform itself from the party of empty politics back to the party of grand ideals.
Before that transformation can occur however, the Liberal party must face reality. In its current state, it is perceived as an oversized and decaying mechanism hell-bent on the attainment and abuse of power. Power used for no greater purpose than to spread the spoils of government to Liberal sycophants while the party harped shamelessly about “Canadian values”.
Canadians simply did not trust this party and its leader. The so called “campaign” offered only exaggerated rhetoric and hollow promises. In the end the party and its leadership suffocated from the stale air of hypocrisy and political ambiguity.
For those who have been on the outside looking in, the time has come. For those who watched in horror as the party of Laurier, Mackenzie King, Pearson and Trudeau fall victim to imbroglio and scandal, the time has come. For those repulsed by the neo-conservative approach to Liberalism, the time has come.
The time has come for profound introspection. Introspection and inquisition.
What does the Liberal Party of Canada believe?
Why does it want to govern?
Is it still the party of visionaries and grand national projects?
Canadians need to believe that the Liberal Party actually stands for something.
Bright red lines need to be drawn across a platform unifying a party and marking the end of the divisiveness and fractionalization.
A new Liberal party must confer on the individual the most possible freedom, while minimizing at every opportunity the cruel realities of unfettered capitalism. A new Liberal party will advocate for the individual and hold that individual at the centre.
What of the leadership candidates? They must bring intellectual curiosity, political acuity and the gravitas to think about the Liberal Party, Canada and the world. They must be asked: does the Liberal party need them, or do they need the Liberal party?
Candidates must say no to a decentralized Canada, yes to real leadership, no to appeasement, and yes to one Canada.
In the words of Jesse Jackson, a leader must be “tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain and resilient enough to bounce back and keep moving on.”
Liberals are progressives and at their core they are reformers. All too often the Liberal party has come to represent the status quo. This is antithetical to what the party should be.
Pierre Trudeau spoke of how Liberals, “confront the powerful…confound the secure (and)…challenge the conventional.” The party must rediscover these convictions, awake from their slumber and aspire again to be the party of principles. The party must rediscover its idealism and energy.
The next leader of the Liberal party must pledge to fight for those ideals.
The next leader of the Liberal party must purge from the party the paranoid few who question the allegiances of the many. The next leader of the Liberal party must travel this magnificent country and articulate our hopes for an independent, free, democratic, just and prosperous Canada.
The next leader of the Liberal party must be the best among us.
Let no future leader stifle this debate.
Next Face Manifesto, February 14, 2006.