Friday, January 25, 2013

What Does the Liberal Party of Canada Stand For?

I've long been a supporter of the Federal Liberal Party of Canada. It's the party of Mike Pearson and Pierre Elliot Trudeau—two Prime Ministers that I greatly admire. I even like Jean Chrétien!

Lately I'm having trouble understanding what the Liberal Party stands for. They've just had two leaders (Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae) who are complete mysteries to me. I really don't know what they stand for, or what they're passionate about.

Apparently I'm not alone. Here's the view of Thomas Walkom from a column in the Toronto Star a few days ago [Do Canada’s, or Ontario’s, Liberals matter any more?].
On the other hand, it’s not clear what the Liberals represent any more. They would like voters to think of them as the non-Conservatives — the alternative to Stephen Harper federally or to Tim Hudak in Ontario.

But are they?

Paul Adams, an astute political observer writing in iPolitics, argues that the federal Liberals have transformed themselves into the old Progressive Conservatives, socially progressive but fiscally to the right.

I’d go further. I reckon the old PCs of Joe Clark would find federal Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay’s talk of dismantling farm marketing boards a bit too right-wing for their tastes

Similarly, Liberal front-runner Justin Trudeau’s enthusiastic embrace of the Alberta oilsands would probably be seen as a tad naive by the Red Tories of former Ontario premier Bill Davis, most of whom believed that strong business required equally strong regulation.

As a party, the Liberals haven’t had a new idea since the 1980s. Individual party members have (Stéphane Dion’s green shift comes to mind).

But the party, as a whole never signed onto Dion’s environmental agenda. Nor has it signed onto anything else.

The Liberals talk of holding policy conventions that would replicate that golden period of the 1960s, when the party embraced medicare, public pensions and welfare reform.

But they never do. Former federal leader Michael Ignatieff hosted a thinkers’ conference that headlined prominent conservatives. Nothing came of it.

The conventional wisdom among Liberals is that strong policy positions should be avoided at all costs in order to avoid alienating voters. Instead, Liberals prefer to talk about what they call values.
We've been discussing this issue with our former Liberal MP, Omar Alghabra, who happens to be a member of Justin Trudeau's team. Justin, for those of you who don't follow Canadian politics, it the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and he's running for the leadership of the Federal Liberal Party. We want Justin, and all the other candidates, to speak out on what the Liberal Party stands for.

Omar sent us a link to this video. It's obvious that Justin is avoiding the question. He stands for some trivial issues like legalizing marijuana but what about the bigger issues? How do I tell the difference between the Liberal Party and Conservative Party or the New Democratic Party? I don't think I can vote for Justin Trudeau or for any of the other leadership candidates. In fact, I'm not sure I can vote for the Liberal in the next election. The NDP is looking very attractive.


  1. Is this like Monday's molecule? Is this the answer?

    The haughtily espoused Liberalism is becoming empty rhetoric as “liberals” pursue a return to yesterday’s old fashioned conservatism absent novel and distinguishing aspirations.

  2. It's exactly like Monday's Molecule except for the complete absence of Monday or molecules.

  3. OK this is over Luther Flint's head.


    Where then shall we find the source of truth and the moral inspiration for a really scientific socialist humanism? Only, we suggest, in the sources of science itself, in the ethic upon which knowledge is founded, and which by free choice makes knowledge the supreme value - the measure and guarantee for all other values. An ethic which bases moral responsibility upon the very freedom of that axiomatic choice. Accepted as the foundation for social and political institutions, and as the measure of their authenticity and their value, only the ethic of knowledge could lead to socialism. It prescribes institutions dedicated to the defence, the extension, the enrichment of the transcendent kingdom of ideas, of knowledge, and of creation - a kingdom which is within man, where progressively freed both from material constraints and from the misleading servitudes of animism, man could at last live authentically; there he would be protected by institutions which, seeing him as both the subject of the kingdom and its creator, would serve him in his unique and precious essence.

    This is perhaps a utopia. But it is not an incoherent dream. It is an idea that owes its strength to its logical coherence alone. It is the conclusion to which the search for authenticity necessarily leads. The ancient covenant is in pieces; man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.

    You know where this quote comes from from don't you. Anyway I voted NDP at the last Federal and Provincial elections. I am a Hamiltonian and both my MP and MPP are NDP but then I came to Hamilton to study the Hamiltonian. The Liberals will inevitably descend into neo-liberalism. Whether the NDP will do so, who knows? However when Chrétien refused to join the the coalition of the unprincipled it was my proudest moment as a Canadian, however he did leave us with an increased involvement in the Afghan quagmire.

    1. Do you understand what I wrote? I suspect not. As for Monod's nonsense, well, as they say, from false premises anything follows. At least he does seem to believe in free will which, while almost certainly inconsistent with much of what he also thinks, must surely irk an adamant disbeliever like yourself.

    2. As I said it went over your head.

      A compatibilist free will position is consistent.

      But it would still be over your head.

    3. I'm well aware of compatibilism, but I very much doubt that you have any idea what it is, or indeed, that you are a compatibilist. The link to your irrelevant guff about quantum physics pretty much proves the former.

      And I see you still have nothing to say about what I wrote. Do you agree with my assessment of liberalism? LOL

    4. Dear Martin Luther Flint.

      No you don't understand compatibilism, even Dennett only gets it part right. I know you don't understand quantum mechanics, but then no-one understands quantum mechanics.

      You need to have studied enough quantum mechanics to understand why no-one understands QM. Here I stand I can do no other, or may be not.

      Also you don't understand "liberalism". This is because the term has been made meaningless by americans using "liberal" to mean anyone slightly socially progressive. Originally it had two related meanings in nineteenth century Britain. Firstly lower case "liberalism" was a political economic philosophy that advocated free trade and free markets. Secondly an upper case Liberal was someone who supported or belonged to the Liberal Party that was in favour of free trade and free markets and which was also was strongly opposed to slavery. Darwin was an upper case Liberal with powerful connections to the upper echelons of the Liberal Party where he and his wife pursued their active opposition to slavery. Neo-liberalism is the combination of the old "liberal" economic philosophy with the global pursuit of corporate economic hegemony. It is also known as the Washington consensus.

      Here in Canada we have a Liberal Party that had has different roots to the British Liberal Party (now Liberal Democrats) but which is in many way similar. With regard to what Larry was writing about there is a current parallel between the British and Canadian Liberal Parties, in the first half of the last century the Labour Party (a Social Democratic Party and member of the Socialist International) surpassed the the Liberal Party and became the main opponent to the Conservative Party. The same thing appears to be happening here in Canada as the New Democratic Party (Social Democratic and a member of the Socialist International) at the last election surpassed the Liberal Party to become the official opposition to the Conservative government.

      The Canadian Liberal Party is a broad church containing people who range from essentially being social democrats like Pierre Elliot Trudeau through to neo-liberal neo-conservatives like its former leader Michael Ignatieff. The Labour Party in Britain degenerated into neo-liberal neo-conservatism with the Bliar and Brown governments.

      So for us progressive Canadians the question that Larry is posing is, are the Liberals or the NDP the most likely to firstly win the next general election but more importantly to implement a set of policies to deal with the social and economic problems facing Canada in a way that serves the interests of ordinary Canadian working families rather than the interests of global corporations and the wealthiest 1%. Wow I sound almost like a NDP politician, I just vote for them I am not a member..

      Enough of feeding the troll, but I hope I brought up some points people might find interesting.

    5. I don't need to understand QM to know it has nothing to do with compatibilism (as you seem to think by your previous irrelevant link). The point being that compatibilism is not concerned with the precise nature of physics - it's a sort of 'even given the worst case physical scenario we can still have free will' type position. Not at all difficult to understand once you get it, fwiw, even if some of the arguments for it can get complex at points.

      As for liberalism - lol (you really don't want to know how much I'm laughing at you right now) - try again, and see if you can work out what I said the liberal party of Canada stands for. And then see if you can do better. I thought my attempt was rather good.

    6. I don't need to understand QM to know it has nothing to do with compatibilism (as you seem to think by your previous irrelevant link).

      You didn't understand what I wrote:
      No you don't understand compatibilism, even Dennett only gets it part right.

      My position could be called compatibilism plus. I disagree with Dennett's analysis of conterfactuals, it is through quantum mechanics that one comes to the need to abandon counterfactual definiteness. This world is stochastic only the ensemble is deterministic. The the brain operating in Hilbert space gives rise to the phenomenon we call free will.

      It is only through considering the combination of quantum stochastic behaviour amplified by deterministic chaos and physical law (chance and necessity, Monod again) that we can construct a model of free will. The homunculus in the Cartesian theatre pulling the levers is where libertarian free will always ends up.

      On the question of the Liberals

      And then see if you can do better. I thought my attempt was rather good

      ROTFL I already have done better, I have even given a historical analysis.

      Sorry to keep feeding the troll.

    7. chemicalscum, I think Luther is waiting to see whether or not you noticed that he turned "The Liberal Party of Canada" into an 'acronym' by making a sentence using each letter to make a word.

      Here it is:

      The Haughtily Espoused
      Liberalism Is Becoming Empty Rhetoric As “Liberals”
      Pursue A Return To Yesterday’s
      Old Fashioned
      Conservatism Absent Novel And Distinguishing Aspirations.

    8. Oh! so it was just word games. Is this like Monday's molecule? Is this the answer?

      No it was not Monday's molecule but if you want to try Sunday's molecule (no prizes) what is my avatar?

    9. @chemicalscum. I never did much chemistry, but your avatar looks like some arrangement of neon, iron, calcium, fluorine and iodine.

    10. Luther, are you familiar with the concept of word wrap ?

    11. @Chemicalscum No comment on my answer I see.

      @Oberski Yes, why do you ask?

    12. I, as you appear to be, was opposed to our military involvement from the outset. It seemed to me that due process was being ignored. Afghanistan was saying they didn't know where bin Laden was, and even if they did know, in order to legally extradite him, they'd need to be shown the evidence against him. The attitude of the West was Afghanistan wasn't effective a "real" country and so it was "badges? We don't need no steenking badges!". And in we all went.

      In fairness, though, this happened the month after 9/11, and even I have to admit it would have been hard for anyone to stand on principle and say "no, this isn't right" to the United States at that point. Our sympathies were with them and we all compromised our scruples. Chretien's real fault, though, was not setting a limitation on our involvement, something like, 18 months and we're out, whether we've found him or not. The minute it was clear bin Laden wasn't in Afghanistan, the Canadian combat role should have ended; we should have (however cynically) done what we could to fix what we wrecked; and the IMPORT OUR TROOPS stickers should have appeared on the gas-guzzling SUVs over the SUPPORT (read "EXPORT") OUR TROOPS ones. None of that happened, and it should have.

      I voted NDP last time. I think the split vote benefited the Tories more than anyone else. And cruel as it was to lose Jack Layton to cancer so young, it seems particularly cruel for us to lose him just as he gasped the brass ring of official opposition. What an opportunity for monumental change was lost in this country. He might have been remembered as a second Tommy Douglas.

  4. Both Pierre and Bob walked across the floor from NDP ranks. I think McGinty is a conservative plant! It's no wonder that we can't understand what the Liberal's are up to. Their motivation isn't particulary Liberal, just personal ambition!