Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Former BC Liberal Party leader Gordon Gibson's column in the Mop and Pail today is an excellent example of the essential policy incoherence and inherent cognitive dissonance that are the core features of neo-liberalism's Canadian strain.

He correctly identifies the essential problems of the Canadian Liberal Party; the impression that they stand for nothing and the generation of squabbling internecine battles and jockeying for power and influence that have hollowed the party out. He suggests they need to stand for something again, for policies that will make them stand out from the other parties.

Where to find unique policies? The obvious places are the “third rails” of politics, the ones others fear to touch. These are things like our drug policy (insane), our prison policy (likewise), our immigration policy (revolutionizing Canada on an ongoing basis without debate), democratic reform, the importance of supporting Canadian culture, a leadership of ideas (not cash) in things that matter to ordinary people like health and education, a focus on the young (who are the future) instead of the old (who are the past, but have the votes), aboriginal policy (an ignored disgrace) and so on.
So these are the supposed policy areas where the Liberals can endeavour to stand out from the NDP who Gibson identifies as the target the Liberals should be focusing on, (Remember all the whining from Liberals over the years that the NDP was being mean to them instead of going after the Conservatives? - We're about to see how purely a projection that was based on how they play the game now that they're the third party.) they are without exception, areas where the NDP has consistently been out in front of the Liberals and seeking progressive change while the Liberals have dragged their feet at best and been openly obstructive at worst.

What distinction do they plan to draw? Making promises and critiques in direct variance from their own governing record is hardly a new and innovative Liberal approach.

"...a leadership of ideas (not cash) in things that matter to ordinary people like health and education"
Classic. The usual neoliberal implication that all it will take is 'new ideas' to fix these services and proposing new spending doesn't qualify. Of course the reality is that ideas about fixing programs like healthcare are all about funding decisions, the false economies of cutting or scrimping on costs now VS the long term fixes and savings that often involve large initial investments.

Healthcare waiting times for instance; we know that the silver bullet fix for wait times and ballooning acute care costs is to massively expand long term care space. We know that spending the money now to get elderly Canadians with long term medical needs out of hospital beds, and too often hospital hallways and into extended care spaces is how you solve waiting times and reduce acute care health costs in the long term because we have an excellent example of such a policy providing these benefits in the UK.

The Tony Blair Labour government did a lot of things wrong, from slavish support of the Bush administration's quagmires in the Middle East to a pandering and reactionary approach to criminal justice that demonized youth and turned the British people into one of the most surveiled populations on Earth to name just two examples. On healthcare however, they instituted long term fixes with long term benefits, and they did so by 'throwing money at the problem' and opening thousands of extended care spaces.

But neoliberals are still trapped in a stale 'Keep starving the state and scrambling for so-called innovative new ideas to compensate for it' paradigm. A failed model that has long since reached its limit for even minimal effectiveness. The real third rail, the real 'dangerous idea' that a political party can use to distinguish themselves from the others is to take the lumps for speaking an unwelcome truth about the unsustainable and irresponsible trickle down revenue collection policies inherent in years of tax giveaways to corporations and the ultrawealthy by both Conservatives and the Liberals.

That's the third rail Gibson and the Liberal Party show no interest in touching, dooming them to the roadkill in the middle of the road fate he warns of.

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