Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Justin Trudeau & the Death of the Natural Governing Party

Trudeau looking for light at the end of the tunnel

According to the most recent polls, if the 2011 election were held today, the Liberal Party would narrowly come in third behind the Conservatives and the NDP.

This should be a deep existential moment for many Liberal Party partisans, who have, even in their numerous defeats over the past few years, never managed to disabuse themselves of the delusion they are the natural governing party of Canada.

But according to Justin Trudeau, that may be changing.

According to Trudeau, the idea of the Liberal Party as the "natural governing party" is dead, especially among Liberals.

"The idea of a natural governing party was one tossed around more by our opponents than by any Liberals themselves, but perhaps there were a few Liberals who started to believe it and sat back and rested easy," Trudeau suggested. "Honestly, we're having a little bit of trouble connecting with voters."

Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes talking with a Liberal partisan would be surprised to hear that the "natural governing party" is more of a preoccupation of their opponents.

"What I see right now, especially here in Quebec, is good news that an awful lot of Canadians, an awful lot of Quebecers, have decided to put aside their allegiance to the Bloc Quebecois and are open to voting for someone else," Trudeau declared.

Trudeau naturally omits a very notable detail: that the decline of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec has coincided with the decline of the Liberal Party federally. The Liberal Party has never quite been the same in Quebec since Trudeau's father, Pierre Trudeau, re-patriated the Constitution without Quebec's consent. Even when the Quebec Liberal party governs, their federal counterpart continues to struggle.

"People are turning towards anti-parties," Trudeau suggested. "I'm hoping and expecting that on May 2, Canadians will turn and say it's not enough to just protest against Mr Harper because Mr Harper will remain prime minister, we're better off replacing him by choosing a party that actually wields the confidence of Canadians in government."

What Trudeau doesn't seem to understand is that, at face value, the emerging figures in Quebec seem to suggest that the anti- vote in Quebec is the anti-Liberal vote.

This is probably one of the reasons why it took a split in conservative voting for the Liberals to be successful in the 1990s (although, to be fair, the small-c conservative vote has always split between the Liberal Party and the Tories). Without a leading stake in Quebec, and against united conservative opponents, the Liberals find it exceedingly difficult to govern.

It's led to the ultimate death of the Liberal Party as the "natural governing party". But this is actually for the best. For Canadian democracy to remain strong, the last thing Canada needs is a "natural governing party".

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