Monday, May 16, 2011

2006: The Beginning of the End of the Liberal Party?

Liberal Party still paying for its mistakes

In 2006, something happened to the Liberal Party that they had considered unthinkable:

They were defeated in an election.

That year, Stephen Harper led the Conservative Party to form a minority government. He has resided at 24 Sussex Drive ever since, much to the consternation of the Canaidan left.

The Liberals spent the time since blaming everyone but themselves. They blamed the NDP -- who have since supplanted them as the official opposition -- for competing against them. They blamed the RCMP for choosing to investigate the income trust leak, after Finance Minister Ralph Goodale flat-out refused to investigate on his own.

They never came to grips with what led them to that defeat in the first place, and they're still paying.

Looking back on 2006, it was hard to know precisely how bad it would be for the Liberals moving forward. But looking back -- and hindisght is always 50/50 -- there were some signs. The best sign was actually the individuals who offered themselves as candidates to replace Paul Martin.

The frontrunner candidates in 2006 were Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff. Stephane Dion eventually managed to emerge as the Liberal leader. Then there were the less-competitive also-rans.

Individuals like Joe Volpe, Ken Dryden, Martha-Hall Findlay, and Gerard Kennedy. What do these four have in common? They, along with Michael Ignatieff, lost their Parliamentary seats in the 2011 election. They also have in common outstanding debts -- nearly five years after the 2006 Liberal leadership convention -- from that campaign.

But the real story is the rout. Considering the position the Liberals were in circa 2006, each one of the leadership candidates who ran should have done so because they believed they could lead the Liberal Party back to power.

Five years later, five of these would-be Prime Ministers are out of Parliament, against their own wishes.

Was 2006 the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party? That chapter hasn't been written yet. Despite what the triumphalist cheerleaders of the NDP have declared, Canada is far better off with the Liberal Party than without it.

But in order for the Liberal Party to emerge intact, they must first learn from the mistakes that led to their 2006 defeat, and all the mistakes made since.

The best time -- perhaps the only time -- for them to do that is right now. If they don't 2006, really will have been the beginning of the end.

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