Thursday, December 8, 2011

 

RUMOURS OF ITS DEMISE GREATLY EXAGERATED?

America's Presidential re-election campaign is getting underway. So in politics this is just about ancient history: But four years ago, it was the young voters of the United-States who engaged the movement of hope and aspiration that swept Barack Obama into office.

Conversely, last May back home in Canada's national election more than half of the population under the age of 45 did not bother to vote, in very large measure because they felt ignored and treated as a nuisance by the mainstream parties. The median Canadian age was 26 years old when the message of optimism and his charisma swept Pierre Trudeau to power in 1968. Today's typical Canadian voter is in his early 60's.

Facing as it seems currently a 'live-or-die' moment in history,  pundits have been quick to flesh-out obituaries of the Liberal Party of Canada, for 69 years the country's natural governing party during the last century. The latest by way of author Peter C. Newman's who's Christmas bookstore offering is aptly titled: "When the Gods Changed. The Death of Liberal Canada."

There is a perfectly valid reason why young Canadian voters lost interest and disengaged from the last Federal election and the several previous others of the first decade of the 21st Century - Young voters have found little to interest them in the Harper Government's Conservative agenda of military boosterism, bigger prisons and border security,  while it scales down social policy and trims government's engagement into the lives of Canadians. And at least as author Newman sees it, the Liberals: mired in internal leadership dissension, a lack of fresh ideas, arrogance and scandal could not (or would not) capitalize on welcoming and engaging "young" Canada into the national conversation.

The net result; for the first time since Confederation the Liberals are the third party in the House of Commons and right now they can't even be sure if they'll ever return. I am reminded of course that the Progressive-Conservatives in the Federal Election of 1993 were virtually wiped-out, electing just 2 members to the Commons, Elsie Wayne in southern New Brunswick and Jean Charest in eastern Quebec, and ending-up fifth in House standings. The P-C's subsequent overhaul led to the eventual morphing of the right-of-centre Harper "Conservatives" steeped in the doctrine (perhaps dogma) of Reverend Ernest Manning (Preston's father) the Evangelical Radio Pastor who ruled as Alberta's Premier from 1943 to 1968.

Alas! Lest I digress: Manning advocated the polarization of political viewpoints in Canada. He argued that the country would be better off with two political parties, One on the Left - One on the Right. Sound familiar? Well beware, because that is precisely the scenario Canadians have witnessed with growing angst and anxiety playing-out in the bitter, divisive, angry bi-partisan struggles which have paralyzed both the Congress of the United-States and the Obama Administration. And, which predictably will only worsen as the next Presidential election is further engaged.

Over the course of the 20th Century the Liberal Party made Canada the country that it is today. In about a month, for 3 days in Ottawa, Liberals will gather for a convention of the faithful which may very well be its most important since the Party was founded on July 1, 1867.  Partisans will consider and adopt a "Road Map to Renewal" - They must get it right, the stakes are that high, and the country's future may depend on it. A key responsibility which must be exercised is to engage young Canadians into our national conversation. There now exists technology that was unimaginable just 10 years ago to do it, and an enormously savvy generation of its users just waiting to be asked.

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