Stuck on Trudeau
National Post · Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
The passing this week of former Liberal senator Keith Davey was mourned by political friends and foes alike. Commentators have used the occasion not only to reflect on the ample accomplishments of Mr. Davey's career, but to pine for the winning days of Canadian Liberalism. "Between 1962 and 1980, [Mr. Davey] ran six national campaigns, winning most of them," writes Bob Hepburn of the consistently Liberal-friendly Toronto Star. " Those were the party's glory years of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. It was a time when the Liberals had talent in the party's back rooms and on Parliament's front benches.... It was a golden age for Liberals, who today ask where are the young recruits who will lead the party in the coming decades?"
Although this newspaper often has taken issue with Liberal positions, we agree that Canadian democracy requires at least two strong, viable political parties to remain healthy. Otherwise, Canada risks becoming a de facto one-party state, as we were under the Chretien governments of the 1990s. The Conservatives wouldn't mind if the Liberal brand continues to list into irrelevance, but Canadians should.
However, an attempted rekindling of the Trudeau era isn't
the answer to Liberal woes. If anything, the Liberals' backward-looking Trudeau cult -- which remains stubbornly entrenched among many of the party's aging but still influential grandees -- is actually a handicap.
Mr. Trudeau's leadership was a creature of its age -- well-suited to a nation shaking off the shackles of conformity while embracing the power of government. The state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, but it apparently did everywhere else. Ottawa spent and borrowed liberally, funding everything from youth programs to unity initiatives. The Charter of Rights paved the way for an emerging legal obsession with identity politics. On the foreign stage, Canada drifted away from the United States and postured on behalf of pacifism and Cuba. These were the days when many Canadian intellectuals had serious debates about the relative merits of Soviet communism and Western liberalism -- preposterous though that should now seem to us.
Many of these ideas lingered on into the 1990s, and even the decade after that, because Canada's conservative movement was fractured between several different parties. Of course, everything changed in 2006. And since then, Stephen Harper has implemented a more principled foreign policy, tacked closer to the United States, emphasized law and order, eliminated the Court Challenges Program, cured some of the western alienation caused by Mr. Trudeau's National Energy Policy, reinvigorated the military, cold-shouldered UN bien-pensants and otherwise remade Canada in a more conservative image.
Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada ... z1BhcAXz3l