A few weeks ago I was chatting with another Liberal via email and wrote the following:
We talk a lot about evidence-based policy, but if you define the Liberal party by what they do, and not what they say, you see a party that makes most of its decisions based on getting elected and pandering accordingly. We defend Supply Management not because we think it’s fair to subsidize 13,000 farmers at the expense of Canadian families, but because we lack the spine to stand up to those who benefit from the status quo. We attack Harper’s changes to OAS not because it’s wrong to question if the retirement age should stay fixed at 65 while life expectancy climbs, but because the Conservatives supported the changes, seniors hated them, and seniors vote way more than young people. I don’t think this is particularly different from the Conservative or NDP approaches to running the country, but at least they’re open about the favourites they intend to play. Too often we take the identity of a centrist party to mean splitting the difference of our opponents, when what we need to do is look at all the options on the table and pick what’s best for all Canadians. On some issues that’s to the right of Mr. Harper. Sometimes it’s to the left of Mr. Mulcair. But if voters don’t see a party that’s willing to take a stand on contentious issues, they’re going to assume (I’d argue correctly) that we’re more interested in our own interests than Canada’s. I think our current difficulties getting traction with Canadian voters boil down to this fundamental disconnect between what we proclaim to be and what we actually do.
I liked Justin’s speech. I thought it was sincere, and human, and quite frankly I was expecting something quite a bit slicker and well-rehearsed. He said many of the right things, but so have tons of Liberals over the past 10 years, and it’s not what he says but what he does that defines his future as a candidate and the Liberals’ future as a party. Colour me cautiously optimistic.