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Is the Liberal Party Dead?

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STEPHEN HARPER QUIZ
CP

"Liberals have finally met their Armageddon. Get used to it." So writes veteran journalist Peter Newman in his forthcoming book on the Liberal Party of Canada.

When the Gods Changed is due out this week, but early press reports suggest that Newman sees the party as dead.

Further, Newman sees a new "natural governing party" for the country -- the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Of course, Newman isn't the only one to have reached that conclusion. A confidential cable from the U.S. ambassador to Canada suggests that Stephen Harper's Conservatives see themselves more and more as Canada's "natural governing party." That memo, leaked by WikiLeaks, was before the election -- and landing a majority hasn't exactly changed minds in the PMO. Actually, back in the summer, the prime minister himself mused about the Tories becoming the natural governing party.

Let's just review: the Tories won an impressive majority in the spring; the second largest party in the House of Commons just lost its popular leader and faces a divisive leadership race; and the Liberals are in disarray, led by a nearly geriatric former New Democrat. It's all good news if you're wearing Tory blue.

Here's a word of advice to my Conservative friends, however: Be smart.

Twenty-seven years ago, after Brian Mulroney secured his Sept. 4 landslide, another veteran journalist, the Toronto Star's Richard Gwyn, thought Mulroney had "almost certainly made the Conservatives the majority party for the rest of the century." Two elections later, the party was reduced to just a couple of seats.

Here's the point. In any democracy, and especially this democracy, political dynasties come and go. Diefenbaker blew in to Ottawa like a prairie storm -- and then blew out, taking his Tories with him; Trudeau's walk in the snow was sparked by bad polls not great contemplation; Chretien won three impressive elections, but lost control of his party, and thus his job. Leaders come and go; parties win power and then lose it.

Yes, the Harper Tories face no credible opposition now, and probably won't in 2015. But, eventually, they will. And, one day soon, they will lose power.

The key, then, isn't to celebrate their time in office and past election victories, but to govern -- and govern well. This next decade may prove as consequential to Canada as the 1960s were -- a time, literally, to re-envision the nation and its place in the world.

To my Ottawa friends, then, remember this: You'll be off writing your memoirs soon. Make every day count.

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