Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert recently pondered the federal Liberal Party of Canada's future or lack thereof.
As she put it, "Watching the receding Liberal tide, one can reasonably wonder whether the party as a major national presence has reached the point of no return."
Well she can wonder no more. I can safely assert that the Liberal Party is as good as dead.
Here are seven reasons why:
They Keep Picking Bad Leaders
First there was Paul Martin, whom the media acclaimed as Canada's next Liberal Caesar. Unfortunately for the Liberals, he was a bust. Martin seemingly had no other goal than being prime minister. After that, he had nothing. His successor, Stephane Dion was quite possibly the worst Liberal leader of all time. And then there was Michael Ignatieff, a charisma-free academic with all the political instincts of a seasick turtle. And the fact that the Liberals acclaimed Ignatieff as their leader speaks volumes.
Out of Touch in Quebec
The problem the Liberals face in Quebec is ideological. Simply put, the old Liberal notion of centralizing power in Ottawa -- popular in Ontario -- just doesn't sell anymore in Quebec. For Quebecers, the political rallying cry is now "Quebec first, Canada second." The Tories with their "decentralizing bent" can coexist with that mentality. For the Liberals it's a dead end.
The City Syndrome
The Liberals are most comfortable in big urban areas -- Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver. But take them out of that environment and they become more uncomfortable than Don Cherry at a poetry-reading seminar. They just can't relate to rural Canadians, whom they equate with bible-thumping, gun-toting, redneck barbarians. The Liberal strategy, I guess, is to hope the CBC can bring some semblance of "civilization" to these hinterlands.
Show me the Money
Money is the lifeblood of politics, and the Liberals desperately need a transfusion. New political donation laws which limit what donors can contribute to political parties has severely crippled the Liberal ability to raise money. Before these limits were imposed, the Liberal Party relied on donations from wealthy corporations, which gave the Liberals the ability to actively denounce wealthy corporations. Now they are forced to rely more on grassroots support. That's hardly a Liberal strength. If you ask a Liberal about the grassroots and he will probably refer you to his landscaper. And oh, with political subsidy getting phased out the Liberals might be forced to raise money at garage sales. Anybody want to buy Pierre Trudeau's Panama hat?
Out of Power, Out of Luck
The Liberals were never big on ideology, unless you count grasping for power at all costs an ideology. They did what it took to win power. If that meant channeling Hugo Chavez that was fine. And if that meant running to the right of the Reform Party, well that was OK too. Whatever worked. The problem is that approach attracted "Power People." These were people who would be loyal to the Liberals so long as there were perks to be awarded or advertising contracts to clutch. When the Liberals lost power, they lost a lot of their friends.
A New Sheriff in Town
In all their history, the Liberals have never had to face an opponent like Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is intelligent, ruthless and calculating. And right now Harper is using all his power and all his skills to exploit to the fullest every Liberal weakness. He wants the Liberals to fall down and not get up.
Who Shall Lead?
One characteristic of the Liberal dynasty in its heyday was its bench strength. You could always look at the Liberal party and identify three or four high-caliber individuals who you could picture being prime minister. Not anymore. Who among the current batch of Liberals is prime minister material? Bob -- "I nearly ruined Ontario's economy" -- Rae? Dominic LeBlanc otherwise known as Dominic Who? And, of course, there's Justin Trudeau. Trudeau, of course, has the magic name. Too bad he can't use that magic to make his kooky ideas disappear.
Yup, for the Liberals the Point of No Return is definitely in their rearview mirror. They will either gradually fade away or be assimilated into the NDP hive mind collective.
But hey, they had a good run while it lasted.