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2011 Election

The return of the Liberal ‘Red Book’

Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff

Whether you agree with a single Liberal promise in its latest Red Book or not, you must concede that politically, this was exactly what needed to happen.

What was made abundantly clear in 2008 was that running solely on the Green Shift – gawd, remember that? – was a terrible idea. Not only is basing the crux of your campaign on a single issue never a great idea, but basing your campaign on a single BAD – or, forgivingly – a QUESTIONABLE idea at best is always a recipe for disaster. Just ask John Tory about the 2007 Ontario Election and funding for religious-based schools. That guy has got stories!

I was hoping that the Liberals would be quick out of the gate in getting a platform of sorts together; waiting weeks to let people know what you are about in black and white detail in a six week campaign would show you as either disorganized, or unsure of yourself. Neither of which is recommended if the Liberals hope to overcome the 10-14 point lead in the polls currently enjoyed by the Conservatives.

The latest edition of the Red Book had to be something more impressive than what Harper made famous – short spending announcements on site, surrounded by cameras, with nothing but annoying Canada Action Plan signs left littering the countryside in their wake.

And it is.

And as John Ibbitson in the Globe & Mail makes clear, the choice, like the details, is black and white:

Whether he succeeds depends on whether you believe that Canada should return to its Trudeauesque past of increased social spending paid for by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, or continue the Conservative emphasis on keeping taxes low while balancing the books.

The choice couldn’t be simpler, or more stark.

He is exactly right, and he is so obviously right that he can be forgiven for presenting the stark choice between the Liberals and Conservatives as exactly what it is and dressing it as a revelation. But as he goes on to explain, it comes down to a choice between hope and fear: hope from the Liberals that Canada has emerged from the Global Recession in good shape, and that Canadians are desirous of happy days ahead,  and fear from the ‘Harper Government’ that the job is not yet done, the global economy still in shambles, and the iron fist of economic conservatism still needed to keep Canada afloat in a sea of despair.

Some highlights from the 94-page Red Book:

  • investing $5.5 billion annually in education, child care, home care, and the environment (a HUGE spending umbrella!)
  • getting this $5.5 billion from increasing corporate taxes and taking money from wealthy Canadians who buy stock options at below market value
  • scrapping the F-35 fighter jet program
  • not making a fight against the defecit their raison d’etre
  • putting $80 million towards encouraging farmers markets to sell local food

My dad commented the other day that this was a nasty campaign so far, and we were only 9 days in at the time. That the coverage had been obsessed with attack ads and finger pointing, without any real substance upon which to base opinions. But it’s expected that the Conservatives won’t release anything new of real substance – they have a record to run on, and one which they are keenly, arrogantly proud of.

But the 2011 Liberals, still a long way from making a go of it, have evolved beyond the Green Shift of 2011, into a party that can articulate to Canadians what they stand for, who they are, and who they want us to be. A single issue does not a campaign make, as they say, and the latest Red Boook ensures the Liberals will be elected or beaten on substance.

And we should all welcome meat and potatoes after 10 days of junk food.

(UPDATE 11:53 Apr 5): A quick update on the Liberal decision to scrap the F-35 Fighter Jet program. A United States Defence spending analyst reported this morning that the Conservative estimate of $29 billion for the 65 fighter jet fleet would be billions short of what the actual cost of the program will be.

As reported in the Globe & Mail, the discrepancy could be as much as $85 million per plane, with a per unit price range of $115 to $200 million each.

Maybe this is a program that deserves to be investigated further regardless of what forms the next government of Canada.

(UPDATE 14:59 Apr 8): According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Harper is claiming that he has it in writing that the costs of the F-35 fighter jets will remain steady at $29B, and will not jump to potentially double that amount as has been reported recently.

Well, I mean if he has it in writing, then – hell, now I feel like an ass for doubting him.


About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen


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