They were still counting votes when the first article on re-making the Liberal Party was published on May 2. Ignatieff was still leader, Rae was still talking about keeping all the options on the table when asked about a NDP merger, and concession speeches were just being scribbled on the back of cocktail napkins when the full weight of the unthinkable happening, happened.
I won’t spend too much time on the issue of the Liberal Party’s remaking of itself, because in the aftermath of the election, this issue will get more than its fair share of coverage. And while the party is still writing the rulebook – again – on choosing their latest interim leader before choosing their latest actual leader, events are unfolding too quickly to project what the future might hold for the LPC. It is simply too early, and too impossible, to tell.
It is remarkable that over the next four years, the country will be able to watch in incredible detail and in real-time, the machinations of building a party from the ground up, or from the top down. They don’t know how it will happen just yet. They haven’t decided what Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail refers to as their “chicken and egg” moment. He writes that “this debate – between a renewal process that produces a leader, and a leader who produces a renewal process – could go on endlessly,” but that it would likely just kill valuable time without producing anything tangible.
For what it’s worth, I think Andrew Coyne gave the Liberals the best advice – think big. Think bigger than you ever thought possible, or prudent. What have you got to lose? If party fortunes ebb and flow as they do, then we have not seen the end of the Liberal Party of Canada. It will always remain important to the Canadian political scene, and they now have a tremendous opportunity to shape the form of that Party, to make it relevant to Canadians again.
But I hope we have seen the end of the LPC that attempts to govern based on previous glories, and past arrogance. That time has passed, and I think we all know it now. It has reached the point where Liberal MP Marc Garneau tweeted the other day that “I, Marc Garneau, a Liberal, solemnly declare that I do not have a sense of entitlement to be in government.” Which is tremendous, when you think about it: a politician has had to state that they have no sense of entitlement to governing. You know you have started taking it for granted when…
Rick Mercer had a good point in Maclean’s the other day: he argued that “Liberals, even when in opposition, are always surprised when they meet someone who isn’t a liberal. They tend to believe everyone looks at the world the way they do, everyone is on the same team.”
And as the process of choosing an interim Liberal leader begins, and the pundits and party insiders begin their postulating on who should lead and how it should be done, members of the Liberal Party would do well to remember what they know to be true: that we are not all on the same team, and that it is the entire electorate, not just themselves, who decide governments.
And you are choosing a leader for Canada, not just the Liberal Party of Canada. Remember – think big!