As Liberals and those of the larger activist block I call "Progressives" (those individuals who are not only Liberals but NDPers,Greens and anyone who doesn't like Stephen Harper) have just witnessed a do-nothing budget which will likely lead to a federal election this fall, Progressive activists should take a few moments to think about 2 anniversaries happening this year that could help shape the direction they would like to see the country move towards before and after the next federal election.
The first is the 30th anniversary of the Liberal party's win of 74 of 75 seats in Quebec in the 1980 federal election, the last time the Liberals have won a majority of seats federally in La Belle province. It is clear from current polling numbers as well as past actual election voting numbers that the Liberal party has failed to renew itself since the Trudeau years in the eyes of the public and as such are unable to fulfill their role as the Official Opposition of providing a government in waiting. John Turner tried from 1984-1990 to bring renewal to the party only to be met with open rebellion while Jean Chretien(Yesterdays Man) 1990-2003 had the good luck of an implosion by the Campbell Tories and the strong showing of the upstart Reform party in Ontario to allow him to form 3 consecutive majority governments. It was not Liberals who set the political agenda during the 1990's under Chretien rather a strong opposition Reform on such issues as Fiscal reform(Balanced budgets,MP pension reform) or constitutional reform(Clarity act). Chretien failed during his time as leader to bring renewal to the party. With the disappearance of the Reform party 10 years ago the Liberal party found itself adrift which once again led to internal division. With the Election win of former Reformer turned Tory of stephen Harper and his Conservative party in 2006 the Liberals continue to struggle over renewing themselves in opposition. The Quebec polling numbers show that the Liberals are unable to fulfill their role as the Official Opposition on their own.
The 2nd anniversary so-called Progressive activists need to look at and learn from is the previous mentioned demise of the Reform party in March 2000 and the process that lead to it. The United Alternative process was launched in 1998 by then Leader of the Official Opposition Preston Manning to fulfill his role to provide a government in waiting to the Chretien Liberals. There were many options looked at by the United Alternative process besides creation of a new party aka the Canadian Alliance, they included uniting behind an existing party(Reform or PC's) merging existing parties(Reform and PC's) and the Local Unity option on Riding based actions to recruit and select common candidates (The PC's wanted no part of the UA process which basically limited the options).
I believe Progressive activists need their own United Alternative process(perhaps they can call it a Progressive alternative) to look at the options which could lead to a "Progressive Government" after the next election. While I believe there is no willingness between the current party leaders(Liberal,NDP,Greens) for the creation of a new party or merging of existing parties, I believe a Progressive alternative process which leads to cooperation at the local Riding level, along with a common platform which unites Progressives from the different parties as well as providing a Blueprint to voters as to what a Progressive government would like is achievable( Harper plans to make a Progressive government an issue next election whether the Liberal leadership likes it or not). Local Unity options between Progressives needs to happen in at least 20 ridings across Canada in order to be effective and while there is no guarantee such cooperation at the local level will be successful, the question Progressive activists need to ask "Is doing the Status-quo which will likely lead to a Harper majority government an option Progressive activists willing to settle for?" Ridings where local cooperation,either through weaker parties not fielding candidates or holding joint nomination meetings together to field a single Progressive candidate include Tory held ridings like Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar where NDPer Nettie Wiebe lost by 262 votes in the last election while both Liberals and Greens took only 4% of the popular vote each. Is it worth the risk by Progressive activists in both the Liberals and Greens to say, at least for the next election that they will not field a candidate in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in order that a Progressive leaning NDPer wins the riding rather then a Harper Tory? Surrey North is another riding where Tory Dona Cadman won by 1100 votes over the NDP while the combined Liberal/Green vote was 20% in the last election. Could cooperation by Progressive activists in this riding help to advance a Progressive agenda? There are also a number of Liberal held ridings across Canada which were won by slim margins over the Tories last election, ridings like Vancouver South or the Brampton ridings, these ridings will be targeted by Harper next election in order for him to obtain his majority.
What will Progressive activists do about it? Even if the actions of Progressive activists leads to another Harper minority government after the election, the Progressive opposition could demand Harper be replaced as PM by someone more sympathic to the Progressive agenda, someone like Jean Charest or Jim Prentice perhaps. Would this not be considered a victory for Progressive activists?
Are there risks to the opposition parties working together on the goal of achieving a Progressive government after the next election? Yes of course in fact several, Political parties receive federal funding of 1.95$ for every vote received based on Election results. By not fielding candidates in every riding it cost Real dollars for years to the political parties. Helping the competition could also have long-term ramifications on the political landscape, In my riding of Bruce-Grey-OS the Greens came a strong 2nd last election against a Tory MP who seems more concerned about fighting against his local school board then fulfilling his duties as MP, if Local Progressive activists in the Liberals/NDP parties decide not to field candidates and the Greens win the riding??
What happens next election?? The bigger the risk the bigger the reward or LOSS, the Liberal party needs to take some big risks to cause not only Party renewal but also a political realignment otherwise the Conservatives may soon become in the 21st century what the Liberals were in the 20th century. Canada's Natural governing party.