Monday, February 20, 2006

Alternate History

Political observers still tend to be reactive and backward looking when it comes to spotting political realignments. They don't see them because they expect things to carry on the way they've always carried on, then when they happen, they say that they'd always seen the changes coming.

The shift of the Liberal Party's base from Quebec to Ontario--Toronto, to be more precise--has been nearly 20 years in the making, but only now do the experts seem to realize that it's happened, because the Liberals are about to throw out the principle of alternance between anglophone and francophone leaders:

The Liberal party's tradition of alternating between French and English leaders is outdated and irrelevant, according to putative candidates for the party's crown.

Indeed, some contend the practice, known as alternance, was always a product more of accident than design. In any event, the historical pattern was broken - or at least confused - when outgoing leader Paul Martin succeeded Jean Chretien. "We just had two successive leaders of the Liberal party from Quebec," said Toronto MP John Godfrey, a former minister who's considering running for the top job.


Moreover, Maurizio Bevilacqua said alternance doesn't reflect the increasingly multicultural nature of Canadian society.

"I believe it's very important to respect traditions as well as realizing that a new Canada is emerging and that parties and institutions need to change with the times," said Bevilacqua, another Toronto MP, former minister and possible contender.

He said it's vital that the new Liberal leader be able to communicate in Canada's two official languages. But it shouldn't matter if the leader first learned to speak some other language.

As it happens, Italian is Bevilacqua's first language.

"Because a person is neither English or French, does that mean he or she should be excluded?" he asked.

Privately, some Liberals contend it's time for a non-Quebecer, after two consecutive leaders from that province.

We've seen the creation of a new Western political axis as a counterweight to the traditional Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal axis. Now we're seeing the Liberals formally write off Quebec, after seeing the shallowness of its talent pool there, and the depth of its pool in urban Ontario. If you consider Ignatieff, Stronach, Volpe, Dryden and Bevilacqua deep.

The Liberals imported a whole new base from the starving masses of the underdeveloped world, and the immigration policy that brought them here is paying dividends.

Just when the party had lost all credibility in Quebec, Quebec is no longer the main issue, and the big cities vs. everyone else is.

The Liberals will now survive the loss of its old raison d'etre--being the only party that could handle the Quebec question--by taking on a new one--being the only party that megacity urbanites will even listen to.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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