Tuesday, March 21, 2006


When James Travers starts to worry about the Liberal leadership race's inability to act as a catalyst for change in the party, then we realize just how rotten the timbers are holding up those 102 seats:

At the moment, Liberals are utterly lost. After careening through two years and two elections with Paul Martin, a party that once boasted it was the western world's most successful no longer dominates the political centre, is out of fresh ideas and has no obvious leadership light to follow out of darkness.

So what's the Liberal response? It's to declare that Stephen Harper is making such a horrendous start that they must be ready to fight an election now forecast for next spring.

What self-deluding nonsense. Harper's pratfall trifecta — luring David Emerson across the floor, making Michael Fortier a senator as well as the unaccountable minister for notoriously corrupt public works and arrogantly reversing his commitment to open government — is overshadowed by what the new prime minister is doing well.


As if that isn't enough, Liberals haven't noticed that the country is changing. Along with wealth and jobs, political influence is drifting west from the party's Ontario urban base, a dynamic made more powerful by the bracing Conservative revival in Quebec.

All of this is compounded by another reality: Liberals don't have much to say and don't know how to say it. First Jean Chr├ętien and then Martin held power by sliding to the political right and demonizing Conservatives. Now that Harper is edging toward the centre while shedding his horns and curly tail, Liberals must reframe the debate and, ultimately, the ballot question.

The Toronto media elites were briefly pleased as punch that the Grits had been able to build a firewall around Toronto. After all, no government could be truly legitimate in its eyes without Toronto representation.

Now they've done the math, studied the geography, and are alarmed to find not only that Toronto isn't enough to ensure a Liberal return to government, but that the Centre of the Universe might cease to be the centre of Canada as well.

Watch for more articles in this vein, begging for the Liberals to do something, anything, to get back those Quebec seats fast and show some signs of life out West.

Toronto is still a fair bit ahead of Calgary in economic and political influence. But the gap narrows every day, and the Toronto media elites are slowly adjusting to that fact.

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