The national president of the Liberal Party of Canada, Alf Apps, released a discussion paper Thursday intended to spark debate among party members and the general public about how to renew and reform the party leading up to the next general election, expected in 2015.
The analysis is frank and the observations are candid. He takes a look not only at his own party, but also the governing Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) and the New Democratic Party.
Here are a few excerpts:
Page 16: "The devious genius behind the carefully-crafted and controlled 'positive' messaging about the Prime Minister and the government, as well as devastatingly negative framing our Leader, did not, in and of itself, win the election for the CPC. But our failure to understand what they were doing to us and to respond effectively — countering their messaging with emotionally-salient messaging of our own — contributed heavily to the LPC's defeat. When it came to the air war, the CPC had all of the latest political artillery — very modern political communications. Liberals were not even playing on the same battlefield."
Page 17: "The reality of the May vote has not only placed the longer-term health of the Party in question, it has also preciptated an immediate existential crisis for many Liberals. Once regarded as vigorous, vibrant and confident, Canada's former 'natural governing party' is suddenly now widely seen as tired, stale and troubled."
Page 17: "Because the slate has been wiped clean, the conditions required for a genuinely 'bloodless revolution' within LPC may now exist. The time for a new generation of Liberals has come. If there ever were ever a time for Liberals to be bold, it is now."
Page 28: "On the one hand, the CPC focus has been on avoiding any so-called 'wedge issues' that, being high profile, might actually boomerang by alienating moderate, rather than merely left or centre-left, voters. On the other hand, it has actively attempted to push 'wedge issues' that are both vulnerable to popular misconception and easy to exploit or altogether unlikely to capture sustained front-page attention or media focus. Its purpose is to divide the electorate, incrementally harden support of the CPC base and surgically peel away support from progressive parties by exploiting public ignorance or stoking unsubstantiated fear... in order to seduce otherwise progressive voters into its camp."
Page 29: "As important as the CPC's 'secret sauce' of double deception may be, its real 'secret weapon' is its accumulation of digitized data on individual voters ... together with its unmatched expertise in exploiting this data for partisan political activities. The information about voters now at the disposal of the CPC dwarfs the data in LPC hands in both breadth and depth. Whereas the LPC has now built a database identifying about 40% of its voting base, the CPC knows not only who the overwhelming majority of its supporters are; it also has gathered and recorded detailed information ... about both them and its opponents..."
Page 31: "Although it purports to function under a federated structure and despite the nod to 'democracy' in its very name, the NDP's poltical culture is peculiarly undemocratic, the more so as it has focused on the discipline required to achieve and retain power. Nationally, the NDP has long devolved internal authority to a triumvirate made up of its leader, its so-called 'saints' and a coterie of influential insiders, most of whom are drawn from the leadership of the trade unions that have traditionally provided most of its money and workers. This centralization of power within the NDP has not only been a key to its unity through long periods of opposition; it also has allowed it to keep fundamental issues as to its true identity and orientation under the rug..."
Page 33: "Never having been required to form a national government, the NDP has long been able to make promises to Canadians that have a populist appeal, based on policies it knows, or ought to know, are either completely unworkable from a practical perspective or impossible to implement without sacrificing the integrity of Canada's overall fiscal position. Why and how can it do so? Because until recently at least, NDP strategists knew there was no risk that the party would ever have to keep its promises ... The NDP's ability to avoid democratic accountability to Canadians generally is mirrored by the striking democratic deficit in its own constitution and internal governance mechanisms ... it quickly becomes clear that democracy in the NDP is little more than a sham."
Page 34: "Whatever Liberals may think of their opponents, it is certainly no time to be smug. Nor should we expect Canadians to concede us the moral high ground just because we may try to claim it."
Page 40: "Having punished us soundly in the ballot box for being less than we could be, voters now want our party to survive and succeed for the good of Canada."
Page 78: " ... the basic questions confronting the Party is not whether it has the possibility to rebuild and renew itself for the 21st century, but whether its leadership and membershipcan marshal the will and energy to ensure that it does."