The Disgrace of the Liberal Party
By Robert Hurst
Seven seats. Is that it?
Kathleen, you’ve been bad. Very bad. The voters have sent you to the woodshed, you and your gang.
In old Ontario, when farming was everything, the woodshed was where you went for punishment. The woodshed is the place where we expect you to think, deeply, about what you’ve done and why you landed up there.
Will you admit that you wasted our money on a series of scandals? eHealth. Ornge helicopters. Gas plants. Secret millions to teacher unions.
A billion here, a billion there. Easy come, easy go.
During your 15 years in power, you doubled the public debt. Will you admit that you came to have little regard for the public purse?
Perhaps just as egregious, you lost touch with so many of us in your final years in power. Were you so dazzled by the glitz and the glitter of the fast-talking champagne elites of the big city that you forgot about those struggling in the suburbs and small towns across Ontario?
There’s not much bubbly being toasted along the run-down main streets of Brockville and Brantford.
Here in Muskoka we were exposed to some of that big-city Liberal arrogance. Queen’s Park told our town halls to build bicycle lanes and start planting rooftop veggie gardens. All the while we were worried, first and foremost, about our local hospitals.
Kathleen, this may appear to be a humiliating moment. But the woodshed can be a revitalizing experience.
Canada has a tradition of throwing out the bums after a long run in power. It’s a grand ritual. It’s happened to some of our best like Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. It tends to keep our political parties fresh, responsive and responsible. That is, if you choose renewal over denial and blame.
The Liberal Party has been re-born several times after stunning election losses.
In 1958, John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives swept to victory with the largest percentage of seats in Canadian history. The Liberals had been in power for 22 years. Mike Pearson gathered the Liberal party together at Queen’s University in the autumn of 1960. The Kingston Conference re-invigorated the Liberal party.
Jean Chretien did the same with a Liberal Conference in Aylmer Quebec in 1999.
So, dear Liberals, can you honestly analyze what happened? Can you get humble? Can you reconnect with us? Can you send packing the leadership team that took you to the woodshed?
Kathleen, landing up in the woodshed is not such a terrible and embarrassing experience. It can be a beautiful thing for the Liberal Party and for Ontario.
There are great issues ahead that need fresh thinking. A stagnant middle class. Our hospitals. Affordable housing in Muskoka. The digital revolution. Climate change.
As we look at Premier Ford, after his gormless campaign, many of us are befuddled. We may need the Liberals back, healthy and standing tall, sooner rather than later.
Robert Hurst is an award-winning journalist and former President of CTV News
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