Friday, May 19, 2006

On Renewal II

So, my last post was about how I felt Andrew Coyne, biased or not, made a good point in his column; namely, asking the question: Why should Canadians trust the Liberal party again?

Now, being a new member of the party I know my place on the totem pole, and I’m sensible enough to appreciate why that is. I’m not so naive as to think that I should step in off the street and start dictating how things are going to be, but I am also going to be one of the people out canvassing door to door come the next election, and like the last election, I’m going to come face to face with people who will be asking the very question that Andrew Coyne stated in his column.

What are we going to say?

It’s hardly self-flagellation for the party to engage in this discussion; one commenters opinion was that facing this issue was more akin to the party buying the b.s. that the Conservatives are selling, and by doing so turning against itself. But the more I think about this, the more I feel that it’s quite the opposite. It is about facing the truth, and that is as important as the leadership race itself.

Of course we can’t let this issue divide the party, any more than we can let the leadership race cause the kind of fractionalization that occurred in the last leadership struggle.

But we can’t just sit on our hands either. The party is, and has to be strong enough to be able to withstand the kind of conflict that goes with a leadership race. There will be debates, and there will be disagreement, and then when the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled and a new leader is chosen, we should be able to come together.

Likewise, the public has to see that the new leadership and the party in general have done the hard work, and have had the courage to own up to past mistakes, and take action.

When I was going on about the party adopting a code of conduct (unaware as I was that one apparently already exists), I was suggesting that there has to be a concrete demonstration that the party is ethically sound, and will not tolerate corruption or waste. Yes, it’s obvious that the overwhelming majority of the party is not corrupt, or in favour of wasting taxpayers money. Then came Sheila Fraser’s revelation that there was some “cooking of the books” when it came to the costs of the gun registry; fortunately, we get to participate in the process of looking into this, but should an investigation be necessary? We don’t already know who was involved or responsible? Maybe someone should be stepping up and taking one for the team, or maybe falling on their sword?

That might seem harsh, but the point I’m trying to make is that there have to be consequences. There has to be action, because if nothing is done, then how can we say anything is different? If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

Otherwise, when the Liberal party defends the registry, as we should (and this could also be a lingering issue during the next election), what will that remind the average taxpayer?

By not addressing these mistakes, it’s the same as handing the Conservative party the ammunition to fire at us during the next election. We have to remember that Canadians didn’t overwhelmingly support the Conservative party, instead, they protested against the corruption of the sponsorship scandal, and by extension Liberal party, and there’s a difference there. We have to give those voters a reason to believe that there have been changes.

I really think this is the big task for the party. Many policy positions are, or will become evident, but they won’t make a difference if the average Canadian voter isn’t confident in the integrity of the Liberal party.

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