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Rebuilding the Liberals

Posted on August 4, 2011

Michael Ignatieff isn’t to blame for the Liberal rout in the election campaign, argues a former Quebec Liberal adviser. In fact, the former Liberal leader ran an “inspired and flawless campaign,” Robert Asselin boldly states.

Mr. Asselin, who is with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and traveled with Mr. Ignatieff in the spring campaign, suggests that what happened to the Liberals cannot be explained away as a result of a bad or weak leader.

His article on how to fix the Liberal Party — especially in Quebec — is in this month’s Policy Options magazine. It appeared Tuesday as Bob Rae, the interim Liberal leader, continues his summer tour of the country in an effort to keep the party relevant but also listen for ideas on how to revive it.

The Liberals were reduced to third-party status in the election; Mr. Ignatieff lost his own seat and resigned as leader the day after the vote.

Mr. Asselin suggests that the party desperately needs to rebuild in Quebec: “The rejection of the (Liberals) by French-speaking Quebec is particularly problematic,” he writes. The last time Quebec really supported the Liberal Party was under Pierre Trudeau in 1980.

For the Liberals to be successful, Mr. Asselin says the party needs to “redefine liberalism” in Quebec and mobilize the younger generation of Quebecers. Finding a leader, who is not regarded as the “messiah” as previous leaders have been, is also key to the party’s success. The new leader must be “an individual capable of embodying a certain evolution, renewal and dynamism within the party,” writes Mr. Asselin.

The party must also be one of reform, he argues. “One of the strengths of the (Liberals) is that it has never been a party ideologically locked into old dogmas and the challenge today is to remain at the centre,” he writes.

Warning that the next election will be “crucial” for the Liberals — if they blow it they could be reduced to a “fringe party” — Mr. Asselin says the Grits need to redefine “the foundations of liberalism … as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton did for their respective political movements and put forward proposals that are not based on ideological dogmas, but on values and ideas within today’s challenges.”

Reposted from The Globe and Mail

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