Saying Liberal influences are gone doesn’t make it so

Prime Minister Harper has declared that he and the federal Conservatives have buried the Liberal brand. That, at least, was the jist of his message in a Calgary speech to party faithful last weekend. Mr. Harper added that his party is “moving Canada in a Conservative direction, and Canadians are moving in that direction with us.”

Not so fast, Mr. Harper.

The Liberal party may be down and is certainly in disarray as it is, except on an ad hoc basis, leaderless.

But the Liberal influence on this country is a big one and for that reason it’s going to be very difficult for Mr. Harper to entirely convince the nation that, “Canadian values are Conservative values,” another statement from the same speech.

In a letter to the editor last week, a thoughtful Gore Bay resident urged the obvious: that the Liberals and New Democrats must at least consider a coming together, presenting a slightly left-of-centre option for Canadian voters to consider. This may take several years to cobble together, but it will happen.

A couple of years ago, the CBC asked Canadians to determine the “most famous” Canadian; the Canadian in our history who most typifies us.

The initial list of nominees was quite long and as online votes shortened it week by week, the outcome was Tommy Douglas and he won this particular posthumous accolade not because he was the last leader of the old federal Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party and the principal architect of its successor New Democratic Party (NDP).

He won this honour because he was determined by Canadians to be the most representative public figure in our nation’s history as he had brought socialized medicine to Saskatchewan when he was that party’s premier and was later influential in Canada’s adoption nationally of publicly funded health care that used the Saskatchewan model, under a Liberal administration, in 1966.

Canadians identify strongly with helping-one-another values and are proud of our publicly funded system of health care, as an example of these values. No matter what Mr. Harper says in Alberta (where he pretty much has to call down the Liberal brand) our citizens’ view of themselves as Canadians is very much the product of more than a century (more on than off) of Liberal governments and their policies.

If we like ourselves and what we stand for in the world (and most of us do) than there is far more poetry than truth in Mr. Harper’s musings about a new national consciousness for Canada in the immediate future.

We are what a largely Liberal history has made us and Mr. Harper’s prophecies about a new Canada are not going to be realized any time soon.