Friday, October 7, 2011

Newfoundland, Ontario, and Lessons for NB Liberals

I cannot say I am an expert on the politics of Newfoundland and Labrador, but one story struck me, one that shows that province's Liberals in third place, badly trailing the second place NDP and first place Progressive Conservatives. This holds a warning that New Brunswick's Liberals must heed, we cannot be complacent.
In the last provincial election, our party lacked a clear narrative, being all over the place ideologically and on policy. We lost badly, but at least retained official opposition. Next time we may not be so lucky, especially with an NDP aggressively looking to replace our party as the centre-left alternative.

This brings me to my second example, Ontario. Earlier this summer, many commentators were ready to write political obituraries for Dalton McGuinty, a premier no one has accused of having charisma or likeability. However, McGuinty, who initially badly trailed that province's Progressive Conservatives and had to fend off a strong challenge from the NDP, made an election that seemed a foregone conclusion against him highly competitive. He ultimately won on election day and while still one seat short of a majority – pending recounts – it is still an impressive result given earlier predictions of impending electoral doom.

It is also an impressive results given the electoral collapse of the federal Liberals only a few months earlier.
What is behind this amazing political comeback? McGuinty's Liberals had a strong narrative for their election. The Ontario Liberals offered a clear progressive agenda on the environment and education - outflanking the NDP while also providing a clear contrast to the Progressive Conservatives. At the same time, they tied this into an economic development agenda - green jobs, investment in education for a skilled workforce - understanding that the best social program is a good well-paying job.

Also, McGuinty’s campaign platform was not just words, he had been implementing these progressive policies – on the education and environment – in government.  McGuinty shows that a familiar face, even one with perceived baggage, can win if he projects competence, consistent values...and of course, the right ideas.
McGuinty's Liberals offer an example the New Brunswick Liberals must follow if we are to survive as a viable political force, or else the party of Robichaud and McKenna may be consigned to the dust bin of history.

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