The Liberal Party of Canada, the once seemingly immortal king of Canadian politics that dominated the national political landscape for over 100 years, is dead. The election of Thomas Mulcair to the leadership of the NDP is the final nail in its casket, as his win effectively forecloses any possibility of the Liberal’s miraculous reincarnation.
Mulcair is a McGill graduate who a few years ago many believed would run federally for the Conservative Party. He is promising to modernize what he calls the NDP’s “boiler plate language,” referring to the way the party markets itself and its policies. Really though, you have to have watched a few too many episodes of Mad Men to believe that socialist policies can be made to appeal to the political mainstream merely through a rebranding exercise. It is only through the moderating of the NDP’s leftwing policies, as Jack Layton did before him, that Mulcair would have any chance of broadening the New Democrat’s political appeal. The pursuit of power is the ultimate goal of a political party. Judging by stands Mulcair has taken he would allow neither tradition nor ideological principal to stand in the way of its forming government – similar to the style Tony Blair adopted with the Labour Party. Further, Mulcair knows that in 2015 the NDP won’t be able rely on the personal appeal that Layton provided, which, in the last election, led many voters to overlook some of the party’s more controversial policy ideas.
Although many, including myself, love to characterize Stephen Harper as an egregiously right wing dictator with equally right wing hair, it is difficult to dispute that the man has largely crafted rather moderate centre-right policies that appeal to broad swaths of the electorate. With Harper and Mulcair hugging the centre of the political spectrum on opposing sides, the Liberal Party will find itself increasingly squeezed out of any place to plant its policy flag.
Never before has an NDP leader seemed more poised to become the Prime Minister of Canada. It’s not that Thomas Mulcair is a natural leader –
though he may be, or that he has the so-called ‘royal jelly’ which he might. It’s that he is the spit and image of the generic, leftish, and often quirky Liberal Prime Ministers from Quebec that have dominated this country’s political scene since Wilfred Laurier. This very successful formula for political success, combined with the moderation of party ideology should turn the NDP into the spit and image of the Liberal party in its prime.
This may be an uphill battle for Mulcair, and it may not occur overnight or in time for the 2015 election. But, eventually it will happen and, when it does, it will represent a fatal blow to the Liberal Party’s zombie corpse. The Liberal Party of Canada as we know it, one of the most successful and long-lasting political parties in the history of democracy, is dead. Long live Mulcair’s liberal party.
Ben Hanff is a U1 Political Science and Drama and Theatre Student and has been a member of the Liberal Party since the age of 16. He can be reached at Benjamin.Hanff@mail.mcgill.ca