Sunday, February 22, 2009

Iggy Goes West: The 'Promise of Eden'?

140 years ago, the Canadian west was seen by many as holding the 'Promise of Eden'. A fertile land of unending possibilities; many believed it the key to the nascent Canadian state's future economic prosperity. In time, following the creation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, it even came to be seen, by some, as having the votes needed to abet federal electoral success.

Michael Ignatieff appears to understand this. 'Winning the west' can make all the difference. Electoral success in the west (dependent on one's relative strength in the east) can be the decisive difference between the preservation of a slim minority or the key to a majority. Ignatieff gets this. And really, isn't it about time somebody from the Liberal party did!

So, is Iggy really out to 'win' the west with his wooing?

No. But he does seem to realize it is important to mount a viable challenge to Harpo in his own backyard. Iggy seems to 'get' that the Liberals must ensure the Tory's no longer take western Canada for granted. But with only two Liberal MPs in the three Prairie provinces (none in Alberta) is this really a possibility? In a word (or two): yes & maybe. Fact is, present circumstances may actually bode well for a resurgence of the LPC in the west.

Harpo has broken trust with his base. His R.B. Bennett-esque death-bed conversion to neo-Keynsianism has them wondering what, if anything, the man really stands for. With Harpo now a free-spending, doubletalking scavenger for political advantage, he has hurt his image in western Canada immeasurably. Elements both within the Tory party's old-guard reform sect and the Red Tory progressive wing are disillusioned. In fact, it may be not all that insane to believe that Michael Ignatieff's Liberal's actually now have a 'once in a generation chance' to start to redraw the federal electoral map in western Canada?

Does this mean a massive increase in Liberal seats is coming? No. In 2009, it is all about baby steps. A seat here, a seat there - that is all Iggy must do this time around. Who knows? Maybe thanks to Manic Jack's odd machinations these past months - some hitherto strong urban NDP enclaves (Winnipeg, etc.,) might even be in play next time around. Also there are probably some other Tory ridings - such as one in western Manitoba (Brandon?), one or two in Saskatchewan and, maybe, even one in Edmonton ripe for a Liberal conversion.

To achieve this Iggy must understand three things. The west is not a monolith; each Prairie province has its own identity. Our fundamental belief in Ottawa's ability to vouchsafe our future has been damaged by every PM, regardless of political stripe, since the 1970s. And our provincial electoral patterns in no way reflect a province's national party affiliation. Well, ... err... save perhaps Alberta where the inbred and indoctrinated electorate seem to be politically brainwashed, brain dead and, ... did I already say inbred? Having never cast a meaningful provincial ballot for change in almost 40 years it could be argued Albertans 'know not what they do'! (Course, on this count, it is entirely possible I may be nothing but a simple-minded Fat Arse who knows not of what he speaks?) But I digress...

With Iggy going on the record about his belief that his party's past positions on western issues was both wrongheaded and arrogant - it might be said that he has made a good start in his effort to 'reach out'. His admission in Saskatchewan last week that western Canada's largely negative reaction to the possibility of a Lib-NDP coalition caused him to walk away from the idea was what many wanted to hear. (Fact that he really nixed the idea because of his own internal revulsion of going through a Hillbilly shotgun wedding only to find himself in bed with an unstable mustachioed 'house-mate' is, of course, besides the point.) Bottom line, Iggy said what he had to.

But all this is just a start. For Iggy there is only political advantage to be had if he proves himself serious about his commitment to the west. In the coming months he will have to demonstrate on the floor of the house that western concerns (our concerns?) - are his concerns. And while insular western Tory's are dismissing Iggy's chances in their own backyard - they should not be so quick to chalk all his talk up to empty Liberal bluster. Iggy's repudiation of his party's historically flawed energy policies (NEP) cannot be dismissed. In light of such openness, western Tory's should take some time to reflect on the current lay of their land. Maybe Ignatieff's goal to bring about a Liberal resurgence on the Prairies is not be so far fetched after all. Improbable? Yes. Impossible? No. Fact is, it has been more than fifty years since the confluence of constellations bode so well for Liberal party in Western Canada.

Do I wish him luck? Sure. Am I holding my breath? No. True, the Iggy PR campaign in the west has, so far, hit all the right notes. But, if he really expects to make gains in the west he must continue to play a tune that is true. And on that count I will be listening ... bracing for false notes.

Ironically, at least to my mind, Rex Murphy might have actually been correct for once this past weekend when he said Iggy's western speeches "in their tone and substance, signal he does not intend to simply accept what has been one of the iron laws of Canadian politics for a generation or more: that the Liberal Party hasn't a hope in hell of winning any real support out West." Again, I guess only time will tell. Who knows? Iggy may indeed be the 'patriot' who "understands the destiny of Canada in a way others ... [do] not"?

One thing's for friggin' sure, we won't be seeing Manic Jack on a similar pilgrimage anytime soon ... his NDP PR wagon is broke and ... he's burned all his bridges!


  1. Interestingly enough, the baby steps approach is what the provincial Liberal party needs to use as well -- work toward getting back into the game over time, campaign toward being the opposition, build strong policy, and then challenge for government.

    Many Alberta Liberals seem to think they're going to jump back into government all at once. Politics just doesn't work like that, particularly when you're as much a pariah in Alberta as the Liberal party.

  2. @ Patrick

    What I wouldn't give to see a resurrection of a viable opposition party in your province! You are correct - baby steps would suffice. I would even volunteer to assist in formulating their platform - course I would be the one holding a baseball bat in one hand, a dictionary in the other, and shouting from the top of my lungs the definition of PRAGMATISM! But that's just me. Others may have better ideas?

  3. I'm actually pretty satisfied with the government in this province. Not that I don't see room for improvement.

    We won't see that improvement until we have a stronger opposition. That's why I tend to vote for the opposition parties provincially -- I voted for an NDP candidate last election (he lost to a Tory).

    Opposition is the language of democracy, and I consider myself a democrat above being a conservative.