I am a Liberal

Written by Harold McNeill on August 13th, 2012. Posted in Editorials

This photo, which places Bob Rae in a diminutive position in front of the large Liberal backdrop and with a rather sad, resigned look on his face as he gives a farewell wave, captures, in a poignant way, the current status of the Liberal Party of Canada. Any new party leader will need to change the face of the party by bringing an inspired vision and indefatigable confidence about the future.

February 2015.  This post is brought forward from the summer of 2012.

I am a Liberal.  There, I’ve said it again. It sounds suspiciously like the preamble to a confession of having had an addiction, does it not?  Also, is it not funny how saying those words out loud has a better feel when sitting at the top of the heap rather than at the bottom?  Well, not exactly the bottom, we are still above the Greens and the Block, but as the Greens are in an ascendency period, they are still savouring the euphoria of success.

While I have never been active in party politics, in the past couple of years I have taken to writing blog posts that present a liberal (I guess you could call it leftist) point view. My editorials speak to Conservative policies, many of which have now been legislatively implemented. As I grew to adulthood during the euphoria that followed the end of WW II, I can still remember the long fight for civil rights in the United States and Canada’s repatriation of the Constitution and the proclamation of the Charter of Rights, the second of which has been an anathema to the Conservative way of thinking and a stick in their craw every since.

While the Liberals are not necessarily socialists (for that matter they tend towards the centre of several issues), they do have much more in common with the NDP and Greens than with the Conservatives. The same could be said of Canadians and Canada in general as 60 – 70% of the population lean to the left.  That is until the Liberals imploded 15 years ago and handed the Conservatives power and the NDP the official opposition in the last election.

That the Liberals have fallen so far in recent years has caused me much concern, a concern, I think, that is shared by a growing number Canadians. With few exceptions (Alberta being a prime example) Canadians prefer a model that is more in tune with the north-western part of Europe, New Zealand and Australia, than the United States even under a Democratic President.  That is, until the Conservatives came to power in the early part of this century.  And, as long as the left splits the vote three ways (the Greens always take a few points and with the disintegration of the Bloc) the Conservatives will continue to hold power in either a minority or majority.

A current day issue in Canada is how our country is being inexorably changed by ‘fear mongering’ something that has become systemic within the Conservative party. Taken directly from the Republican election booklet, fear mongering is of growing concern to Canadians and even to many within the Conservative party. Not only have the Conservative leaders been very effective at bringing together the disparate constituents within their party (extreme right, far right, right and a few central), they have also become extremely effective at using fear and attack ads as a means to ‘sell’ their legislative agenda and brand.  Their current platform has four main planks: “terrorism, crime, drugs and the socialist hoards at the door”.

The many bills on Law and Order, Security (Terrorism), the Economy, Environment are all couched in terms of the danger posed by criminals, pedophiles, international terrorists, spend thrift Liberals and NDP), environmentalists and others who threaten the Conservative brand. Since gaining a majority the Conservatives have become better and better at pushing those hot buttons. The following quote by Gladstone sums up my thoughts on part of the difference between Liberals and Conservatives:

Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.” ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

Several links to other Editorials on this theme is provided in the footer.

Victoria Area Liberal Ridings BBQ

Today (Sunday), Lynn and I attended a three-riding BBQ (Victoria, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca and Saanich and the Islands) at Elk Lake. While it was heartening to see something in the order of 100 Liberals (or would be Liberals) gathered in one spot, that number will need to grow by a factor of 10 or 20, if there is to ever be a chance of displacing the Conservatives from power.

Such meetings will also need to present an upbeat feeling of confidence (‘rah, rah, rah, if you will) about the future, as opposed to small pockets of strangers milling around looking for a focus while wondering what others are thinking. I was tempted to step forward and try to draw everyone in and gather around the guest speaker, but as I was new to this group, I thought it best to hold my piece and let the speakers handle that task themselves. It did not happen.

While Marc Garneau, MP for Westmont-Ville-Marie, spoke in a ‘heart-felt’ manner about the challenges to be faced and his words were generally positive, he did not seem all that positive the Liberals could reclaim the hearts and minds of Canadians by the time of the next election.  While I think Marc is an excellent MP and, at the riding level, an MP of the type the Liberals need to attract, the key to future party success will largely depend upon the selection of a dynamic leader able to inspire by the force of his or her personality.

As for the other young man who expressed an interest in the leadership if he could first raise $100,000, I suspect his ego may have put the squeeze on his common sense. Believe me, I understand that particular challenge as my own ego has on more than one occasion squeezed out my common sense.

As for a new leader, that person will not only need a solid knowledge of the diverse issues and politics of Canada but, and perhaps even more importantly, he or she will need to possess that certain leadership charisma that will draw people in much as did Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien in their early years the Conservatives, John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney.

None of recent the recent Liberal leaders have possessed that quality and all were easy targets as the opposition picked apart their personality short comings. That Harper, a man possessing not an ounce of charisma, became Prime Minister, was almost entirely due to a weakened Liberal party having selected vulnerable leaders.  Had it not been for Quebecers turning their backs on the Block with such a vengeance, the entire opposition benches may well have been reduced to a fraction of their present strength. Who knows where Quebec might go the next time around?

While it is disturbing to think that personality can play such an important role in the leadership of our country, that our recent choices have all crashed and burned, is a stark reminder. That the NDP did so well is largely a testament to the leadership skills of Jack Layton, but how the NDP will survive in the future remains an open question.

Will the Liberals find that leader?  I really don’t know, but every member of the party had better pay attention to those who emerge and as a first question ask:  “Does this person possess both the charisma and political instincts needed to capture the hearts and minds of Canadians?”  If the answer is not an unequivocal ‘yes’, then they had better keep looking until that person is found.  Justin Trudeau may be that person as he certainly has the charisma to bring in young Canadians jaded by the last two decades of politics, but only time will tell whether he has the political instincts to take on Stephen Harper, a man who would sell his grandmother or best friend if it meant an extra percentage point in the polls.

For the Liberals, if that person does not emerge by next April, the next best choice (perhaps only choice) will be for the Liberals and NDP to join forces.  That of course would become fodder for the Conservative as it did when the subject came up during a previous election.  Anything short of that will lead to another Conservative minority, perhaps not a majority.

Now that the Conservatives have had several minorities and one solid majority, giving them back-to-back majorities may be all that is needed to forever change the face of the country in ways from which it could take decades to recover. That would certainly be a sad day for the vast majority of Canadians.

Harold McNeill

A few more salient quotes (Borrowed from a web site titled Evans Liberal Politics) Link Here 

An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.” ~George Eliot, Felix Holt, Chapter 5

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio speech, 26 October 1939

I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.” ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.” ~ Oscar Ameringer

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself to meet them.” ~Phyllis Bottome

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ unknown

“Whenever I hear, ‘It can’t be done,’ I know I’m close to success.” ~ Michael Flatley

Other Political Comment Editorials on this blog:

Best Laid Plans:   Political commentary on NDP and prediction made about the outcome of the last Federal Election. Also reference to book by the same name, written by Terry Fallis provides additional background. (April 2011)

Preserving our Civil Liberties:  Why it is important that we should all care. (July 2011)

Border Security Gone Crazy: Why have we continued along the path of continually increasing boarder security between Canada and the United. Perhaps we cannot trust those Americans. (August, 2011)

Crime and Punishment: Ideology trumps reason.  Comments about the Federal Governments War on Crime. (September 2011)

Politics of Fear:  How political parties use fear to manipulate the population (November 2011)

Who’s Accountable to Whom:  A spoof on the sudden prorogration of Parliament. (February 2012)

Tim Horton’s Morning Posts

Provides short editiorials on items of current interest, many relating to political matters of the day.


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  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.


    November 15, 2021 |

    These stories brought back some sweet memories for me. a wonderful trip down memory lane . the photos were great. It has made me miss those days.


    November 15, 2021 |

    Enjoyed your story Harold Dorothy Hartman