Liberal Party of Canada: Liberal or Neo-Liberal?

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At the same time as the Israeli assault against the Gaza strip prepares to shift gears, from a bombing campaign — that has had no shortage of civilian casualties — to a full fledged ground offensive, its seems as if the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) under the leadership of Justin Trudeau has decided to shift gears too, in terms of foreign policy.

In the past week the Liberal leadership decided through several statements to show their uncompromising support for “Israel’s right to self-defense” against the missile attacks of Hamas that have targeted several Israeli communities . This is merely another manifestation of the continued mutation of the LPC, which over the past year and a half, since the election of Justin Trudeau as leader, has shed much of its past cornerstone. Past centre pieces of the LPC brand are now regarded as relics of days past.

In distancing himself from a balanced approached to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Justin Trudeau has renewed a trend which has slowly been changing the LPC since the days of Paul Martin, and continued under the hospices of Ignatieff. But in many ways Trudeau went further than his predecessors, adopting a tone and rhetoric that could of very well been Harperite talking points. One thing is certain: in the space of 5 minutes, Trudeau shattered any hopes of a renewed Pearson peacekeeping outlook on international affairs.

20130401-081630-gBut this is but the tip of the iceberg unfortunately, when it comes to the Liberal “race to the right”. During the past year and half, very little Liberal statements or policy announcements have had an ounce of progressivity. From their virulent support for the Keystone XL pipeline and support of the Nexen take-over, to their silence concerning the cuts to CBC, Employment Insurance, Post Canada or their refusal to show support for a higher corporate tax rate. The LPC has done everything to prove themselves the worthy heirs of the Conservative agenda which has held power in Ottawa for the past 10 years.

A few months prior I wrote an article pursuing the following question: is the LPC still Liberal? In the space of a few months, the newly anointed leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada has had time to settle and put in motion their strategy to regain the ground they have lost over the past decade on the Canadian political scene. And their strategy speaks for itself, the rejuvenated Liberal establishment has decide to embrace in many ways the neo-liberal agenda that has been set in motion by Harper’s conservatives. After all, as the saying goes, when you can’t beat them, might as well join them. The LPC isn’t Liberal anymore, rather it has decided to shed that skin and embrace a new neo-liberal gown.

The path the LPC has embarked on is one of very high risk; it’s a political calculation that Canadians fundamentally agree with the “reformed” Canada Stephen Harper has been carefully crafting for the past decade. A Canada, which is in many ways, the antithesis of what (supposedly) past Liberal governments built over decades. In absolute terms, there is little to no space in the stances taken by the current leadership of the LPC for some of the most important pieces of the “Liberal” legacy. It seems as if this Liberal establishment has once and for all come to terms with the fact that they will put that legacy to the grave. Harper didn’t have to do it after all; they have decided to do it themselves.

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Yet, in recent polls, when asked what are the political elements that most define Canada, the pieces of legislation or policies that Canadians are the proudest of, Canadians responded overwhelmingly in favor of universal health care, a foreign policy revolving around the promotion of peace and the charter of rights and freedoms. The LPC has let transpire through their silence to the cuts to public services that they will not champion a rhetoric which will challenge the status quo and austerity measures. Much to the contrary, they will probably be at the forefront of the struggle to balance the budget on the backs of less well off Canadians.

In terms of foreign policy, Trudeau’s statement last week has completely written off a balanced approach. And through his criticism of his father’s plans for a national energy strategy and his promise not to open up the constitutional box of Pandora, a Liberal government would not make any extraordinary maneuvers in terms of Canada’s legal framework.

In terms of Indigenous sovereignty and instating a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations communities throughout Canada, Trudeau hasn’t uttered a word.

Canadians are struggling to come to terms with an ever changing political scene, and the damage which has been done to their country. Many Canadians have become apathetic about politics in general, which is more than understandable, but on the other hand many Canadians are ready to fight tooth and nail to defend the principles and values which have defined their perception of Canada and thus of themselves, and  I considered myself one of them. But to do so and succeeded we must first understand that replacing Harper isn’t the be all end all, it’s what and who we replace him with.

PS: I would like to extend my solidarity to the people of Gaza and recognize the death of thousands and still counting civilians, which have perished in these past 2 weeks and a half, may they rest in peace. It is my heartfelt hope that one day Canada will be at the forefront of crafting a solution with the peoples of Palestine and Israel which will ensure justice and peace for all.

A luta continua.

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