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A grocer tends to produce at a Vancouver store on May 12, 2010. (Brett Beadle/Brett Beadle for The Globe and Mail)
A grocer tends to produce at a Vancouver store on May 12, 2010. (Brett Beadle/Brett Beadle for The Globe and Mail)

Robert Silver

What changing everything looks like for Liberals (policy edition) Add to ...

At a certain point, the Liberal Party will need to start giving definition to what "change" means from a substantive perspective. What follows is an example of the type of core change to the proposition we make to Canadians that I think Liberals will need to consider. I happen to believe in what is proposed below and think it is a policy the Liberal Party should adopt but (a) this isn't what keeps me up at night, there are lots of other policy options that can get us there; and (b) I write this post to make a point about the type of change that I think is required rather than the specifics of this idea - though obviously folks are free to debate it however they want.

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[Picture me doing my best Martin Landau voice from his appearances on Entourage]

What if I was to tell you that I had a policy that could save an average Canadian family $300 per year, now would that be something you might be interested in?

What if I was to tell you that this policy wouldn't cost government coffers a penny and in fact would create more wealth for the country and is supported by almost every expert, would that be something you might be interested in?

[End Landau shtick.]

So $300 in the pockets of an average family, doesn't cost the treasury a dime and would have broad expert endorsement, it's a slam dunk right?

So why in the world does every party - including the Liberal Party of Canada - support Canada's existing supply management system?

We could be alone in the next campaign saying: "We will save your family $300 on your grocery bill, won't sacrifice in any way the health or safety of your family's food and Canada would suddenly be able to take a leadership role in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations."

Supply management in and of itself is boring as hell for everyone other than trade policy wonks but being able to campaign on making grocery bills cheaper? There may be something there.

Yes, it is a rejection of long-held Liberal orthodoxy. That's a very good reason to do it. It also happens to be really good policy.

Please note, I have no idea if this is a move to the "left" (supply management is hugely regressive, after all, grocery bills eat up a much higher percentage of poor Canadian's income) or the "right" (by adopting a free-market approach) so in terms of the frame that folks are debating about where on the spectrum we need to move, it is a head scratcher. In other words, it is a perfect example of where the Liberal Party absolutely has to be, in my humble opinion.

And please don't kid yourself for a second: The party would be attacked viciously by some groups for making this change. Viciously.

But it isn't a wedge position. It isn't a cheap gimmick. We are saying we are for X, meaning we are opposed to Y. If sold properly, it could be both immensely popular and happens to be the right thing to do.

Again, as I have said previously, there is no magic answer for the Liberal Party. No one speech, no one leader, no one policy that changes everything. Don't like this change? Think this is a bridge too far? That's okay. Fair enough. But realize that if we go into the next election making essentially the same proposition we have made in the past - if only the Learning Passport had been $2,000 per student instead of $1,000 - we will get the same result.

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