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Robert Silver

Why do Liberals support Canada Post? Add to ...

So we now know the rough time-line for the attempted rebuilding of the Liberal Party. Coming out of the “extraordinary” convention on Saturday, we will elect a new executive in January of 2012. Bob Rae will serve as interim leader for another 18-24 months at which point a new, permanent leader will be selected.

There was much discussion in Liberal land about whether this 18-24 month period with an interim leader is too long or not long enough. While I had my opinions, the six-month difference between the “end of 2012” plan that was proposed and the timeline that was adopted doesn’t matter much. If we get our act together, the time will be well spent. If we waste the time – if we think that presenting the same party to Canadians in 2015 with a different face on the posters and maybe a marginally better ground game and fundraising structure in place will solve all – then it doesn’t matter how short or long the time with an interim leader was, the results will be very, very bad.

Honestly, I’m far more interested in what a different Liberal Party might actually look like, what we stand and fight for, what it takes to build a new, winning voting coalition and a modern political machine rather than the precise date when the next leadership vote takes place. It’s hard to argue that the timing of when we choose our next leader ranks in the top-10 or even top-50 challenges we face.

I think most Liberals are coming at the problem the same way and realize solutions aren’t going to be handed down from on high. It seems to me, there’s a huge amount of energy among Liberals and other interested Canadians to take control of this tough, almost monumental process.

I proposed last month that the Liberal Party should reverse our historic position on supply management. I didn’t come at the issue from the perspective of moving the party to the “right” or “left” but rather I think it is (a) good policy; and (b) I think it can be sold to a broad coalition of voters we can target with said policy (without any polling to support this assertion). It is also a big change for the party and would position us alone among our political opponents – both positives in my opinion.

Some Liberals clearly agreed with me on this, others disagreed. I have no monopoly on where we should go as a party, nor any formal role in deciding where the party should land.

Speaking of monopolies, the Canada Post lockout/strike will almost certainly come to an end over the next number of days, either through a settlement or back-to-work legislation. My question for Liberals going forward is why do we support the status-quo on Canada Post’s statutory monopoly on mail delivery? This goes beyond the lockout: Do we think this is the right way to govern mail delivery in 2011? If not, what models might we consider going forward? I have my own thoughts – I don’t think the status-quo makes much sense when you get beyond a status-quo bias, that the “protect rural mail delivery” argument is a fallacy and, in any case, there are far more efficient ways to subsidize rural and remote Canadians if that’s a policy priority.

I don’t lie in bed at night worrying about mail delivery. I’m not sure many Canadians do. That having been said, if we came out as a party and proposed dramatic changes to Canada Post’s business, I think it is good policy. I think it could be sold to a broad coalition of Canadians, it would clearly differentiate us from our opponents and would signify a major change in the party.

But maybe many (most?) Liberals disagree with me. Again, that’s absolutely fine. Liberals may also disagree with me on the next five, 10, or 20 policy changes I propose. At a certain point though, beyond just rhetorically saying “we need to put everything on the table,” Liberals will need to propose substantive changes or else we will hit the next 18-24 months, and then 2015 looking almost exactly the same to Canadians. The results will not be positive.

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