Monday, March 16, 2009

A policy of silence

The Hill Times' story on the Libs' plan to prevent any policy ideas from leaking out of their ranks deserves a snarky "shorter". But I'm not sure I can do much better than the headline itself:
Liberals to hold policy convention, but won't talk about policy

The federal Liberals will hold a major policy convention in early May, but they are refusing to discuss policy ideas and say they are avoiding making any policy suggestions that the governing Conservatives can copy in the next election.
Of course, it's not a huge surprise that the Libs would want to follow a different strategy than they did with the failed attempt to sell the Green Shift. But the Libs' apparent plan to avoid making any substantial policy suggestions until an election campaign looks to be a serious sign of weakness.

After all, there are two outcomes which the Libs are apparently concerned with in presenting any policy to the public. But one of those is a result which an opposition party is supposed to want to bring about: namely, for the Cons to recognize the wisdom behind a policy and decide to implement it themselves.

The fact that the Libs apparently fear that result may signal in part that they're veering even further to the right than they've made clear so far, such that their plans are ones which the government which the Libs themselves criticize as "hard-right" would want to adopt. But it also suggests that the Libs are perfectly happy to delay the implementation of what they think to be good ideas for the benefit of nobody but themselves.

Of course, the other danger in unveiling policies early on is the prospect of a coordinated Con attack like the one levelled at the Green Shift. But there too, it can hardly be a sign of strength that the Libs don't think their platform can withstand a public debate, such that they need to keep it under wraps until a time when there's little prospect of a full public discussion. And an information vacuum about the Libs' policy direction only figures to make it easier for the Cons to keep pretending that their platform consists solely of the weak points which they've dropped precisely because they haven't played well.

Fortunately, there's still one national opposition party that isn't afraid to present its ideas to the public. And the more the Libs try to make themselves an opposition about nothing, the better the NDP should look in comparison.

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