The PLC anchors on the left, and too bad for the center

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 The PLC is anchored on the left, and so much for the center

Photo: Sean KilpatrickThe Canadian Press Justin Trudeau arrives for a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday

What do guaranteed minimum income, compulsory voting, electoral reform and the nationalization of telecommunications infrastructure have in common? These are not proposals from NDP activists, but rather from supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada. They will be addressed in congress this weekend and they very well risk rekindling the intellectual debate between progressivism and centrism which is increasingly animating the PLC, in power for more than seven years and which is preparing to face its toughest adversary. recent years.

The “Red Tories” have been grumbling behind the scenes for some time now that their party continues to swing to the left under Justin Trudeau, to the point of forgetting the voters at the center of the political spectrum. This resolutely progressive PLC has won its bet — and the government — since 2015, but at the same time it has gradually alienated another part of its electorate.

The militant base, on the other hand, seems to have consolidated itself in this new turn. Of the 36 resolutions that will be debated at the Ottawa Convention Center in a few days, a third might as well have been taken from a New Democratic Party platform.

Make Canada Health Transfer funds conditional on national standards for seniors; guarantee four weeks of paid leave to federal workers; get federal investment funds out of fossil fuels and stop subsidizing these industries once and for all; charging a global minimum tax threshold to multinationals; “establish state corporations” and “acquire existing infrastructure” in telecommunications to reduce mobile phone bills; lower the legal voting age to 17 or make it compulsory. The book of resolutions also proposes to add three seats on the Supreme Court reserved for “holders of indigenous knowledge or indigenous jurists”, similar to the three seats reserved for judges from Quebec who have mastered the Civil Code (this which would require a unanimous constitutional amendment).

The Liberals argue that the leftmost fringe of their “big red tent” has always been the most active. No wonder, then, that these activists wrote a large number of proposals. And these will not all be adopted on Saturday, even less necessarily inserted in the next electoral platform of the PLC.

The fact remains that they nevertheless testify to the orientation of the activists who have been involved in this partisan process for almost a year.

“There is nothing in there to bring in the 'Reds'. Tories 'in the fold,' observed a former Liberal strategist this week. One of his former colleagues described this tug-of-war as “the biggest intellectual debate in the party today”.

This other fringe of the liberal family is not completely eclipsed from the congress. The two resolutions from Quebec precisely propose to improve the defense budgets and to develop “a quantified and clear proposal to return to a balanced budget”. “It speaks to the fact that there is still a current closer to the center which, for all intents and purposes, has many political orphans”, judged the first liberal.

The Conservative Scarecrow

His former colleagues, who remain in government today, believe that the current balance between progressive values ​​and fiscal responsibility is the right one. They are betting that it is better to avoid alienating NDP-turned-Liberal voters. And that maintaining this course also makes it possible to “mark an important contrast with Pierre Poilievre”. His Conservative Party having moved further to the right, the center remains vacant anyway – no need to occupy it, therefore, believes another liberal strategist.

This antithesis will even be presented on stage, in Congress, in the person of Hillary Clinton, defeated in the 2016 presidential election by the populist Donald Trump. The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, had also been invited to parade among the progressive figures at the antipodes of Pierre Poilievre, but he was not available, according to our information.

Justin Trudeau will deliver a long-awaited speech on Thursday evening. “We all need it” after months of allegations of foreign interference and accusations of appeasement of Beijing, confesses one of the strategists. “It's not easy to get hit on a regular basis.

As the PLC approaches its eighth anniversary in office with declining voting intentions in the polls, this speech will serve not only to invigorate the troops, but also to calm the ambitions of aspiring candidates for the succession of the Prime Minister, notes another source. Of the lot, only Mélanie Joly seems to have, for the moment, an event planned on the sidelines of the convention, through her riding association.

If it wants to reassure the entire Liberal family, however, the party will have to unearth bold new proposals: at best, this weekend's convention will debate—again—the construction of a high-speed train. speed between Windsor and Quebec, rather than just a high-frequency train.

It was, however, at previous conventions that the ideas of legalizing cannabis or creating a national insurance program -medications. (The first was quickly implemented; the second is still pending.)

If he intends to run for a fourth term, rarely granted to a federal party in Canada, Justin Trudeau can only count on on the good faith of his constituents and their reluctance to see Pierre Poilievre succeed him. But in the absence of new promises to make them dangle, it is not guaranteed that they will follow him again. These ideas, the Liberals will obviously have to try to find elsewhere than at their congress.