Tough Love lesson for the Liberals

In the aftermath of this election, one thing is abundantly clear and that is Canadians don’t share Liberals pre-occupation with nostalgia. If there was a moment in this campaign where I sensed the election was over, it was when our brain trust looked to the past for inspiration (as they did in 2008 as well, with similar headlines), it told me that we still didn’t quite understand our audience. 

I never understood why Ignatieff, or his handlers, so readily embraced the Liberal lineage, spoke in successive fashion, as though the latest prince of a historical dynasty. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been a Liberal "forever", so I have a detached objectivity, but I know for certain that Canadians see a very "checkered" brand when Liberals wax poetically about the gallant past. I’m not discounting the tremendous achievements, as a student of history I appreciate and understand the central place this party has played in our nation’s evolution. However, I also understand, in the starkest terms possible that the past is both inspiring and an albatross, particularly for a man like Ignatieff, with no direct involvement in the "glory years", the connection was more hindrance than help. 

Our brand needs to completely and utterly re-invent itself, so to hear Ignatieff continually take ownership of the past in speech after speech, I would classify a core strategic error. The embrace was a clear signal that Liberals didn’t understand the mood of the country, Canadians simply didn’t share the same pride, the flowery history lesson. This fact explains why when the "change" bandwagon began, voters completely BYPASSED the Liberals, all establishment, all the time, hardly a testament to something different. 

I’ve moaned on this topic for sometime, and I’ve met resistance from fellow Liberals. We had a great economic record, we had a great international stature, we had this, we had that, but the key word for me is HAD. With that reality in mind, "reminding Canadians" is forever a double edged sword, primarily because of all the baggage a trip down memory lane provides. If I had one piece of advice for Liberals, ditch the rear view mirror routine, it moves no voter, if anything it repels(if you look at turnout, it also apparently does NOTHING to turn out our base, the ultimate indignity). Liberals should remember their past, be proud of what was accomplished, lament what was lost, but that should be a private conversation. In public, in regard to brand, we need to become the "New Liberals", a complete and utter re-introduction to Canadians, which necessitates a public break from the past. The Canadian public, both solitudes, have spoken loud and clear, let’s understand what they’ve said once and for all. All I see is the horizon in front of me, that’s IT.

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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