In fact, according to EKOS’ data stretching back to 1997, the percentage of Canadians who seem themselves as small ‘l’ liberals has been growing. It has been on the upswing since 2008, and is currently at the highest level in at least 16 years.
"I want to know from this premier why anybody in Ontario should have any trust whatsoever in any Liberal in this province," demanded NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Me thinks Ms. Horwath has a problem.
Sure, the Ontario NDP Leader was employing some political hyperbole; in partisan fashion, she wants to stigmatize opposing tribes as evil and unworthy of trust, under any circumstances.
On the activity scale, politics weighs in more heavily on demonizing the other than it does strengthening one's own brand. The Liberals in Ontario do the same thing when they refer to the Harris-Hudak Tories. Tim Hudak is not Mike Harris - in fact, he's further to the right in his approach than his former boss and deserves to be judged on his own positions.
The system-wide reliance on broad-brush partisanship for partisan gain at the expense of real communication and shared solution development is why people tune out of politics in the first place. It also distracts from the broader trend that's happening outside of the nation's legislatures. Society is becoming increasingly inclusive, collaborative and desirous of change - not regression to some fictitious, glorious libertarian past, but adaptation to the evolving world around us.
Newly-minted Premier Kathleen Wynne embodies this trend in multiple ways - she's a new demographic as far as provincial leadership goes, but she also brings a whole different approach to politics - empathy, collaboration and strategic, long-term planning. Her approach has led her to victory after victory for a reason.
There's a bit of a branding problem, obviously - liberalism is synonymous with progress. The fact that more people see themselves as progressive doesn't mean they buy in to tribal Liberalism, nor should it. The same reality applies to all political Parties - when they look to reinforce tribal allegiances, they neglect the big-picture thinking that is ultimately what endears their brand to voters. All political Parties, even Stephen Harper's, do better when they move to the middle of the political spectrum.
Tim Hudak is a my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy; inflexible, confident past reason and fixated on a static view of the world that has never been reflected in reality. He won't work with others, because he can't - he sees success as an individual thing, only. One doesn't need to imagine how that approach would impact society - just look at his White Papers to see how he would attempt to deconstruct our social infrastructure. Keep in mind, though, the PC website only lets you in if you're willing to add yourself to their mailing list.
Hudak has already removed himself from the political conversation, marginalizing his Party's ability to effect change once again. Alas, when the only tool in your box is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
Horwath, though, has a unique opportunity to capitalize on Ontario's desire for a collaborative, progressive, liberal approach to politics - she just needs to walk the walk, as she has successfully done before. If she is able to truly lead by example and get past the tired staples of partisan politics, she might even stand a chance of stealing a bit of the progress market share.
The way to do this isn't to take Hudak's approach, but to out-liberal the Premier on the leadership front - collaborate with the other Parties, focus on solutions and spend a bit less time on the partisan cut-and-thrust.
How she performs will be the truest indication of whether she believes progress is possible or not. She best keep in mind, though, that society will keep moving in the same direction regardless.