Anyone out there remember the Liberal Party of Canada? Governed our country for the better part of the 20th century. Produced five leaders who each ruled the land for at least eight years. Briefly tried to convince us that John Manley had charisma. Is any of this ringing a bell?
What some of you may not know is that the Liberal party still exists. It’s true! In fact, by one measure the Liberals currently rank second of the three major federal parties. (That measure? Alphabetical order.)
The buzzword among party members these days is renewal. This month Liberals will gather in Ottawa for the party’s biennial convention (“biennial” from the Latin meaning “no longer able to afford an open bar”). At the convention, Liberals will try to demonstrate they are a relevant 21st-century political force by refusing to accredit bloggers and likely choosing old-guard stalwart and human klaxon Sheila Copps to be party president. EVERYONE CLEAR THE TRACKS FOR THE RENEWAL TRAIN!
Okay, so maybe Liberals aren’t that great at rebuilding. But they are trying, and the results are adorable.
First the party tried to land 5,000 new members or membership renewals. In a written appeal, the national membership secretary said that when supporters ask him why it’s the right time to join, he always responds: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I think we can all agree this is a pretty terrible answer. It contains zero reasons to sign up and two questions that can be parried with the replies “Maybe that dude over there” and “Never.”
More recently, the party unveiled what interim leader Bob Rae insisted would be a “game-changing” initiative: the Million Conversations Campaign.
During this fundraising effort, the party asked supporters to fork over $1 million—with Rae claiming that “every dollar you donate will help us start one more conversation with a Canadian about the issues they care about.”
It wasn’t made clear how the math of a dollar per conversation would work. Are they going to be held by pay phone? Will certain Canadians be paid the minimum wage to listen politely? (A buck? You’ve got my attention for six minutes. Go.)
What matters most is that Rae launched the campaign with possibly my favourite line ever from a political fundraising appeal: “That’s why, as winter falls, and the shimmering holiday lights remind us of the values we cherish, I’m calling on all Liberals . . . ”
So poetic! Surely no one among us hasn’t sat back, gazed upon the shimmering lights on the Christmas tree and immediately thought to themselves: free health care and equality of opportunity for Aboriginals.
But forget about the timeless Liberal value of household electrical outlets—what about all those chit-chats? “As national director of the Liberal Party of Canada, it’s going to be my job to turn a million dollars into a million conversations,” Ian McKay wrote to party members. “Politics isn’t rocket science. It’s about people talking to people.”
Actually, politics is about cutthroat tactics, relentless message control and making Andrew Coyne get all tut-tutty on Twitter about your MPs’ juvenile antics—but the point remains: the Liberals really want to talk to Canadians about . . . something.
“Think for a minute about the awesome power of one million constructive conversations,” MP Ralph Goodale wrote to supporters. Think about it. Consider it. LET IT MARINATE IN YOUR BRAIN JUICES, CANADA.
Personally, I might have considered donating to the Million Conversations Campaign if I could have had input into the subjects of the conversations.
Dear Liberal party: here is $5. Please conduct conversations with five Canadians on the following topics:
—the third season of Dukes of Hazzard
—thickest moustaches of the Yukon
—the efficacy of quantitative easing in a time of economic stagnation
—are you going to finish that sandwich?
In the end, Liberals raised enough money to hold 1,004,750 “conversations.” This prompted Bob Rae to dispatch a triumphant missive: “I asked you for a holiday miracle and you made it happen.”
You heard him right, folks. Getting people to donate money to the Liberal Party of Canada now qualifies as a holiday miracle. The game has truly been changed.