Analysis: Canada's venerable Liberals seek to avoid annihilation

Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:21pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's once-powerful Liberal Party, long seen as the "natural government party," is struggling to avoid annihilation in a political landscape that has squeezed it from left and right.

The center-left Liberals produced popular leaders like Quebecker Pierre Trudeau, who had an almost-unbroken 15 years running the world's second largest country.

But a brutal first-past-the post electoral system that squeezes out smaller parties has relegated the Liberals to a distant third place in Parliament, after they lost seats to the New Democratic Party (NDP) on the left and the governing Conservatives on the right.

They rank a dismal third in opinion polls.

"I frankly don't think the party has much of a chance of staying alive," said Peter Newman, an author and journalist who has chronicled Canadian history for half a century.

Newman's latest book, "When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada," was published in 2011.

The challenge for the Liberals is to convince voters on the left that they are not just NDP-Lite, and to persuade voters on the right that they would do a better job of managing Canada than the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2006.

The Conservatives advocate low taxes, eliminating the budget deficit and tough policies on crime while making it easier to gain environmental approval for oil pipelines and other projects.   Continued...