It is commonly said that the Chinese word for crisis (weiji) also contains the word for opportunity. The NL Liberals should take heed that for them, there is both significant crisis and significant opportunity in their current predicament. Unfortunately for them the time to capitalize on that opportunity may be passing them by.
So from my humble armchair perspective I would like to offer some advice to the NL Liberal Party to help ensure that they take complete advantage of this opportunity and climb their way back to the top of the NL political mountain.
First the "Things to Do" list. These things will help the party attract supporters and prepare for eventually taking control of government. In no particular order:
- Act like a government in waiting. In other words don't just criticize the current policies, develop sound public policy and advocate for it. Act as though you know what you're doing and then do it. The worst that could happen is that policies you develop could actually be accepted. The best scenario would see the current government deny your great ideas only to their own detriment, and then when you form a government you already have great policy ready to go!
- Organize. One of the major holes in the campaign for 2011 was the lack of organization across the board. The political machine was broken, and it needs fixing. District associations were nearly nonexistent.
- Engage the public. People feel separate from the political process and some actually want to take part! Get them involved. Press releases are nearly useless, facebook and twitter are nice but there has to be an innovative approach to reaching out to people, putting a face on the party, and getting people involved in the conversation.
- Support good ideas. Even when they aren't yours. Good ideas are good ideas so don't be afraid to admit it when you see one that isn't yours.
- Be honest and bold. Be better then they are and inspire people. People need to know that you are in it for the right reasons, and that comes from integrity and honesty.
Now for the "Things Not to Do" list.
- Don't get drawn in to every argument. There's no end to the issues that can be debated but you need to focus on what's really important. Calling for Ministers to resign every week simply depletes your political capital.
- Don't be vague. Offer specific detailed proposals and criticisms whenever possible. Being too vague just makes it look like you want wiggle room to change the rules when you form government.
- Don't let the NDP lead. They made significant gains in the 2011 election and they certainly bring a different and valuable perspective to some issues. They will struggle with growing pains and you must show that the Liberal Party is the next party to form government.
- Don't be afraid. The biggest challenge is to overcome the fear of doing something that might upset someone. Be bold and take stands on important files. You are bound to piss off some people anyway so it may as well be over something important. Hard decisions are a very important of government, so show people you are up to the challenge.
I gladly admit that I'm no political genius. But I have been a candidate and I've long been a follower of the process and a voter. I want the best government possible, regardless of what political stripe the majority happen to be. Currently in NL the PC government has repeatedly shown that they are out of ideas and they are not up to the task of working in the best interests of the public. The provincial NDP will try to take greater control but they'll likely find that their policies are too far left, and weak on the financial side for NL.
The Liberal Party offers the best blend of experience and potential for innovation. They can form the next government in NL. But only if they truly take advantage of the current opportunity to demonstrate to the public that they are ready to rise to the challenge. The election of 2011 was a huge opportunity that passed them by. If they fail to cease this current opportunity then they will fall victim to their own crisis.