While I distrust polls it would seem that the bloom is off Justin Trudeau’s rose and it is now a question of whether he’ll manage to hold the Orange tide sufficiently to save Harper or if he’ll be relegated to also-ran status once the debates occur. Either way, the Liberal Party will be a shadow of itself come October. So might the Conservative Party and thus a question – what should the Liberal Party do?
The easy answer is to dump Trudeau and his advisors and find a new leader. Which is, I suspect, exactly what they will do. However, there is another alternative and one which in the privacy of my own blog I want to think about.
Step one: yes, dump the advisors. They appear to be idiots and lack the essential Liberal instinct for the jugular. 32 point Democratic policy papers are a pretty sure sign that the war room has lost the thread. But keep Justin.
Step two: understand that politics is about to undergo a huge and deeply upsetting change. No, it isn’t global warming which isn’t happening. No it isn’t Prime Minister Mulcair repealing Bill C-51. It is about the underlying economy of the world shifting in a way that none of the mainline parties has a clue about dealing with.
Step three: Robots. In fact robots and artificial intelligence and a bunch of interesting biotech and, well, robots. Technology is poised to change the way we do virtually everything, from driving to fast food to drafting wills, we are perilously close to machines being able to deliver the goods without human intervention.
Step four: Yikes. No jobs. Jobs are the way we allocate resources in our current economy. To make stuff, to approve loans, to create new products, to deliver things, to get food to the grocery store, we need people and we pay those people. Because they are paid they can buy stuff and the wonders of a market economy continue. What happens when a 200k a year haul truck driver is replaced by an autonomous driving robot? Well, that is 200k which will not be spent on F-150s and hot tubs in Fort MacMurray.
Step five: Whether the NDP or the Conservatives win the election, neither party has the freedom to think about the implications of an increasingly jobless economy. Pure capitalism, where labour is largely irrelevant to the production of goods and services, is a world that neither the Conservatives nor the NDP have or can contemplate.
Step six: Young Mr. Trudeau, humbled by his deep losses reaches back to his father’s legacy of intelligence and begins to askthe questions the other parties are incapable of. How do we deal with an economy of abundance? How can we finance government when individual earned income plummets? What do we do when “work” is delinked from production? How can we create a new economy out of the ashes of the old?
Step seven: A humbled Mr. Trudeau walks out those questions and looks for really smart people to answer them, for Canada.
It is not at all clear what the answers will be. The advent of serious robotics and the beginnings of applied artificial intelligence will create a situation which has not existed since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. It will be the equivalent of bringing an agrarian society into the machine and factory age. At the moment there is no Canadian political party remotely thinking about any of this.
The Liberal Party, much as I hate its cronyism and its cynicism, has a long tradition of channeling intelligence towards national goals. Not that this has worked out so terribly well but Liberals have for decades at least been open to new ideas and, in a pinch, new paradigms. While the Party is a shadow of its former self and has rushed to embrace the cant of assorted climate change/inequality/SJW cranks, it still has the capacity to embrace and explore new ideas.
As importantly, while it may be wiped out in the next election, rendered a rump in Parliament, it has the history and the credibility to offer solutions which Canadians may take seriously.
Nothing will please me more than seeing the Liberal Party crushed in the next election; but it has the capacity to return and to deal with a new world which is rushing towards us. Justin is about to learn a useful lesson. Where he goes from here may end up being as important as his father’s single-minded determination to keep Canada one nation.