What do we make of the fact that both the Conservative finance minister and his Liberal Ontario counterpart have subcontracted the dirty work of privatizing assets and deregulation to anti-democratic omnibus bills that have escaped serious public debate?
Rather than negotiate elements of the 327-page package of unrelated assaults on public services and social and enviro regulations, Dalton McGuinty demanded the NDP sign on to 327 pages of change or face an election where he'd hope to win a majority of obedient Liberals.
With as much sadness as anger, it needs to be said that this represents the end of an era in Canada, one of the last strongholds of a "vital centre," or what former Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau called the "radical middle."
History has caught up with the "natural governing party of Canada." The once national party has no presence in the Prairies, the only region experiencing some kind of economic boom, and little clout elsewhere.
At the provincial level, all three governing Liberal parties - in Quebec, Ontario and BC - are becoming parties of the hard-edged right. Because the Constitution gives provinces control over gambling, and because Ontario has no oil or gas, the main difference between the Ontario Liberal and federal Conservative strategies is the province's enthusiasm for casinos as job creation.
The death of liberal England happened between 1910 and 1914, and similar terminal illnesses befell liberal parties in Europe and Russia in the same era. Canada's Liberals, who from the 1940s to the 90s installed many of the fundamentals of what was called a "welfare state," are on the list of so many other breeds heading for extinction in today's harsh world.
How can this be? And what does it mean for social movements that have long counted on a sympathetic hearing and reasonable concessions from Liberal governments?
I believe Canadian Liberalism has been sunk by a perfect storm.
First, the drastic weakening of the occupational groupings that formed the voting and activist base favouring generous Liberalism - government workers, teachers, tradespeople and middle managers in secure jobs with major corporations. Most of these people enjoyed the benefits of health and social programs while resisting identification with downright radicals. Many of the large corporations employing them were tolerant of government-funded programs that fostered good living conditions and a buoyant consumer economy.
Then there was the collapse of the Soviet Union. This removed a pressure point in favour of social liberalism - capitalism up until then had to compete with communism to show it was a superior way to advance the world's dispossessed. Such competition by differing economic systems was displaced by a global monopoly promoting the "Washington consensus" driving privatization, deregulation, corporate tax cuts and union-busting.
The swerve to the right by the tag team of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin federally and the election of Dalton McGuinty testify to this trend since the 90s. Meanwhile, social democrats moved to the centre of the spectrum, occupying the same pivot point the Liberals had once controlled. Both Thomas Mulcair and Andrea Horwath have made the most of this opportunity.
To these factors we have to add the toxic remake of the business class in Canada and throughout the G20. Once dominated by manufacturers and others committed to a stable workforce, the business class is now dominated by money traders, speculators and resource extractors who take value from the real economy, giving back little in return.
Such antisocial elements defined the various internet and housing bubbles of the last 20 years. In Canada they're exemplified by tar sands promoters, and in Ontario by those poised to exploit the Far North. In Europe they're the financial industry; traders can move billions out of local economies on a whim, threatening governments with the collapse of their currency.
Liberal governments that only 30 years ago could legislate in areas such as Ontario knowing that Stelco, Dofasco, Royal Bank of Canada, General Motors and Kraft had no choice but to stay and no better place to set up, now live in constant fear of financial exodus.
In the absence of the kind of home-based economy that a fully developed food sector might foster, there is no counterweight to the promoters, financiers and speculators - and thus no place for an old-style Liberal government.
The strange death of Canadian Liberalism will be mourned by some enviro groups that have thrived in the Beltway near Queen's Park, sometimes serving as senior staff for or receiving major grants from Liberal governments when not leading major non-profits.
When David Suzuki publicly lambasted the Ontario budget on June 12 for its assaults on enviro measures and endangered species, members of these groups quickly filled the email ether with statements disassociating themselves from his brutal equation of the Liberal and Conservative omnibus bills.
But, alas, Suzuki spoke the truth, and it is a truth that will fundamentally change the landscape of Canadian politics. Things fall apart, the poet Yeats said of times like these, the centre cannot hold.