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Small-l liberal

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The term small-l liberal is used, particularly in reference to Australian and Canadian politics, to distinguish between holders of an ideology of liberalism and adherents to either the Liberal Party of Australia or the Liberal Party of Canada (capital L). The term is also used in other countries which have Liberal parties to distinguish liberal thinkers in general from supporters of the Liberal Party.

In Australia

Typically, one who self-identifies as a small-l liberal in Australia professes admiration for some version of classical liberalism. They are in strong support of individualism, civil liberties and freedom of choice, with an essentially market-oriented approach to economics. Small-l liberals are social progressives to various degrees, with attitudes ranging from lukewarm to strong support for issues such as homosexual marriage, a republic and Aboriginal reconciliation. They support a moderate degree of government intervention in areas such as health and education. They can be distinguished from Labor supporters by their mistrust of trade union influence and their support for a deregulated industrial relations system.

Within the Liberal Party of Australia, conservatism and monetarist economics are both are in a position of dominance, leaving some small-l liberals to support groups such as the Australian Democrats who began their existence as split-offs from the Liberal Party. However, many who describe themselves as "small-l" are happily ensconced within the Liberal Party and co-operate closely with the conservative forces in that party. Peter Costello, for example, is viewed as supporting an Australian republic and an apology for the stolen generations, but has cultivated a successful political partnership with the monarchist and arch-traditionalist John Howard.

In Canada

In Canada, the Liberal Party is seen as centrist, and its policies shift to gain votes as needed. Most of the time, this results in a centre-left government. Small l-liberals traditionally also support the New Democratic Party; some may support the Bloc Québécois. Especially in recent years, it has been felt that the Liberal Party of Canada has moved away from its liberal ideals.

In the Canadian province of BC, the British Columbia Liberal Party is on the political right. This is due to its absorption of a large number of people from the right-wing Social Credit Party, who collapsed after the 1991 election due to scandal. Most small l-liberals in British Columbia support on provincial level the New Democratic Party, Democratic Reform British Columbia or the Green Party.

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