Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One on One with Bob Rae

I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Bob Rae last week. As a result, I’ve now had the privilege to interview all the candidates in this race…with one notable exception. I’ve got to admit it’s kind of frustrating – it’s like having every Happy Days episode on tape except the one where the Fonz jumps the shark. Alas, much like Joe’s vote, I suspect that interview will never materialize.

Let me just say that the one thing I’ve learned from doing these interviews is that I have a lot to learn about technology. My latest life lesson is that putting a tape recorder up to a cell phone to record will lead to a recording with nothing but back feed and static. As a result, I don’t have a transcript of Rae’s answers but I did take notes very closely so I feel I managed to capture everything he said.

I won’t editorialize or comment on any of his answers right now – I’ll save that for my final run down of the contenders. What I will say is that Bob Rae was by far the most concise of all the candidates I’ve interviewed; you can certainly tell he’s been doing this for a long time. I did, however, find his answer to question three very interesting...

1. First of all, was it your idea or Rick’s to do the skinny dipping?

(laughs) “Let’s call it a combined and spontaneous decision. Spontaneous combustion might be the best way to describe it.”

2. When Paul Wells asked you if Quebec was a nation for his book, your response was: “Yeah. Nation, people, distinct society. It's all the same. It's just words. It's a set of words. It means that you recognize the distinctiveness of the collectivity of quebec. It is something we should have done in 1985 in Meech and in 1992 with Charlottetown. And something we should be doing.” How is that different from what Michael Ignatieff is proposing?

Rae said the difference is in “focus” – given his experience he just doesn’t see the point in going back down the constitutional road. He’d like to find a way to recognize Quebec’s “special character” in the federation but constitutional change is not the best way to do it.

I then asked if he’d like to see an amended resolution pass at the convention and he felt that improvising on the spot isn’t the best way to do it. He’s working with the other candidates to find the best way to handle it.

3. What is the one thing, above all else, that Prime Minister Bob Rae would do which likely wouldn’t get done by your competitors in this race? In other words, what policy are you proposing which differs you from your opponents?

Rae feels that there’s “common ground” among the candidates on policy. When it comes to things like the economy, innovation and new learning, they’re all speaking the same language. He does see some differences in foreign policy but feels the real thing which sets him apart from the other candidates is not so much his ideas but his experience.

4. How do you think the Liberal Party can breakthrough in Western Canada and, in particular, Alberta?

Rae first observed that the west is a very diverse place so one strategy might not be appropriate. He feels there’s some potential for growth and that the NDP split has hurt us in some places like Saskatchewan. He feels some of his agricultural and economic policies should play well in farm communities and says the Liberals can have success if they propose practical solutions rather than Harper who only proposes ideological ones (such as the Wheat Board).

The key, according to Rae, is for the party and the leader to physically spend more time here. The leader needs to work with ridings and candidates and help to build up the party’s organizational strength.

I asked him if he had any specific ideas which would play well in Alberta and he said that his agricultural policy would be popular here. He also feels that Albertans believe in sustainability, mentioning Preston Manning’s “green sensibility”.

5. What’s your general pitch to Liberal delegates and take home message at this time?

For Rae, the race is about choices. We’re electing a party leader, an opposition leader, and a Prime Minister. Liberals need someone who can speak to the whole country and expand the party’s base. To do this, we need someone who has credibility. He feels all the candidates have different abilities and it’s up to delegates to make the choice.

He ended by saying he’s enjoyed the race and that he expects it to be a lively convention.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Hammering Jow, at 2:52 PM  

  • Hammering jow,

    Are you saying that because you don't think Rae will win the next election (or that any Liberal will) that we should be electing a leader who can, in your words, lick their wounds and grow from the experience?

    So Liberals should just resign themselves to a loss now, and prepare themselves by electing a leader who can stick it out for the next ten years?

    Personally, I would prefer to elect the leader with the best shot at winning the next election. The fact of the matter is that the only candidate who fulfills that criteria is Bob Rae.

    By Blogger Skip, at 3:12 PM  

  • all this talk about rae's lack of in-depth policy strikes me as over-hyped. whoever the next leader is, will they not be adopting sound policies from any and all sources (including their current opponents for the leadership)??? at the end of the day, john and jane q public don't vote based on policy; they vote on personality, on their gut instinct of who has the most leadership qualities and experience. getting too bogged down in the nitti-griity details of policies is a constraint, imho. in light of this, i think rae has positioned himself well.

    By Blogger canuckistanian, at 3:35 PM  

  • Canuckistan:

    That might be true if the Prime Minister was under no obligation to make complex decisions on the basis of his or her own best judgement in exercising his role. But the fact is that the Prime Minister chooses the cabinet, chooses the Deputy Ministers, and chooses what will and will not be considered by his or her government.

    We have to understand how a person makes decisions without the guidance of their party policy, because party policy cannot cover everything with which a Prime Minister will be required to deal.

    Bob Rae insists on not telling Liberals what he thinks, and then turns around and claims that people will support what his policies in the West.

    He might be right. But how could we possibly know, if he refuses to tell us what they are?

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 4:00 PM  

  • 1. Joe's vote will materialize.
    2. Why would he talk to someone who keeps taking cheap shots at him? Exhibit A 'much like Joe's vote...will never materialize'. You called him part of the 'axis of evil', so why would he talk to you? Surely, his campaign would be stupid to set up the interview with someone who no doubt would have taken more shots at him. CG, I personally appreciate your post usually and find it balanced in most areas, but common, you can't say you havent been overly critical of him.

    By Blogger ktr, at 10:18 PM  

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