Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Done Like Dinning

A lot of people are drawing parallels between the Liberal and Alberta PC leadership races. In both cases, the top two candidates faced strong "Anybody But" movements, allowing the blander but less disliked third place challenger to come up the middle and win. And while there are certainly some similarities, I don't think the comparison does justice to the sheer magnitude of Jim Dinning's loss.

For Michael Ignatieff, he was only the frontrunner because others took a pass at the race. He'd been assembling an organization for under a year before the race began and no one ever saw him as invincible. Frontrunners have stalled at 30% in many leadership races over the years and his loss was a tale as old as time.

Jim Dinning's defeat in Alberta, however, may have been the largest upset ever in a Canadian leadership race (putting aside the surprising 1925 PEI NDP leadership convention...). If readers can think of a comparable face plant, I would love to hear from you, because nothing comes to mind right now to me. Consider everything Jim Dinning had going for him. He was a hugely successful treasurer and had higher name recognition than anyone else in the race. He'd been building an organization for a decade and had been hailed by the media as the "next one" over that time period. He had, far and away, the largest war chest of any candidate. He had Rod Love and most of the backroom heavy hitters. He had 38 MLAs endorsing him. Everyone in Alberta believed his victory in this race was inevitable.

With everything he had going for him, Dinning's candidacy is comparable to Paul Martin's in 2003. Paul got over 90% of the delegates while Dinning lost. And it wasn't even close. So what went wrong?

Well, for starters, the rules of the game were different this time. Despite having the party apparatus onside, there was no ability or desire to restrict access to forms. Because of this, Dinning also had to face a field of 7 as supposed to...Sheila Copps (who even Jim Dinning could beat, I imagine). But these factors only made a loss for Dinning possible - he still needed to find a way to lose. And he did.

For starters, he became seen as the "Calgary candidate" and the "establishment candidate". Anyone who has studied Alberta political history knows that Albertans have traditionally shunned the establishment - that's why protest parties were born here and that's why they don't really seem to care about having MPs in government. Further, those familiar with the PC Party are certainly aware that the Edmonton/Calgary/rural split among party members is, in many ways, stronger than any ideological divisions could ever be. Dinning's campaign (and most others for that matter) never realized what was happening and, as a result, he ran a campaign where he took few risks and contrasted himself only with Ted Morton, unaware that Morton could never win 50% + 1.

Ed Stelmach didn't do anything remarkable to win this race. I don't think Ed Stelmach has ever done anything remarkable in his life. This was Dinning's race to lose and he lost it in one of the biggest political shockers in Canadian political history. As someone who has been put off by Dinning quite some time, it's certainly a little satisfying.


  • I think this fits that generally, Canadians seem to go for the underdog. No one really thought that Dion had a chance until after the DSM's. And even after, the race was portrayed as two horse, because Dion's lack of appeal in his own province, or in English Canada, or where ever.

    Dinning was the establishment candidate, as you said, and Morton was too polarizing. Stelmach was the logical choice for many Albertans, because he was a safe bet. He wasn't going to change the path this province is taking drastically. Morton was going to, and was fairly open about it. Dinning wanted to change, but it was portrayed as extreme left-wing change by his opponents.

    I personally think that a Stelmach victory is good for the Alberta Liberals. The PC's always polled lower than Ralph. Many Albertans cast ballots for Ralph, as opposed to their respective PC candidates. Now that Ralph is out of the picture, and his loud, flamboyant, media friendly personality has been replaced by bland old Stelmach, the ALP's fortunes may be rising. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    By Blogger alkalinecity, at 5:47 p.m.  

  • Yeah, the 1925 convention was off the hook!

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 5:49 p.m.  

  • Terrific analysis!

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 5:51 p.m.  

  • For the Alberta Liberals to rise to power, they'll have to get rid of Kevin Taft first.

    Even a Morton win wouldn't have done anything for the Taft Liberals, which is why a lot of Alberta Liberals signed up for Tory memberships and voted for Dinning and Stelmach en masse, because they needed to prevent a Morton victory at all cost.

    Get rid of Taft (and I hear that a leadership review might be coming soon!), and the Alberta Liberal Party might have a real chance (Anne McLellan and Dave Bronconnier come to mind as possible new Alberta Liberal leaders).

    By Blogger George, at 5:53 p.m.  

  • Any comment on this op-ed piece in today's G&M, partially quoted below:

    "Two rookie MPs, Omar Alghabra, a Muslim, and, Navdeep Bains, a Sikh, held the strings of as many as 400 delegates in the Kennedy camp. When the time came, these delegates moved as a bloc to Mr. Dion.

    Stéphane Dion may not know this, but his victory came in part through a political process that feeds on racial and religious exploitation. I respect the diversity of Canada, but I want to celebrate what unites us, not what divides us into tiny tribes that can be manipulated by leaders who sell us to the highest bidder."

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 6:38 p.m.  

  • Sorry, incomplete link (subscription req'd)

    Race and religion at the Liberal Party convention

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 6:44 p.m.  

  • Indeed, an NDP leadership convention in 1925 would have been very surpising, given the party was not founded until 1961.

    By Blogger Simon Pole, at 7:08 p.m.  

  • LOL! Even the CCF was only founded in 1932 - in Calgary no less!

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 7:39 p.m.  

  • anon green; 400 seems like a pretty high number - that'd be over half of Gerard's delegates. Nav and Omar did a lot of organizing but it'd be a stretch to say they "controled" all those delegates.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 8:53 p.m.  

  • I guess when it comes to post titles, great minds think alike. :)

    Oh, for those of you who didn't like Dinning's campaign theme song, apparently he's released a new one.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 9:24 p.m.  

  • I am looking at this from pretty far away but I am surprised by Werner's comments. I really like Taft and am impressed by him. The results of the last election seem to show Albertans liked him too, or at least didn't dislike him enough to not increase the Liberal vote significantly.

    Am I missing something or is Werner just unnecessarily hard on Kevin Taft?

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 9:43 p.m.  

  • Alberta Liberals have a tendency to stab the provincial leader in the back, like Grant Mitchell stabbed Laurence Decore.

    The dumbest thing Alberta Liberals could do right now would be to make a Calgarian leader, or a former federal Liberal cabinet minister.

    By Blogger godot10, at 9:54 p.m.  

  • nbpolitico:

    The Alberta Liberal Party has slipped from almost 30% in November 2004 to 12% now under Taft's ineffectual leadership.

    After he removed Backs from his caucus, there were more and more voices from within the party saying that Taft had become too autocratic and too concerned with silencing any opposition (i.e., a control freak like Harper).

    And the latest rumour has it that there will be a leadership review relatively soon.

    All this does not include the many private e-mail messages I have been getting from Alberta Liberals over the last 12 months, telling me how much they hate Taft as a leader.

    By Blogger George, at 10:17 p.m.  

  • FYI CG and others, Tarek Fatah, the author of that Globe article was a declared Bob Rae supporter. He even switched from the NDP and became a Rae supporter just a few months ago. He believed in his candidate.

    Could there be some sour grapes involved?

    Just perhaps.

    By Blogger Braeden Caley, at 11:57 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 12:10 a.m.  

  • Interesting. I hadn't noted he was a Bob Rae delegate and organizer, as he stated at the bottom of his piece. I find it all fascinating,as a distant observer of a delegated convention - no other reason. He does seem to complain from a Rae perspective. Out of fairness, the whole piece:


    Race and religion at the Liberal Party convention

    From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

    Rev. Francis Xavier is the father figure of Toronto's vibrant Tamil community. His question to Bob Rae at a meeting with Canadian Tamils a few days before the Liberal Party convention was typical of the role played by the leaders of some minority racial and religious groups in blatant efforts to wield political muscle.

    The diminutive Father Xavier did not mince his words in laying out the price for the support of the 45 Tamil Canadian delegates to the Liberal convention: "Mr. Rae, I am great fan of yours and you have done a lot for the Tamil community as premier of Ontario, but will you promise to delist the Tamil Tigers from Canada's list of terrorist organizations, if you become leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister of Canada?"

    Mr. Rae replied that if Tamil Canadians wanted the Tigers to be delisted, they should pressure the LTTE to do what Yasser Arafat did with the PLO and Nelson Mandela did with the ANC. "Firstly, there can be no military solution to the war in Sri Lanka and, second, if any politician promises you that he will help delist the LTTE as a terrorist organization, he is not telling the truth," he said. His response did not go down well -- and nary a Bob Rae button was to be found on the 45 Tamil Canadian delegates at the convention.

    In the months leading up to the Montreal convention, several groups such as this could be found bargaining the price of their cadre of delegates. Besides supporters of the Tamil Tigers, the groups included Kurdish backers of the imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan, remnants of the pro-Khalistan Sikhs, and Islamist Muslims.

    Perhaps the most influential of these groups would turn out to be the Khalistani Sikh Canadians, many from areas west of Toronto, who voted en masse for Gerard Kennedy in the convention's first and second ballots.

    Bob Rae had advised the Liberal government on the public interest in an inquiry into the 1985 Air-India bombing. It would come back to haunt him. The bombing featured in some of the exchanges when Mr. Rae addressed a South Asian event in Montreal on Friday. When Mr. Rae slammed the terrorists responsible for Canada's worst act of terrorism, he found little support in the room. "He is referring to all Sikhs as terrorists," one delegate said to a B.C. senator campaigning for Mr. Rae. "Not true," the Senator said, but the delegate simply walked away.

    Another religious group, the Canadian Islamic Congress, organized by Mohamed Elmasry, sent out a mass e-mail to its members with the subject line: "More Canadian Muslims than ever before will help determine Liberal Leadership Outcome." A religiously observant breakfast was arranged for Muslim delegates to the convention, and one Kennedy delegate organizing among the Muslim community sent out a letter to the country's mosques, asking for Muslims to vote "en masse" for one candidate. The Islamic Congress had given Mr. Kennedy an A grade, while listing other hopefuls on a scale from a B to an F. This led to a spirited response from Ignatieff delegate Salma Siddiqui, who is a vice-president of the secular Muslim Canadian Congress. "Muslims are not a herd of cattle to be sold to the highest bidder," she responded.

    Then, during the convention, the president of the Canadian Arab Federation, Khaled Mouammar forwarded a mass e-mail to Muslim delegates. The e-mail, with the subject line, "Don't elect a Leader who supports Apartheid," had a picture of Bob Rae with the following text plastered over his face: "Rae's wife is a Vice President of the CJC, a lobby group which supports Israeli apartheid and Israel's illegal Apartheid Wall. . . . Bob Rae supports Israeli Apartheid. Don't elect a leader who supports Apartheid."

    It became a popular refrain. On Friday, a group of delegates coming from a breakfast arranged by the Canadian Islamic Congress taunted me: "Is Bob Rae going to be the prime minister of Israel or the prime minister of Canada?"

    Two rookie MPs, Omar Alghabra, a Muslim, and, Navdeep Bains, a Sikh, held the strings of as many as 400 delegates in the Kennedy camp. When the time came, these delegates moved as a bloc to Mr. Dion.

    Stéphane Dion may not know this, but his victory came in part through a political process that feeds on racial and religious exploitation. I respect the diversity of Canada, but I want to celebrate what unites us, not what divides us into tiny tribes that can be manipulated by leaders who sell us to the highest bidder.

    Tarek Fatah, host of The Muslim Chronicle on CTS-TV and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, was a delegate to the Liberal convention and a volunteer organizer for Bob Rae.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 12:14 a.m.  

  • Sometimes I wonder if the Liberals realize what a steady ship this Blogsite is for them in stormy times.

    There seems to be a solid emotion - free steadyness here that Eastern Liberals would do well to notice and emulate.

    Clear thinking seems to be a trait of the West.

    I happen to be a little more right of center, yet this is a place I do enjoy keeping up with Liberal adventures.

    Now if Dion were to do a house cleaning of about 20 of the worst Adscam offenders, the Liberals could enjoy a fresh start in the minds of the voting public.

    Free advice from a rightish person. Just ignore it. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 1:04 a.m.  

  • isnt it funny how the two front runners always seem to be opposites in races? I would point out Rae and Iggy, Morton and Dinning, Harper and Stronach, etc. Is it that the media hypes the candidates who are at opposite ends of the spectrum because the media wants a story, or is it because the voters are motivated by candidates with extreme views? This may explain why liberals have a hard time attracting fair media coverage when the media sometimes wants to accuse the Liberals of sitting on the fence on an issue when in fact, the libs are taking a central view on most issues, which makes it hard to motivate voters to vote or donate.

    By Blogger kenlister1, at 3:07 a.m.  

  • I don't think it's fair to characterize the divide between Iggy and Rae as comparable to the one between Harper and Stronach or Dinning and Morton. I don't think it's even up there with the Martin Chrétien chasm.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 11:34 a.m.  

  • Anne McLellan as Alberta Liberal Leader??

    I like it! A lot.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:15 p.m.  

  • The Alberta Liberals could win if they changed their name as opposed to leader. Far too many Albertans are still mad at PET's NEP and won't vote for any party with a Liberal moniker in front of it regardless of their policies. Liberalism has many adherents in Alberta in terms of the ideology, but the name Liberal is almost like a four letter word in Alberta. I would suggest they call themselves the Centre party or the Moderate Party.

    By Blogger Monkey Loves to Fight, at 7:20 p.m.  

  • How about calling it the "New Energetic Party"?

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 7:55 p.m.  

  • The "new energetic party"? excellent suggestion. With the Screecher at the helm, they'd be a HUGE hit with Albertans.

    too funny.

    By Blogger Candace, at 12:53 p.m.  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 10:31 p.m.  

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