Saturday, May 07, 2011

In the interim

The Liberal Party will name an interim leader this Wednesday. While it may not be the most important decision to make over the next four years, it still deserves careful consideration. All indications are the permanent leader won't be chosen for at least another year - and maybe two - so the interim leader will be the face of the Liberal Party as it regroups and rebuilds, all the while trying to remain relevant.

Sadly, we find ourselves with only 34 candidates for the job, so it's actually fairly simple to write a short list.

For starters, no party's interim leader should ever be running to be permanent leader, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as war, disaster, or the national executive wanting Michael Ignatieff in charge. The reasons for this should be self evident, and Rob Silver spells them out here. I'd also add that any hint the "party elites" giving an unfair advantage to a chosen candidate would not exactly be in the spirit of engaging and unifying the membership.

So that likely means LeBlanc and Trudeau will take a pass, while they consider their options.

It's been argued the interim leader should be bilingual. Now, there are degrees of bilingualism, but I generally agree with this sentiment. Ralph Goodale would likely be the best candidate if not for ce petit problème. Similarly, picking Wayne Easter would have been a nice thank you to PEI, which now makes up 9% of the Liberal caucus, but he's a one language man himself.

Even with just those two small criteria, the field narrows considerably. Such are the problems of losing over half your MPs. From what I gather, the top contenders for the job are:

Stephane Dion: He's not being seriously considered, but I include his name here since someone will surely mention him in the comments section. Going to Dion would be somewhat fitting, but we all know the caucus, party, and country would never go for it. At the very least, we need to make the Tories produce some new attack ads.

Scott Brison: Brison is young, charismatic, and knows how to deliver a sound byte. Of course, for those very reasons, he may still be mulling over a run for the top job.

Marc Garneau: He may not be as seasoned politically as the other candidates, but he has name recognition. On the downside, if you think spending time outside the country is bad, just imagine what the Tories will have to say about Garneau spending time outside the planet.

David McGuinty: Would be a strong candidate, but his last name certainly complicates things with an Ontario provincial election on deck.

John McCallum: Somewhat more experienced for the job than the others, by virtue of having been named interim Liberal leader in 2008 by CTV.

Frank McKenna: Yes, I know he doesn't have a seat. But still, wouldn't he be a great selection!

The above would all make fine leaders, and lesser known MPs like Geoff Regan, Kirsty Duncan, or Joyce Murray also deserve consideration. And hey, there's always Jimmy K, though it would mean an end to his leadership aspirations.

But, above all these names, the one that stands out is Bob Rae. Rae is experienced, respected, bilingual, and well spoken. He would keep the Liberals in the headlines and would keep them relevant. It's hard to imagine a better candidate for the job.

Of course, for those reasons, Rae might very well decide to run for the top job. However, he'll be 66 by the time the next election rolls around, and my read of the landscape is that the Liberal membership is looking towards the next generation and a long-term rebuilt. I'm certainly in no position to tell Bob Rae he can't run for leader, and he would make a fine candidate. But a year or two as the interim leader would be an exciting challenge for a man who has accomplished so much over his career.

So it seems very much like a win-win. The caveat I'd place on it is that Rae must recognize this is a caretaker position. So that means no talk of leadership and no talk of merger.

But if he's willing to play ball under those conditions, I can't think of a better candidate for the job.

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39 Comments:

  • Carolyn Bennett?

    By Blogger Dan F, at 12:12 PM  

  • I thought Carolyn Bennett too.

    By Blogger Progressive Tory, at 12:37 PM  

  • I don't think Bennett, Brison, McCallum, Or the K speak French. Joyce Murray would be a great choice, but I'm not sure she parle en francais either. Rae told us on a conference call when he stepped aside on 2008 that he wasn't ever "doing this again". We'll see if he remembers that call.

    By Blogger James Curran, at 12:40 PM  

  • How's about Irwin Cotler? He's bilingual.

    By Blogger DL, at 12:47 PM  

  • "The caveat I'd place on it is that Rae must recognize this is a caretaker position. So that means no talk of leadership and no talk of merger."

    That would make him far more attractive in my eyes.

    By Blogger Steve V, at 12:48 PM  

  • I think Garneau would be the best choice. If Rae is the leader, it gives the Conservatives a chance to refer to his disasterous term as premier whenever they speak in the House.
    I don't see why some of the Liberals in the prime of their life-Trudeau, LeBlanc, Brison-would hang around for the next decade in opposition. For Jimmy the K, it's a good gig, but for others, the private sector probably offers much more.

    By Anonymous Nuna D. Above, at 1:12 PM  

  • Ralph Goodale is too bitter a partisan, too angry and hateful. Wrong image.

    Bob Rae would make a good interim leader, but a lousy candidate. He ruined Ontario. He also brought us Trudeau's last term - the one that did all the damage. I don't think a single active politician has done as much damage.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 1:13 PM  

  • Bob Rae? As in former NDP Premier? As in Rae days? As in brought Canada's strongest provincial economy to its knees? Why not just hand Harper an unregistered long gun and point the barrel to our temples? Bob Rae would give the Cons an easy retort to every question from BOTH opposition parties for the next two years. An irrefutable tilt to the left at the leadership level will also bring Harper closer to his long-term goal of reshaping the Canadian political landscape into a centre-right vs. far left battlefield - conditions that will leave the Cons as canada's natural governing party. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 PM  

  • Bob Rae is a skilled parliamentarian who knows the ins and outs of leadership. He can handle the cut and thrust, deal with any issue and offer a decisive retort. Baggage? Those qualified enough (Goodale, McCallum, Brison) all have baggage; this is just the interim position and who cares what the other parties think... Rae can handle them adroitly, has an excellent relationship with most of the ottawa media, and in an interim basis will lend credibility to the idea that the Liberal Party is still in play. All those 'rae day' attacks are so 2006, too...

    By Blogger rockfish, at 1:36 PM  

  • Joyce Murray? Seriously? Jeez, I thought those of us here on the Left Coast were the ones smoking something.

    I too think Rae would be a poor choice, notwithstanding JC's apparent endorsement. The only upside of naming Rae interim leader is that it would take him out of the leadership contest.

    John MacCallum is a dull speaker and couldn't inspire an ice cube to melt in the sun.

    My first choice would be Goodale. He's a safe pair of hands and I do not see him as "too bitter a partisan, too angry or hateful" at all - however, that describes McGuinty, the Liberals' answer to John Baird, to a 'T'.

    However, Goodale's lack of French will probably disqualify him. To my mind, that leaves Marc Garneau as the next best option. I like Brison, but I think the party needs someone from outside Atlantic Canada, lest it reinforce the image of the Liberals as an Atlantic rump (as the election of Peter MacKay did to the old PC party).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:41 PM  

  • "But, above all these names, the one that stands out is Bob Rae. Rae is experienced, respected, bilingual, and well spoken. He would keep the Liberals in the headlines and would keep them relevant. It's hard to imagine a better candidate for the job."

    Yes, precisely why he should have been selected leader years ago

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:47 PM  

  • "[Rae] has an excellent relationship with most of the ottawa media"

    Ahh, yes. Bob Rae and the "impartial" Ottawa media.

    Nothing portrays the impartiality of the media like an MP tearing up while referring to a dear departed pundit.

    Between that, and Delacourt crying over the demise of her beloved Liberal Party, I can't think of better proof that there is no "left-wing bias" among reporters covering the Hill.

    Not sure we need that many reminders.

    Unless Terry Milewski wants to become interim leader?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:02 PM  

  • Calgary Grit: You do realize that some of Rae's former organizers are writing letters to the executive and sharing them all around fb saying that the interim leader SHOULD be able to contest the permanent leadership.

    Coincidence?

    What do you think?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

  • Ashley McIsaac for interem leader.

    Not Cotler, I hear he's moving to the Tory cabinet.

    By Anonymous Heard it here first, at 3:27 PM  

  • Other names:

    Rick Mercer

    Helena Guergis

    Ted Hsu (who won Kingston & the Islands)

    Belinda Stronach

    Preston Manning

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:33 PM  

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    By Anonymous rasal, at 5:20 PM  

  • Peter Mansbridge!

    I swear his eyes were swollen and puffy when he announced the results.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 5:33 PM  

  • CG, I think your two conditions - that Rae would have to stop promoting a merger with the NDP and that he couldn't run for the leadership - completely exclude Rae from being temporary leader.

    Irwin Cotler would be an excellent choice for interim leader. He has gravitas, worldwide recognition, and doesn't represent a tilt either right or left.

    Or the party should reconsider the French requirement so that you can actually get the best man or woman for the job.

    By Blogger Brian from Toronto, at 6:19 PM  

  • Peter Mansbridge (the most biased reporter of all time) should run against Bob Rae (ruined Ontario and is a complete idiot) for the Liberal leadership. Two men who who totally fit the Bill and would greatly contribute to the failure of the party.

    By Anonymous King of Kensington, at 6:47 PM  

  • @Rockfish

    When did you come back from Mars? Was Ignatieff on his way there when you returned? Bob Rae? look into the things he stands for and his past record. Man..... quit your job at the CBC and go straight to hell.

    By Anonymous HatesRockfish, at 6:51 PM  

  • The only good thing about Bob Rae being the interim leader is that he couldn't run for permanent leader. I personally don't see him as a good choice, he has too much baggage and I think he'd try to be more then an interim caretaker.

    While some people highlight that Rae, or others, has or had leadership ambitions as a plus there's also something to be said for those who don't want to be leader. All the Liberals need is someone in the House of Commons, that's really it.

    By Blogger Progressive Tory, at 8:01 PM  

  • Could they not 'borrow' someone from the senate?

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 8:34 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 PM  

  • Garneau would not get the Navy vote. Being a CSE (constantly sleeping engineer) does not give you much leadership experience. :)

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 9:37 PM  

  • All indications except of course the Liberal Party Constitution that pesky little document.

    You know the Liberal Party can lose it's political donation status if it violates it's own constitution right?

    Basically, if you don't think the Constitution needs to be followed, you don't think there is a Liberal Party.

    5 months after Wednesday, or someone should take the Party to court and have it officially declared dead.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 PM  

  • P.S. Joyce Speaks French. She worked on Stephane's campaign.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 PM  

  • "All the Liberals need is someone in the House of Commons, that's really it."

    Don't agree. Always need someone with smarts and leadership skills when there are firewaorks in HoC.

    Don't forget that harper will be passing his agenda. Any intelligent and vigorous criticism will be much appreciated.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 9:55 PM  

  • I think Irwin Cotler would make a nice choice too. Although that will make it more embarrassing if he crosses the floor.

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 1:10 AM  

  • The above discussion lists a number of external reasons to pick a leader, but misses the key internal one. The Liberals need an interim (and non-interim) leader that is able to unite the party. For that reason, Bob Rae would be a bad choice. He is too strongly identified with the pro-merger Chretienite camp (I'd put Brison in that camp as well).

    I think a better choice would be to stick with a unifying, competent guy like Goodale or McCaullum, supplemented with a deputy leader from Quebec, able to perform a lieutenant role.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 2:18 AM  

  • What's this about Cotler crossing the floor? He's been a Liberal for 40 years.

    Maybe if the Liberals were to merge with the Dippers... but then I'm sure the Conservatives would welcome all sorts of talent into their ranks.

    By Blogger Brian from Toronto, at 8:04 AM  

  • What the Liberals need in an interim leader more than anything else is someone who can show time and again that the Liberal Party is still relevant. He or she will do that by contrasting as much (or more) with the NDP as with the Tories. Bob Rae can't do that. At the same time, as others have said, I doubt Rae would be able to resist pushing his agenda for the future of the party.

    Though his French is shaky, as a strong economic conservative and former PC finance critic, I think Brison is best able to do this. My other first choice would be Trudeau (assuming he is taking a pass on the leadership as his public comments infer).

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 8:54 AM  

  • If Brison passes on the leadership, which it sounds like he will, he'd be a fine choice. The unilingual Wayne Easter was also mentioned as a possibility.

    By Blogger Progressive Tory, at 9:37 AM  

  • My comment got punted by Google for some reason.

    Shorter version:

    CG thanks for allowing an all-party forum, it's appreciated. If I've come across to anyone as a sore winner, please accept my apology.

    Re: leadership

    Interim leader, if comments re: Liberal constitution are accurate, shouldn't be limited by bilingualism. Look at the calendar. IF the House reconvenes, it will be for a couple of weeks at the most, then summer break. If you guys are holding a leadership convention, I wouldn't be surprised to see PMSH hold off reopening in the fall (if budget passed in next month or so) until after what, maybe Thanksgiving? And even if not, add a couple of more weeks in Sept/Oct. Insisting on bilingualism for interim leader takes a potential longterm contender out of the running.

    Highest regard all across the board (perm or interim) would be Cotler IMHO.

    Rae (either short- or long-term) not a good plan IMHO.

    Trudeau - short-term only, still poison in the west IMHO (and not just AB, Salmon Arm Salute is part of the western, if not eastern, Canadian vernacular).

    Brison - okay short-term, potential hazard if long term as he's also pretty angry and pretty partisan and ex-PC so has floorcrossing baggage, potentially dangerous IMHO.

    Garneau would be good either way - I think PMSH and most Conservatives wouldn't touch his astronaut experience w/a ten foot pole. However, I've never seen him as particularly inspiring (and I work with engineers).

    By Blogger Candace, at 2:18 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Richard, at 2:32 PM  

  • Marc Garneau would make a great leader for the Liberals going forward, and not just as an interim one. I made this argument on my blog months ago.

    Libs do best when they have a leader from Quebec who has appeal to English Canada and there hasn't neen anyone to fit that category better than Garneau since Chretien in his early days as Liberal leader.

    The big problem is that Garneau lost his seat and the interim leader has to be in Commons. Since Miss Vegas' standing has been confirmed and with no by-election likely in the immediate future, we're stuch with the available choices in the House, of which Rae seems the best.

    By Blogger Richard, at 2:33 PM  

  • For those who have missed the latest-breaking news on the LPC leadership: it would appear that "the braintrust" is cooking up some scheme to avoid naming a new Liberal Leader for a year or more.

    And the interim leader will NOT be named this Wednesday. Maybe next Wednesday, unless they come up with some reason to not do it then, either.

    As for the importance of the post, keep in mind that the selection is for the Leader of the Third Party, not the OLO. Their duties in the HoC are minimal. The actions required on behalf of rebuilding the Liberal Party will be much greater.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:49 PM  

  • @ Richard: Garneau won his seat by 600 votes. CBC declared him defeated and he made a concession speech, but then the last dozen polls reported in and he inched ahead.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 PM  

  • I think Dion would actually be a supremely logical interim leader. He has experience without ambition, and even if he does have ambition, the rest of the party establishment is united in eagerness to bat it down.

    He would fulfill the role of "bland functionary" to a tee.

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