Friday, December 05, 2008

The Race for Stornoway...err, 24 Sussex...err...Stornoway...

Now that we've taken a break from that horrifying experiment in parliamentary democracy, we can shift our attention back to another horrifying experiment in democracy - the Liberal Leadership Race.

Some are now suggesting that this race should be sped up and I think that would be a mistake - we're picking the man to lead us for the next decade, there's no need to rush into a decision. If anything, the moral of the last week is that political decisions with long-term implications need to be thought through carefully.

With that said, I have two quick bullet points for tonight:

1. Bob Rae appears to have found his wedge issue. While Ignatieff carefully dances around the issue, Rae has embraced the idea of the coalition. It's certainly a calculated risk by the veteran politician, as many expect the coalition to implode over the holidays. But Rae needs a game changer and this could be it, one way or the other.

2. For those of you who might want to learn a bit more about Dominic LeBlanc, Macleans has an excellent profile of him in this week's newsstand edition of the magazine - and online. The article talks a lot about Dominic's Liberal roots - growing up with the Trudeau kids and driving Chretien around. Although that's all interesting, what I take from it is what should be the 10 word theme of his campaign - "Dominic can connect with voters...especially those outside of Toronto". LeBlanc would be a leader average Canadians could relate to, and he would be a Liberal leader who could grow the party outside of it's home turf. If he sticks to that 10 word theme, he should surprise a few people this campaign.

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  • Message from John Manley:

    '...As a Liberal, I believe the first step for my party is to replace Stéphane Dion as leader with someone whose first job is to rebuild the Liberal Party, rather than leading a coalition with the NDP....'

    By Blogger wilson, at 11:10 p.m.  

  • I think our first job is to deal with Harper, who is a clear threat to democracy in this country. The second he gets a majority, he clearly will have no compulsion to clobber our rights and freedoms with the notwithstanding clause.

    We will have to rebuild the party at the same time.

    Even if the coalition fails, I like Rae's go and get'em style. I am not interested in politicians who spend their time waiting to see which way the wind has been blowing before taking a stand.

    That doesn't make me a Rae supporter, by the way. it's just what I'm seeing and feeling right now.

    By Blogger Mark Richard Francis, at 11:27 p.m.  

  • I do think the liberals have to get their new leader in time for the end of January, one that can build the party..and forget the coalition, the Liberal party should be building itself up, and would not need a coalition, if it could get back on track.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:37 p.m.  

  • I agree, I like that Rae's got the gumption to take a stand on this, and get his hands dirty - Iggy's waffling is classic front runner "don't rock the boat" syndrome.

    However, I am also “uneasy” with the prospect of the coalition for all the reasons articulated by the likes of yourself CG (I thought you were reading the inside of my head with your post on the subject the other day). I’ve been hearing from all sorts of friends who have ever even bothered to vote before about how “pissed” they are over this “undemocratic coup” and that tells me something very troubling. The polls also show a pretty clear story here, and it’s that English Canada would hand us our asses if this was put to a vote today. At the very least, Dion must go, and he must go as soon as humanly possible. Put in a caretaker leader and lets all limp towards the leadership. I disagree with Manley that we should shotgun the leadership forward. We need this process to re-energize the troops, and a leader elected by caucus (or caucus and riding presidents) is not going to do it. Further it’s going to re-enforce this image of the party as insular, elitist, and out of touch.

    Honestly we should open the leadership process up - not scrap it. I don’t think eliminating membership fees is feasible. But maybe we should try advertizing the process to the general public. Treat it like a primary and make it easy to join and vote. Joining is rather a simple process now but we should complement with online voting. It could easily be implmented to act in conjunction, not as a replacement, to the delegate selection meetings (it’s constitutional I’ve researched it). Encourage Joe-blow to sign up online, and vote online. Make the party reconnect with its base and, much more importantly, the greater Canadian populace.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:46 p.m.  

  • Too many people underestimate Rae's skill as a politician because they only look at the end result of his government in Ontario while overlooking the fact that he did what nobody thought was possible; bringing the NDP to power in that province.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 11:49 p.m.  

  • To Mark Francis: Hear! Hear!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:12 a.m.  

  • Right now we need a leader that can the hearts and minds of canadians.

    We only have one guy capable of doing that.

    Ken Dryden!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:26 a.m.  

  • I can't believe so many Liberals are seriously considering Bob Rae. Do we WANT to lose? We already lost an election and possibility our national crediblity by sticking with one unelectable leader, now we want to choose another one? God, sometimes I think this party deserves to be nowhere near government.

    And I can't believe you're suggesting not speeding up the leadership race. This are no time for games. Harper is playing for keeps. You think he won't call an election as soon as he thinks the GG will grant him one? That could anytime. No, a May convention won't cut it. Hell, they need one in January.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:52 a.m.  

  • I have to agree they need to hurry up on the Leadership Race. Like seriously, they need to react now. Why not make it a weekend deal. Have one night of airtime on CBC/YouTube where each candidate is given 10 minutes to present their case. I mean really, is it necessary for each candidate to run around the country and spend tons of money the Liberals don't have?

    After that, set up huge online vote based on party memberships and take the result from there. That way you include all the members, everyone gets their say and its quick, easy and painless.

    Really, it would generate tons of buzz and momentum for them and then they could move forward ASAP with none of this convention stuff that costs far too much money and is way too exclusive to those who have the money/time.

    Just a thought ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:06 a.m.  

  • I would support John Manley. The left has too much power in our party and have driven us to disaster under this coalition. Bob Rae is the last thing we need and the other two have proven to be weak like Dion on leadership. We need another candidate but who is out there that would want to run?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:12 a.m.  

  • Leblanc will be a great right hand man in a uture Dhalla cabinet!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:18 a.m.  

  • It is time the West leaves Canada.

    The West wants Out!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:08 a.m.  

  • Let's get serious here - there is no time to doddle when it comes to a leader - Harper is capable of anything and you know it.

    Liberals lost because of Dion and because we went to far to the left.

    How far left are you willing to go?

    Rae - uh, uh. I will not renew or financially support the Liberals if Rae wins. I don't like his dirty, sneaky games and I don't want the Liberals to become the NDP.

    People should settle down and think this through.

    Haste makes waste and this coalition is just going too fast and Harper will use it to his best advantage.

    Think, carefully.

    By the way - Obama was very careful and didn't get all bent out of shape running around trying to start rallies to save his ass.

    Sitting on the fence - or, careful?

    Haven't you noticed that LeBlanc is being careful too - yet no one challenges or criticizes him for that?

    Ignatieff and LeBlanc - careful, thoughtful and studying the BAD situation of a coalition.

    I'd support Ignatieff or LeBlanc - NOT Rae.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:23 a.m.  

  • Ouch....

    h/t to Four Strong Winds

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:20 a.m.  

  • "It is time the West leaves Canada.

    The West wants Out!"

    You know your logo isn't that clear. It starts off with "WESTERN BUSINESS and TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION" -- acronym -- and then "WE ARE STRONGER APART"

    It sounds like you believe western businesses and taxpayers associations are stronger apart.

    I am also curious why Manitoba wasn't included? Are Manitobans considered Central Canadian elitists too? I mean I've been to Brandon, Manitoba and its not exactly a wine and cheese kinda town. Of course this is all a sinister plot of mine to get rid of Winnipeg.

    My Canada excludes Winnipeg!

    Although seriously, we should probably tone down the anti-prorogation rhetoric. Hard of hearing Ukrainian Canadians might think we are insulting their best known dish.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 8:18 a.m.  

  • Thw west is trying to scare off the of them was on cbc last nite running it down....they dont like it as we can beat harper with it....Manley is a warmonger and cold as a fish...yuk...I would like Dryden too as he can pick up lots of the males even cons...but I will have to go for the dreaded rae if Iggy does not support coalition. do not believe conservative polling ...gramps

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 a.m.  

  • "I would like Dryden too as he can pick up lots of the males even cons..."

    I bet you'd see Harper speak French a lot more in the commons if Dryden was Liberal leader.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 9:11 a.m.  

  • Anyone who thinks this coalition is a good idea and has no place in the Liberal Party. Personally I am not sure if I will even bother renewing my membership. Frankly it is becoming an embarrassment defending this party. We are nothing like the old days of Trudeau and Chretien. I will be surprised if we ever will be again. It might be time to cross the floor or stay home. This is not want Liberals stand for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:29 a.m.  

  • For Rae, the coalition makes sense. Sure, it brings up his NDP roots again, but if it came to pass, and he could actually govern for 6 months without completely screwing up the economy, that is his best bet to showing people that he wouldn't screw everything up when he got into power.

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 10:16 a.m.  

  • Within the space of about a week, the Liberal Leadership Race has become a referendum on a merger of that Party with the NDP. The question is which candidate can prevent it.

    The former Ontario Provincial Leader of the NDP is already in the race for the federal Liberal laurel, and his main competitor has publicly been supportive of the Liberals being cozy with the NDP.

    By Blogger Paul, at 12:12 p.m.  

  • One cannot conduct a leadership race as long as the right of free speech of many members of the Liberal Party, particularly elected MP's, is impaired by a policy negotiated behind closed doors by a departing leader without the advice or approval beforehand of the Liberal caucus or party.

    The leadership race is a fraud as long as the coalition policy is in place constricting what people can say.

    Ken Dryden is like that angry now former Democratic Senator for Georgia. Somebody slap some sense into that guy.

    "It's not personal, Sonny. It's just business." It's personal, not business with Dryden and many Liberals, and Sonny's fate is the end in letting emotions get the best of you.

    The coalition was a tactical victory. One landed a body blow on Harper. Continuing to pursue it, or to hamstring the leadership race with it, will lead to long term strategic defeat.

    The coalition is doing Harper's work for him, moving the Liberals left so Harper can move to the middle. It is a coalition of the weak and enraged. The Liberal Party is a strong party of the centre. That is where it should make its stand. Moving left out of weakness and fear is surrender.

    Voldemort had followers. People will vote for a guy they hate if the guy they may like is well-intentioned but wrong.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 12:37 p.m.  

  • Gee, if I was a prominent supporter of a candidate mired squarely in third place starved of media attention, boy would I like to use this opportunity to outflank the noncommittal frontrunner by coming out against a backfiring coalition... this being a purely hypothetical matter, of course.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 3:48 p.m.  

  • Nobody is taking the long view on this.
    How are the voters going to decide when the thought will always be there that a coalition of the losing parties in an election can overthrow the Government?
    What will be spawned is an era of unprecedented strategic voting.
    What will the electorate do if polls show a minority Government in the making just before an election?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • Your leaders say its all about trust but they miss the obvious. If you can't trust Harper, and the voters do not trust your coalition, and you aren't willing to entrust your fate to the voters, something has to give.

    The Liberal party I knew even with a majority would have had a new leader face the voters as soon as possible for a mandate. Blame Harper all you want, but you have fallen very far and ought to get back up. Throw Jack and Gilles back down the hill, and pick a leader and face the people when you are ready.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:14 p.m.  

  • Any proposal to have caucus unilaterally appoint Iggy to lead the party would have very negative consequences. I like Leblanc but I would fully support any of the three over Harper (regardless of their respective weaknesses). However, I think a lot of liberals would stay home if they thought that anything other than an interim leader was appointed by caucus. Either Dion stays or a non-leadership candidate takes over. Meanwhile, The Ledrews and Manleys of the Party should keep their "help" for rebuilding the party off the front pages.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:25 p.m.  

  • The elephant in the room with Dominic's attempt at the leadership is that despite his distinguished pedigree, despite his fluent bilingualism, and despite his engaging personality, his francophone last name is anathema to Liberal fortunes this time around. And it's time we started realizing it (and saying it even if it isn't politically correct).

    True died in the wool Liberals might not care, but we have to start getting some of those lost demographics back,especially in rural Ontario and the West.

    Given the recent history of Liberal leaders all having either a french last name or a Quebec riding or both, and also given the fact that Harper was able to stir up a national unity furor in "English Canada", we need to call a spade a spade, even if it hurts. Perhaps next time.

    By Blogger The Orleans' Skeptic, at 5:40 p.m.  

  • Yeah! Bob's the man!

    And keep that coalition!

    Millions of Canadians will change their minds about that! You'll see!

    Man, what a case of mass delusion.

    By Blogger Möbius, at 10:28 p.m.  

  • "his francophone last name is anathema to Liberal fortunes this time around."

    This is utter crap. In 1993 at the height of the unity wars, Canadians elected Jean Chretien, who consistently mangled the English language. Dion's problem is not language (his English is good, though his enunciation and occasionally grammar) it is a lack of salesmanship.

    Since 1968, Canada has been governed by Prime Ministers from Quebec for over 75% of those years (Martin is sort of a wild card and can really be from either).

    More to the point, since when is attacking separatists tantamount to attacking Quebec. Marc Garneau mused in 2006 about wiping out the Bloc. Chretien slept wearing the Canadian flag and throttled a separatist protester. Martin attacked Duceppe in the 2004 debates, saying he would never allow Quebec to separate (and ran attack ads suggesting Harper would work with the Bloc).

    Are you really such an uncritical consumer of garbage talking points that you are willing to say English Canadians would not elect somebody with a French-speaking name because Harper said working with separatists is bad? If so, I really can't suggest anything besides a lobotomy.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 12:12 a.m.  

  • Hoser said: Since 1968, Canada has been governed by Prime Ministers from Quebec for over 75% of those years (Martin is sort of a wild card and can really be from either).

    You have made my point.

    You know, Hoser, it is easy to be nasty. You look like you are very good at it.

    If you weren't so busy trying to be insulting, you might realize that maybe I might have some kind of rationale behind my argument.

    You assume that I am a political illiterate, mouthing platitudes and opinions without any kind of analysis or merit. Yes, you are correct in your argument that the past is often a predictor of the future, but with all due respect, I believe you are wrong in this case.

    The inputs into the equation are very different this time. The right was not "united" during those circumstances you mentioned, and Liberals were a successful, well funded national party, not the regional "rump" they unfortunately are now. To get more people to vote Liberal, there has to be some appeal to those who have left the party or have never supported it. It is not enough to have just "true believers", which I am SURE that you are (having read your blog).

    "Micro target" marketing: a tactic that the Conservatives have raised to a fine art, is something that the "big tent" Liberals have to learn to adopt in order to survive. And to know how to build support, one has to know what attracts those individuals you hope to gain support from (no, I don't mean bigots). And also, vitally, what turns them off.

    Have you experience in that kind of analysis? Do you know what their "drivers" are? Do you know what motivates them to vote a particular way? Have you even surveyed staunch Liberals in the last year, let alone potential Liberal supporters, to know what they are thinking? If you have, I would be very interested in hearing about it. And if I am wrong, I would be very happy to admit it.

    I reiterate: I think highly of Dominic (and said "next time") and presented my argument with regret not the triumphalism that you seem to feel that I exhibit.

    I respect your right to your opinion, but do not respect the way you have chosen to answer mine.

    I guess this is the new way of dealing with people one doesn't agree with: make it personal and vindictive. Too bad.

    By Blogger The Orleans' Skeptic, at 2:54 p.m.  

  • LeBlanc would be a leader average Canadians could relate to, and he would be a Liberal leader who could grow the party outside of it's home turf. If he sticks to that 10 word theme, he should surprise a few people this campaign.

    I think M. LeBlanc has disconnected from the campaign.

    By Blogger Möbius, at 7:09 p.m.  

  • Dear Orlean's Skeptic, looking back over what I wrote, it was pretty mean and I apologize for insulting your intelligence.

    That said, I continue to disagree with your analysis. In your rebuttal you made essentially three points:

    1. "A divided right enabled the Liberals to take power with a French Canadian leader"
    -this is true, but you neglect to mention Charest, who was also French Canadian. On the right side of the spectrum only the furthest extreme, Reformers, voted for an English Canadian leader.

    Similarly, those same regions of the country overwhelmingly backed Mulroney over the English Turner in 1984, and against in 1988.

    Indeed, if you include a dummy term for "leader from Quebec" in economic voting models you almost always get a strongly significant variable (this is more because French Canadians are more likely to vote for French leaders, but the variable would be negative if French leaders cost parties votes).

    This begs the question: what has changed in order to make English Canadians LESS likely to vote for French candidates.

    2. "Micro-targeting"

    You will need to be more specific here - micro-targeting is a strategy. What specific policies or actions have the conservatives made to subtly micro-target anti-French English Canadians (without losing their Quebec support)? Secondly, if they are such a large group, is it actually micro-targeting?

    3. Drivers

    From my experience, issues like "grievance" are poor predictors of voting, civil war or such behavior. Economic interests, by contrast, are. That is why western alienation never reared its head decisively till the NEP, and why the Mulroney coalition never collapsed until after free trade went through (westerners wanted free trade), but waited till Mulroney's asymmetrical federalism became more apparent (eg. with Meech/Charlottetown).

    4. In summary: I think Leblanc is somewhat like Paul Martin (whose name my ex-Montrealer dad pronounces with a French accent), or Jean Charest, in that he is so flawlessly bilingual that he doesn't especially come off as French or English.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 9:21 p.m.  

  • Hoser said: "Dear Orlean's Skeptic, looking back over what I wrote, it was pretty mean and I apologize for insulting your intelligence".

    Thank you, Hoser. You have restored my faith. I appreciate your comments.

    However, I don’t necessarily agree with some of your interpretations of what I said.

    Your first interpretation was that I believed “a divided right enabled the Liberals to take power with a French Canadian leader”. No, that was not what I meant to say. I don’t think I said it that way either, but maybe I was not specific enough. A strong Liberal party with a strong francophone leader was able to elect significant minority and majority governments in the past. A weak Liberal party with a strong francophone leader (or the converse) would likely have been able to survive in government during most of those years too. It was easier then, because the right was not united and because the party had support across the nation, in all or almost all provinces. Whether having a francophone leader made a significant difference during that time is for historians to judge. I would think that during some of those times, it helped (the charisma of Trudeau, the passion of Chretien, the unity crises) and other times it might have hurt (the bilingual cereal boxes, the metric system, the NEP). Liberal Prime Ministers of that era were pretty darned good in my opinion.
    However, I am not talking about the past but the present and future. The landscape has shifted, making it increasingly hard for any Liberal leader to win election in the face of the merged right. Anglophone or francophone. And after Gomery (Quebec politics), and three Prime Ministers in a row from Quebec (Chretien, Martin, and Dion, along with Mulroney before them, and Trudeau before that), there is a sense in this country that perhaps it is time for a shift away from that Quebec based-francophone lineage of past power, at least for a while, to give other parts of Canada some power at the centre. For just one example: much has been made of the anger in the past week emanating from the West, which has said that it had just gotten “IN” and wanted to stay there. The ground is shifting: demographically, economically, and politically for the Liberal Party, and indeed all parties. While many factors make up the mindset of the voter in Canada, and whether a potential candidate for Prime Minister is francophone or Anglophone is one of those factors, the increased competitiveness of the right exacerbates the weaknesses perceived in the Liberal party.
    What might have been fine two years ago, or five or ten, is no longer possible without a whole lot of rebuilding. The Liberal Party is the target for an all out obliteration campaign.
    Traditionally, the next leadership race should result an Anglophone’s turn to lead the Liberals (given the unwritten rule of alteration that has been followed for so long), but it is even more important under the circumstances the Liberal Party finds itself in at present. Like it or not, it wasn’t just Dion’s muddled-ness in organization and expression that got him in trouble, it was the fact that he was not at ease with the English language and thus an easy target for negative advertising, CTV commentators, and Harper’s nasty behaviour. Yes, a new, francophone Liberal leader who is fluently bilingual could go a long way to change the dynamic in the minds of voters. But that is not considering the Harper agenda of low blows, the national unity ploy of divide and conquer, the Bloc/PQ interlocutors, and the wariness of the populace. Those factors make it far easier for an Anglophone to be up there. Someone who is not carrying all the negative baggage that English Canada’s complicated relationship with the “French” Canadians has stirred up. SWOT analyses are not something that Liberals are doing too well at right now.
    Briefly on your other points: I’m sorry I can’t comment on Charest because I don’t understand your argument. He was a Progressive Conservative MP (never Prime Minister), now a Liberal Premier. I am talking about the next leader of the federal Liberal party. As for Mulroney beating Turner, well there has been so much written on the circumstances, that I hesitate to open the issue again, at least right now.
    You then asked about what has changed in order to make English Canadians less likely to vote for French candidates and also about micro targeting. Perhaps we can also exchange more views on that at a later point. It would take a long time to state my case in terms that could convince you or other readers. But in its simplest terms, just look at the last week: at the ugliness of the debate over the coalition, at the rancor and stereotyping and the outright manipulation of public opinion, and think: If I was Stephen Harper (and Tom Flanagan) and wanted to destroy the Liberal Party sooner rather than later, what would I like to see happen, and what would I do when it did? Do you know, I have been recently told that two of the riding associations of the CPC have more than FIFTY THOUSAND MEMBERS each? That is what we are up against. Who is left? What do they want? And how can Liberals tap it?
    Finally you state:
    From my experience, issues like "grievance" are poor predictors of voting, civil war or such behavior. Economic interests, by contrast, are.
    My answer to you is that I hope you are right, but fear that Pandora’s box has been open a little too much recently. Which is why, although I agree that Leblanc was so flawlessly bilingual that he doesn’t come across as French or English (and he is from the Maritimes to boot, which would be great for the country), it just isn’t his time right now (and its seems he agrees as per his announcement to drop out of the race). Right now the big issues are: getting the party solvent and with some policy frameworks that appeal to voters (and here we all SHOULD look at the issues raised by micro target marketing); deciding whether we want to take a page out of the CPC’s playbook and unite the left (not just a coalition, but an actual merger with the NDP/Greens with Bob Rae at the helm) or keep our big tent open (with Ignatieff as the runaway leadership winner in that event); and taking action to cool down the anti-French, anti-Quebec (it’s more than anti-separatist) rhetoric that has swept (been provoked in) a lot of the country. If we can do that, then Leblanc would be an absolutely great choice the next time Liberals go looking for a leader.
    Nice talking with you, Hoser.

    By Blogger The Orleans' Skeptic, at 2:15 a.m.  

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