Hello everyone. I'm greatly looking forward to this discussion on the--to say the least--surprising announcement by Mr. Rae that he will not be seeking the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party. There's lots to talk about. I look forward to your questions and observations.
An interesting speculation that Rae is waiting for Libs and NDP to amalgamate. But that is, I suspect, too far down the road for him to be seen as a natural candidate to lead such a party.
I agree that it would be foolish to write off the Liberal Party, under Bob Rae or under somebody else. But in fact, parties do die. Witness the Progressive Conservatives. The Liberals have big structural challenges--no riding organizations to speak of in about 100 ridings, for example--that they have to face above and beyond the question of leadership. Simply put: what is their base?
The Liberals, in power, were generally fiscally conservative. A leader could try to outlank the Tories on the fiscal front. But we'd have to believe that he or she actually believed in such a policy--a flat tax, say, or a balanced budget amendment--or else it would simply look like opportunism.
Let's focus on Bob Rae for the moment. Starting with when he first joined the party...
Alternative history is always tempting, but dangerous. Had Rae won in 2006, would he have done better than Stephane Dion? Had he lost the election, would he have stayed on to fight again in 2011? Would the Liberals under his leadership have fallen to third place or stayed in official opposition? I can't begin to answer those questions. We have the history we have.
How was his stint as interim leader?
Rae's stint as Interim Leader has been impressive. He, at the least, halted the erosion of support for the party. He outperformed NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel. Behind the scenes, he worked on improving fundraising and bringing voter indentification software up to speed. He presided over a successful policy convention in January. He will hand over to the new leader a party that is in better shape than he found it.
Now let's turn to what everyone has been wondering...if not Rae, then who?
Whatever else, Mr. Rae's decision solves one big problem: Had he run, the Liberals would have been forced to find yet another Interim Leader, who would have led the party for up to a year. Many of the prime candidates would be disqualified because they were considering a run for permanent leader. At least now the party has the stability of him at the helm during the leadership fight.
If Mr. Trudeau absolutely, positively rules himself out, then Dominic Leblanc is one strong contender. So is David McGuinty, brother of Dalton. And Marc Garneau, the former astronaut, may run as well.
Outside caucus, there are rumours that Jean Marc Fournier, the Quebec justice minister, might be a candidate.
(Bow: assuming you meant Dominic LeBlanc)
There are also former MPs Martha Hall Findley and Gerard Kennedy might run. But being defeated in an election is not a strong contribution to a leadership c.v.
The Liberals do, indeed, have a tradition or rotating leaders. But tradition isn't working so well for them right now.
Why don't we take some of these contenders one by one: What do you think of Dominic Leblanc's chances?
If Trudeau dosn't run, LeBlanc probably will. He is able, fluent in both languages, with a strong base in Atlantic Canada. But he doesn't have much of a national profile as yet. Still, with Rae out, his name definitely moves up the list.
But readers might want to look at my column from this morning. I do think that whoever runs must be prepared to lose in 2015. The Liberals need a two-election strategy.
Frank McKenna has a great job at TD Bank, has been out of politics for years, and has uncertain French. I don't think he's a candidate.
And before you ask, John Manley has also hung up the gloves. Don't expect him to run.
As I mentioned earlier, if I had been defeated in the last election, as Mr. Kennedy was, I would think very long and very hard about whether I wanted to incur a campaign debt and give up a year of my life for a leadership bid that had almost no chance of success. First question for Mr. Kennedy: If you won, sir, how would you plan to get into the House of Commons? (Anyone know of a safe Liberal seat he could parachute himself into?)
Scott Brison would be a very interesting candidate. But he has emphatically ruled himself out of the race. He and his partner are adopting a child, who should arrive in their household next year. He plans to concentrate on that priority, and I, for one, salute him.
There is risk in everything. But if Justin Trudeau wants to become prime minister one day, he has to get his feet wet and his hands dirty. (That's a clumsy metaphor.) That means getting into the ring rather than just watching from the sidelines. (And now I'm mixing metaphors.) If he doesn't run now, he should make that decision knowing that it means he is unlikely every to become PM. At least that is my view.
Good question, Victoria. The next Liberal leader needs to have organizational chops. She needs to be willing to go into every riding, working to rebuild the membership base. He needs to speak to immigrant Canadians, who have abandoned the party for the Conservatives. And he or she needs to be able to put forward a vision that is bold without being doctrinaire. A tall order, I think you would agree.
He has said, on the record, that he believes he could contribute to the country as its leader, but that doesn't think this is the right time because of his commitment to his wife and children. As someone said recently, if you run to become prime minister without the firm support of your family, you'll lose your family. So I take him at his word when he says this is a great impediment.
An interesting point, Sam. Let me just remind everyone that Liberal party members will not be the only ones choosing the next leader. Under new rules, anyone who signs a declartion of support for party principles can vote. So the race could become something akin to a U.S.-style primary race.
Will the Liberals rally behind the next leader or is there too much division in the party?, asks Caroline. I have no answer, but I think that is the defining question over the course of this race.
Getting back to your point on the new rules...