The post-Martin era is already upon us, with rampant speculation about the possible successors. I would suggest that Liberals need to react to the new political landscape and correctly interpret what the voters have said. The Liberal Party needs to transform itself, both substantively and figuratively. The only barrier standing in the way of complete electoral annihilation was voter apprehension about the alternatives. I venture to say that very few people, outside of diehard partisans, voted Liberal with the same passion as prior votes.
Within this context, when I hear the list of entrenched names who are favored to succeed Martin, I fear that Liberals may miss the message. Canadians don't want cosmetic changes, accompanied by the old guard with a recognizable face. This is a critical moment for the Liberal Party- it must forge a new identity. This reality can only be achieved by embracing fresh ideas, articulated by fresh faces. The Manley's, the Tobin's and, yes, the McKenna's present a party of the past, with a rigid hierarchy that doesn't translate into a grassroots approach.
I really believe the Liberals may misread the electorate because of their relatively high seat count. Don't let this thin minority fool you, the Canadian people have rejected the present incarnation of the Liberal Party. If it weren't for a divided right over the years, coupled with a charismatic challenged leadership, the Liberal prospects would have been different. The Liberal Party has become a top-down entity that doesn't mirror the "street".
Electing the old guard is tantamount to institutionalizing the notion of an old boys network, with an air of entitlement. The Liberal Party is not electing a new pope, and they best heed the clear message. Now is the time for Liberals to be bold, look outside the typical route and re-energize. If Liberals fall back to the usual suspects, embrace the known and prefer the safe, I would argue that their time in opposition will become all too familiar.
Canadians need to get excited about the Liberal Party. I can't fathom how this reality is achieved by looking backwards for leadership. The Liberals need a rising star, from the margins of the establishment to look credible again. However, the early jockeying suggests a preference for rehashing old names, within the old divisions that belong in the past. The Liberals need to recognize the strong desire for reform. Half measures within the same, tired institution, will do nothing to better the party's prospects and may cement the Conservative coalition. In other words- Liberals, this is your chance, don't blow it.