Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Liberals In Trouble

Yesterday, I had an entry which outlined the Conservatives strategy in Quebec, with the goal a majority in the next election. It is also quite telling that some Liberals are openly musing about a Conservative government for years to come:
Liberals are also looking at the real possibility that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) will "in all likelihood," win at least a minority or a majority in the next election which is affecting the whole dynamic of a Liberal leadership run.

"If he's got a majority the next time, you're up seven or eight years and nobody coming in this time is going to survive that long, especially older ones," said one Liberal, which explains why the party's heavy-hitters did drop out. "If Stronach and Brison don't do something, they're just going to fade from peoples' memories. They don't have long careers behind them to draw on, so they have to make their mark now or they'll just be distant memories by the time anything happens."

The fact that several high profile Liberals have taken a pass on the leadership race is more than just coincidence. It would appear many Liberals have calculated that their time in the political wilderness may be a protracted affair:
"How often do you have a leadership for a national party and three of the four leadership contenders are refugees from another party and one's an emigrant who's come back home 30 years later," said one Liberal, referring to Mr. Brison, Ms. Stronach and Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff, respectively.

The Liberals admissions, coupled with the Conservatives aggressive agenda to expand their base should give the center-left pause. In the near term, the Conservatives can put forward legislation that has public appeal, in an effort to set up their prospects for the next election. The more contentious issues, that frighten progressives, will be put on the back burner until a time when Conservatives have free reign.

It is hard to envision a scenario where the Liberals can effectively blunt the Conservative incursions into Quebec and provide a forceful alternative. How do you counter "renewed" federalism, in a province bent on greater autonomy? Unless the Conservatives self-destruct, the Liberals may flounder for years to come. And, don't expect the NDP to stop nipping away at the progressive wing of the Liberal Party. Of course things could change, but given the Conservatives clear, and increasingly effective, plans to solidify support, the Liberal prospects look bleak.

The fact that some Liberal insiders have already calculated that the Conservatives will win another term serves as a sobering revelation. The next Liberal leader may be viewed as a short-term bridge to party renewal. Quite a predicament for a Party that only months ago looked like Canada's perpetual rulers.


Devon Rowcliffe said...

Seems a bit strange to me why any potential leaders would pass up the position, just because they won't likely become PM for a couple of terms.

If there was a truly inspiring candidate, at the moment they could virtually walk into the Liberal leadership. And if they could do a good job leading an official opposition and slog it out for 4-8 years, they'd likely be PM one day.

I realise that older potential leaders, such as Brian Tobin, likely couldn't last until the Liberals regain the government. But what is their rational for being involved in politics in the first place? Changing the world for the better, or personal glory? Their hesitations make me wonder.

I would hope their aim is to improve their party (and more importantly, the country). But with so many refusing to take the helm, you have to wonder if all these older Liberal "heavyweights" are disinterested simply because they won't become PM. Perhaps they're more interested in glory than government?

But all this leadership gossip aside, the most crucial thing for the Liberals to do is to turf out all who were or will be implicated in the sponsorship scandals; and to rebuild party policy from scratch, ultimately giving us something fresh and inspiring. Wearing a new mask at the top won't change anything.

Steve V said...

"But all this leadership gossip aside, the most crucial thing for the Liberals to do is to turf out all who were or will be implicated in the sponsorship scandals; and to rebuild party policy from scratch, ultimately giving us something fresh and inspiring. Wearing a new mask at the top won't change anything."

If the Liberals have any hope they have to "purge". This may seem strange, but the fact that Liberals still have a large seat count may be a disadvantage moving forward. A lot of the same faces are still in prominent roles, which isn't necessarily a plus as the Liberals try to carve out a new image.

Annie said...

The thought of Harper getting a majority makes me ill.He will didvide this beloved country so much, that we won't recognize it.
I think the Liberal party should take this leadership thing very seriously --right now!
We cannot wait until the convention or we will have to deal with the inevitable, as an election could be called any time

Anonymous said...

Wow who are these extremely morose and hopeless sounding Liberals? I hope they are sent for some anti depression therapy right away. That is the absolute last thing we need right now. There's a downer at every party. If I thought like that I would be dead by now.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Why Martha Findlay would make a good leader of the Liberal Party, and Prime Minister of Canada

I believe she should be seriously considered by Liberals, because she brings several distinct plusses to the table, including these:

• Findlay has made her own way in life, like most Canadians have to. If she is elected leader of the Liberal Party, she will understand more than most of her wealthy opponents what the average Canadian faces.

• She has proven – in both business, as a mother, and in politics – her ability in all those fields.

• She is untainted by scandal, and would present a fresh face to the voters.

• She is an Ontarian, source of a big whack of total seats in the House.

• Her bilingualism meets the “minimum needs” tests for any candidate for leadership of a major political party in Canada.

• She has served her time in politics, is well respected in her riding, has demonstrated the ability to pull voters from across the spectrum of voters, and is not a parachuted-in candidate into her riding or into the leadership campaign.

• She will be a uniter – of the party, of the country.

It will be interesting to see if she is able to come out of the starting blocks with a detailed, personalized platform of her own, so that Liberals can weigh her positions on major issues and assess whether she could be a credible Prime Minister.

Given the absence of a clear frontrunner (with the most likely ones – Tobin etc. – having dropped out), the likelihood is that the votes will be close, with more than one round being needed to select a leader. Ms Findlay will enter the selection process with her own block of support, but she deserves serious attention from those who might be called upon to cast their votes for someone other than their first choice.

Steve V said...


I agree that Findley is an intriguing possibility.