Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Ignatieff Team

Relating to the story today on Ignatieff's inner circle, a general sense of approval, with one caveat. It's pretty normal fare to surround yourself with people who have been loyal, people you trust and know well. In that sense, no big surprise that Ignatieff has surrounded himself with many who were part of his leadership team. That said, I believe the party is best served with total inclusion, regionally representative, reaching out to the best and the brightest from all camps, so I would hope, eventually, the team moves outside of the inner circle:
Now that he's started pulling his inner circle together, some Liberals are privately worried that Ignatieff is simply importing his leadership team into the Opposition leader's office - much as former leader Paul Martin did, with disastrous results. Leadership campaign organizers aren't necessarily best suited to policy development and preparing to govern.

Moreover, some Liberals are grumbling that Ignatieff has made little effort thus far to include supporters of his former leadership rivals, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, in his inner circle.

Early days, so it's hard to say anything conclusive, but hopefully we'll see more "reaching out".

During the election campaign, I was quite critical of Warren Kinsella, because from my point of view, too much effort was wasted rehashing ancient history, entirely counter-productive. I suppose it's easy for an outsider to be critical, I didn't live the "camps" reality, nor do I have intimate knowledge of what actually occured, whether bitterness is entirely warranted. That aside, if Kinsella has moved on, that's good enough for me, and I'll support his "war room" guru status entirely. Kinsella will be an great asset, there's no doubting his skill and shrewd political instincts. I have a feeling the Liberals will be far more assertive and aggressive, proactive instead of reactive, with Kinsella leading the charge.

One appointment, which looks promising:
Rocco Rossi, CEO of Ontario's Heart and Stroke Foundation, is expected to assume the party's top administrative job, replacing Greg Fergus. Fergus, who was appointed national director by former leader Stephane Dion, tendered his resignation Monday.

Rossi's expertise as an innovative fundraiser could be a huge asset for the cash-strapped Liberals, who've been struggling to adapt to the ban on corporate donations imposed in 2004.

"Expertise as an innovative fundraiser" is music to my ears, because the capacity to counter the Conservatives is entirely contingent on cold, hard cash. I certainly get the sense from Ignatieff, that fundraising will be a central thrust and I'm entirely confident that the coming months will show we've started to turn the corner.


Woman at Mile 0 said...

I am really hoping for Rae as Deputy Leader. I think he is very important to the party. If Ignatieff does not reach out, I would not be very happy at my error in judgment in supporting him.

janfromthebruce said...

I had to chuckle Steve, with mischief in my mind, with the top job going to former head "fundraiser" of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Does that mean he will be targeting older white overweight guys (as they disproportionately represent the largest cohort of this targeted group)? Just wondering.... Laugh Steve.

Pearce Richards said...

I agree, Rae as deputy leader. I also agree re: Ignatieff's duty to be inclusive from the Rae and LeBlanc camps.

I think you hit the nail on the head re: Rossi. Music to my ears. I would love to see the Liberals become competitive in the propaganda department. The last election was quite lop-sided.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about all of these insider appointments.
Kinsella's being rewarded after bad mouthing the party for years. Neophyte kids Clow Gendron etc are moving to Ottawa for a high school reunion.
And Iggy is nowhere to be seen.
Fergus did a great job and now we get a non for profit DG. Maybe he can sell the Liberal logo on dairy products to raise cash.
I wonder if David Orchard is still serious about contesting the leadership?

Steve V said...

If Rae isn't DL, I'll be very disappointed. That is a no-brainer on so many levels.

Anonymous said...

Agreed re Rae. The Liberals need as much intelligence as they can get. And money. It's a shame but that is the reality.

Ted said...

These are early days and only a few appointments have been made, all of whom are very clearly very competent in their fields. Lots of spaces left to fill including the important position of Chief of Staff (Zed is only interim right now).

Rae as Deputy Leader would be great except for one thing: he's also from Toronto. I think we would be positioning ourselves better to have someone from Quebec which is more customary: leader from Quebec, deputy from outside; leader from outside, deputy from Quebec. Or else someone from the West to help expand our base and show we mean business about bringing the West back into the party.

As for this erroneous, Tory-spin about 'where's Iggy', you have to bury yourself in several feet of snow not know he has been out there even more than the Prime Minister, and in fact is currently on a cross-country tour that is selling out tickets.

Steve V said...


I would argue the presentation of party unity supercedes any regional concern. Installing Rae as DL sends a message to the media, that the team is united and strong. If Ignatieff were to choose someone else, even if justified, I see some talk of "snub" and camps, which is unnecessary drama for the post. Additionally, Rae is easily our best performer in parliament, our most seasoned and skilled politician, having someone else there, would just look odd, in terms of the optics.

Anonymous said...

While Rae was sticking up for the coalition, Iggy was plotting - it's all about Iggy...

Not really surprised here.

Steve V said...

Oh please, I just can't stand this TRIPE. Rae was plotting too, coming out strong for the coalition was complete strategy. Are people just naive or does their bias destroy any semblance of common sense? BOTH parties were reacting tactically, anybody who thinks different, is frankly...well you know.

Ted said...

You assume that Rae would want to be deputy to Michael.

I don't disagree with you about the need for optical unity and a tag team of Michael and Bob in Question Period would define the news cycle each and every time. It would be awesome.

I would never want to underestimate the importance of unity. But if unity is there in caucus - the animosity between Bob and Michael was always overplayed by the media, and Bob is a loyal Liberal - then the optics would be just that optics so it has to be weighed against the optics. Is Quebec going to feel jilted or does it undermine our efforts to regenerate in Quebec to do take the unprecedented action of having the #1 and the #2 Liberal both from Toronto? Does this give the Tories a strong opening attack line? Does it weaken our efforts out west?

I am pretty sure that when Dion appointed Iggy as Deputy that was pretty unprecedented itself for former Liberal leadership contenders, but at least it was a leader/deputy from the two largest provinces as has always been the case. In other words, unity has been and can be achieved by other means than a symbolic deputy leader position. Converserly, if unity is not there, then putting Rae in as Deputy is not going to fix it (it would be only one thing that might help), as we saw in the last two years.

Again, caucus has been pretty united for the first time since Trudeau so optics have to be weighed against optics.

Clearly, there is no question that Rae would be a good person in general to have in a position like deputy. But to me, there is a big risk in going against an important and ingrained tradition and in having the top two Liberals from Toronto. So the real question is not whether Rae would be good or great or helpful, but whether that big risk bigger than the risk of disunity from NOT having Rae as deputy, if he even would want it?


RuralSandi said...

Perhaps Ignatieff would want to keep Rae in foreign affairs - would be hard for the inept Harper people to deal with his expertise - and it's a very important position at this time.

Dan said...

Interesting discussion of the Deputy leader question. I wonder if we really need one at all.

Like Ted I was also thinking that the deputy leader would have to be from Quebec, or vice versa if the leader was from Quebec. That might put Marlene Jennings, Marc Garneau, Denis Coderre, or a Quebec senator as our deputy leader. Otherwise maybe a party veteran like Ralph Goodale, John McCallum, or Ujjal Dosanjh.

That being said Bob Rae going second in Question Period every day would be great.

Steve V said...

To be perfectly honest, I don't think we have a Quebec MP of DL quality at the moment. Ignatieff has enough good will in Quebec, that he wouldn't really suffer, should he break with tradition (others have been abandoned in favor of Quebec) and name the most logical choice. Given the circumstance of his securing the leadership, I hardly see anyone getting too excited, if it's Rae.

Northern PoV said...

At the Montreal Leadership convention in late 2006, almost all candidates' supporters shared a good natured form of competitive camaraderie - knowing that while we were competing there and then, the real battle was yet to come, once we picked our leader.

The exception seemed to be the Iggy supporters - younger, aloof and over-confident in the beginning - slipping to angry and petulant in the end. Granted this was from the lower echelons - but one assumes the "fish stinks from the head".

And had they run a better campaign, they would have won - it was their campaign to lose - and lose they did!

Not pleased to see it is exactly this group that will be running (ruining?) things.

Anonymous said...


I simply must comment on a particular aspect of your post. While I do not think that anyone would disagree with a new Leader gathering around like-minded and trusted individuals within his own office(s), and as you say it is still early days, I do have concerns when authorities seem to be stretched (likely through tradition) and their boundaries blurred. So I take issue with your enthusiasm for the intimated "appointment" of a new National Director by the Leader. Nothing to do with the individual involved whatsoever - I know only "of" Mr. Rossi - I have very little on which to base a concept of suitability for the position.

I think one of the positive outcomes of the change-in-Leadership-process last month is that it has focused many in the Party on encouraging a fulsome examination and discussion of the Party's democratic constructs and just how they are or aren't currently reflective of fundamental Liberal principles. And, while I understand that the Leader is in sync with this thinking, I am not sure that this particular first initiative is in keeping with their mood.

I've asked a couple of members of the National Executive about their knowledge/understanding of the current process to enable a change in the National Director position. I've asked one of them to present my views to the National Executive on my behalf. I'm copying a slightly edited version of my position below, if you don't mind.

"We’ve just been through a situation which has generated much debate about the LPC Constitution, the legitimacy of some of its processes and respecting or not respecting it regardless of one’s point of view. My personal opinion is that most of the document is not worth the paper it is written on except for most of the Preamble (principles section), but that is a debate for another day.

Those who wish to hang on to literal interpretations of various clauses in the LPC Constitution should take note of the following. The Constitution states that the National Executive is to appoint the National Director with the consent of the Leader and the President. Does it not follow then, that the National Executive is the body to remove the National Director, also requiring the “consent” of the Leader and the President? Not the other way around. The Leader or the President cannot make or initiate (in my view) the decision and then seek the “consent” of the NE. The reasons for these provisions are that the NE represents the interests of membership and the Party, not the Leader’s (of course the Leader’s best interests are generally in the Party’s best interests, but not always). Has there been a rising up of the membership calling for the removal of the National Director? Has the National Executive been dissatisfied and expressed this dissatisfaction? (Please understand that my view is intended as neither a defence of or attack on Greg personally, it’s about the position and the job). And, if Greg submitted his “resignation”, should it not be up to the Executive to accept or refuse?

Even if one can somehow justify (which I cannot) the Leader’s right to make such a unilateral decision, we do not have a Leader yet, but an interim Leader. If that interim Leader was say, Ralph Goodale (or even a non-interim, but outgoing Leader like Stéphane Dion), would anyone in the Party believe that they had the legitimacy to make such a decision right now?

Finally, if the National Executive agrees with the dismissal, I think you will find that based on the above, many people would wish for the new appointment to be made in a much more open and transparent manner (I again refer you to the Preamble of the Constitution which states, in part...”The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that human dignity in a democratic system requires that all citizens have access to full information concerning the policies and leadership of the Party; the opportunity to participate in open and public assessment of such means, and such modifications of policies and leadership as they deem desirable...” – surely the National Director is included in the definition of “leadership” inherent in this phrase) – a call for applications and a full board-driven competition, with the National Executive ultimately appointing with the Leader’s consent.

Please tell me where to find the premise that the Party must change its entire leadership every time it changes the Leadership."

Sheila Gervais

Steve V said...

"Please tell me where to find the premise that the Party must change its entire leadership every time it changes the Leadership."

It's a great question for sure.

Maybe part of the "problem", it's a never ending cycle. One leader puts in his people, the next always feels inclined to put his own, the next, blah, blah, blah. I suppose a more democratic process in the end, but today's announcement is standard procedure.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, I just can't stand this TRIPE. Rae was plotting too, coming out strong for the coalition was complete strategy. Are people just naive or does their bias destroy any semblance of common sense?
During the coalition talks, Dion was the appointed leader and Rae firmly behind him.
During that same time I was bombarded by emails from Iggy's team. Rae? None....

I'm not saying that Rae was not planning his leadership campaign. It just seems that Iggy was not working with the current leader of the Liberal party.

As for bias, I used to support Dion but have stated that Iggy is the more "winnable" candidate....

Anonymous said...

Yes, well I'm just not sure that the Party will ultimately benefit from more "standard procedure". We've simply got to get away from personality- and power-oriented politics in our Party. This change in Leadership is a golden opportunity to refocus our efforts on our beliefs, on healthy, respectful debates based on our support of ideas, not particular people. That is what will attract voters, new members, new money and new energy. It's not so much the "who" but the "what". (in other words, we've solved the who, let's get on with the what).


liberazzi said...

I think the shadow cabinet should be just that. It should reflect and show to Canadians what individuals will be running which departments. Therefore, Rae would be the obvious choice for Foreign Affairs, so I think he should keep that porfolio for now and so on. Not sure if we need a deputy leader in any case. If he makes Rae the DL, then we go back to all the plotting stories.

Northern PoV said...

I just re-read the linked article and nary a mention of DL - which is often a largely ceremonial position ala Shelia Copps.

It was about the real power brokers around Iggy.

And speaking of petulant - doesn't that describe about 4 years of W. Kinsella?

In_The_Centre said...

Team Ignatieff is beginning to take shape.

The new campaign director, Don Guy, is probably the best political mind in the Liberal Party today. No one can manage complex policy, hone communications, manage a team and set the strategy like Don. Stylistically, he is an heir to John Rae's low-key, no-bull poop approach. He is a workaholic who demands discipline and eschews the spotlight. If you ask me why the Liberals won Ontario in 2003 and 2007, I will say in the same breath "Dalton McGuinty. Don Guy."

In 2003, I was working in the War Room in Ontario. On the first Saturday of the campaign, McGuinty was doing an event when he was confronted by an angry protestor. Before McGuinty got on the bus, Warren Kinsella tracked down that the protestor was a member of the Young PCs, and emailed his bio to the tour guys to distribute to reporters. After the election, when McGuinty and I were chatting, he said that was when he suddenly realized it wasn't 1999 all over again, there was a strong team backing him, and he could relax and do his job. That is my definitive Warren story, and the reason why his intensity is such an asset on a campaign. The guy would take a bullet to protect his candidate.

Rocco Rossi is an inspired choice for the national director role. For an organization that has difficulty with fundraising, membership and organization, Rocco is one of the best people to turn that around. His work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation is fantastic. Just check out this annual report. He's also a great guy who can inspire and cajole and get everyone rowing in the same direction.
Changing a few names at the top won't fix the Liberal Party of Canada.

But if you were going to start by changing a few names at the top, these are the kind you would want.

Dalton's main guy is about the bring that expertise to a national level for the LPC. Im excited

Steve V said...


What I'm saying, both Rae and Ignatieff had their perspectives on the coalition, which should be respected. Rae's cross-country tour, and many already acknowledge this, was an attempt to rally support behind him for the leadership. That doesn't mean Rae didn't come to his position honestly, just that it's not different from Ignatieff's hesitancy. I would argue, that Ignatieff's lukewarm response was the preferred course, because it allowed a more graceful exit, which looks pretty prudent now.

Möbius said...

agree, Rae as deputy leader. I also agree re: Ignatieff's duty to be inclusive from the Rae and LeBlanc camps.

Inclusive, schminclusive!

Bob Rae for nothing. He lost, or at least, gave up. Iggy should create whatever team he prefers.

Steve V said...


And like anybody cares...oh ya, you voted Liberal during the last depression, forgot. Snore.

Woman at Mile 0 said...

Read all the comments...still think Rae should be second/DL. He did not have to withdraw. He could have made it through with a Dion type scenario. I think his support would have built through the campaign. He gave a whole lot here.

Anonymous said...

The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party has traditionally gone to a French Canadian or a Quebecker when the leader is English. Chretien went with Copps and Gray and Martin went with Robillard. Dion went with Iggy when he had many he could go with Martha and Gerard. I find no reason not to buck this trend.

Dominic Leblanc would be perfect for Deputy Leader. A younger spokesperson for the renewal process and one who can energize the youth. His Parliamentary experience would also prove to be an advantage and be a perfect contrast to Jay Hill in the Parliamentary session.

About Rae, Iggy can provide him with many other posts. Shadow Foreign Minister would be a lucrative post for him, but attacking Lawrence Cannon seems to be a bit too easy.

Anonymous said...

It's time for traditions in the Party to fall by the wayside. New Leader, new tone, new directions, new ways of doing things.


Möbius said...

And like anybody cares...oh ya, you voted Liberal during the last depression, forgot. Snore.

Right. And you were claiming you voted NDP, for their brilliant environmental policies. :)