Sunday, January 16, 2011

Good Ship Liberal

A lot has been made about "star" candidates. Whenever the Conseratives attract a name, it tends to feed now established narratives, but when it comes to the Liberals or NDP, largely ignored, in terms of drawing wider conclusions. The NDP have attracted some talent for the next election, most noteably in Quebec, but that's hardly discussed, even though it does deserve consideration. On the Liberal front, I see a real disconnect between the "conventional wisdom" and the reality on the ground, because the party is attracting big names at a nice clip.

Lost in the Fantino bi-election, the Liberals had a "star" of their own in Winnipeg North and that's the ONLY reason they won this seat from the NDP. Why Lamoureux decided to run for the hapless federal Liberals never really addressed, but plenty of ink on the "coup" that was Julian Fantino.

In the past, there was a fair perspective put forward, namely that the Liberals were having a hard time attracting high profile candidates. That angle, part of the wider leadership discussion, poorly attended events, readiness and general ability to really confront the government. I would argue evidence now exists that demands a revision on that perspective.

You probably haven't connected the dots, because nobody had bothered just yet, but don't look now, the Ignatieff Liberals are attracting an impressive slate of candidates. That Ignatieff is bolstering the candidate ranks has meaning, because it defies this notion of a party playing pure DEFENCE, whilst the Conservatives attack from all sides. In the last month, the Liberals have added three more high profile candidates, two of which are decidedly offensive in nature. A quick review:

Peter Tinsley: Former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, who will run in Prince Edward-Hastings, a seat currently held by the Conservatives.

Peter Fonseca: High profile cabinet minister in McGuinty government jumps to federal Liberals.

Marie Bountrogianni: The former, well respected, provincial Minister will run in Hamilton, challenging a NDP held seat.

If one is being fair, I think Ignatieff's team deserves some credit, for at least showing the capacity to attract talented "names" into the fold. It contrasts with this idea of a party not ready to fight an election. In addition, it also shows these people see something worth jumping aboard. Again, this wasn't always the case in recent past, some acknowledgement is due.

Ignatieff tours the country gaffe free, he seems to draw mostly overflow crowds, he seems to be attracting names, he seems to have a tightening clear message. Let's wait and see, but this election preamble is far more encouraging than what I remember heading into the last election- these star additions coming in short order, further evidence.


Jesse said...

These are exciting pickups, and I think it's fair to ask why the media hasn't picked up on this theme, but Fantino (who I very much dislike) is better known than any of them.

Steve V said...

This stuff is important, because it's "on the ground". I'd also add, we are taking a massive run at Mulclair, a race which could have lasting ramifications. We are not playing defence here!

Omar said...

An impressive list, but then again it doesn't take much to trump a sitting government made up of chiropractors, beef farmers and supposed economists.

D said...

Steve, would you consider other "star" candidates to be FORMER MPs who lost their seats in 08?

I attended Michael's 20/11 town hall two nights ago in Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg where Shelly Glover currently represents in Ottawa. The candidate for the LPC that will be on the next ballot is defeated former MP Raymond Simard. Interesting fact about Saint-Boniface, since the riding was created in the 1920s they have never elected a PC/Conservative in back-to-back elections. Yet, they've never run a defeated MP again the following election.

To say I was disappointed in the selection would be too much. Not like how I am horrified that Ignatieff has to go to KW every 6 months in an attempt to claw back support for Telegdi and Redman (two politicians who have served the country well but whose collective support dropped 15,000 votes between 06-08).

Like you stated in your opening paragraph, the "star candidate" profile seems to work for Harper because these candidates, like Fantino, personify one aspect of their agenda which people associate with the party. In today's political climate, star candidates are only "stars" if they can transcend their ridings and become national household names. Like Peter Kent, Niki Ashton, or Ken Dryden. These are truly star candidates in 21st century hyper-partisan times. Indeed, this elevates the importance of voting for a party go govern rather than an individual to represent YOU in parliament, but it seems to work given that a large chunk of the public believe their vote is for who you want to be PM, or party to govern, rather than local representation on issues at home.

I think that running Simard in Saint-Boniface is a little bit of a gamble, but it can pay off with hard work - and believe me, they are very hard at work in that riding.

However, attracting a star candidate means the party needs to project the image that they will win. And in order to win, they have to stand for something. And in order to stand for something you need to make clear lines in the sand on issues. Like fiscal management. Like CPP. Like Health Care. Like the environment. On those issues, the LPC is batting 0.500 and with low(er) polling it's hard to attract national names.

Steve V said...

I would say bringing Martin Cauchon back to take on Mulcair is another example.

I don't mind Redman coming back, honestly believe she can take that seat. As for Telegdi, he lost because he got out hustled, that'd be it for me.

Appreciate the insights on Glover's riding, didn't really know the dynamics.

JF said...

Just an aside but since you're talking about "star" Liberal candidates I'd like to draw your attention the Western Arctic Riding... I know the NWT is small and oft ignored but I'd still think that getting a former Premier counts as a "star" if just in a local sense...

Steve V said...


Thanks for that, a riding is a riding! Great news.

Do you know when he signed on, recent?