It's the election, stupid
Richard Gwyn has an interesting piece in the Toronto Star today on the Liberal leadership race. Discussing who will get all the votes in a second ballot, he suggests that delegates must consider who they want to lead the party into the next election and how they view the next election.
He contends that there are two basic approaches: One that considers the next election a dead loss and the leadership race a vote on who will be the best opposition leader and best choice to lead the party into the next election after that some four or five years down the road, and one that considers the next election the most crucial. The former approach, Gwyn argues favors a second ballot swing to the youngest of the four main contenders, Gerald Kennedy, as it would give him four years to work on his French, gain a national profile and make the change from Queen's Park politics to the federal scene. The latter approach favours Bob Rae as a candidate who could go to the polls tomorrow with a national profile and the ability to go toe-to-toe with Steve Harper.
Nice theory, but there are a few problems with it, just as there are with everything involved in the Liberal leadership race. Gwyn's right in this respect-- it is all about the next election. Kennedy would make a good leader of the opposition, as would Rae and possibly Dion. Both Rae and Kennedy have good parliamentary instincts and can counter-punch and run rhetorical rings around Harper. Rae in Parliament would likely eat Harper's lunch before breakfast on a daily basis, and a few years as leader of the opposition might convince Ontario voters to forget their (IMO undeserved) grudge against him for his tenure as premier. Ignatief doesn't strike me as someone who has any interest in being leader of the opposition for any length of time. If he doesn't get to be Prime Minister or a least a senior cabinet minister, he'll go back to Harvard. If we must concede an election to the Conservatives - and I don't think we do - then Rae and Kennedy would be good choices as long term leaders of the opposition who could lead the party into power four years down the road.
Unfortunately, my dog in this race - Ken Dryden- may not be the best choice for a leader of the opposition either as he is not quick with the sharp sound bite. He is not especially gifted at the the slash and parry repartee of the House, but is better at coming up with policy and making big, meaty speeches - he'd give a hell of a prime ministerial address, but as far as day to day brawling in the House, its just not his thing.
If the Liberals dig in their heels as they should and refuse to concede the next election - and there is no reason they should concede given the precarious state of the Conservatives popularity - then this leadership race is all about picking a leader whose vision and policies are acceptable and who can beat Stephen Harper on the husting next spring or summer. Kennedy can't do it - no one in Quebec or the west knows or cares who he is. Rae can't do it - the Liberals won't win without winning big in Ontario and Rae will have a real problem there. He presents a good contrast to Harper and would pull a lot of NDP votes, but he is the just the guy Stephen Harper would like to run against as he would energize the Conservative base and push the Ontario business community firmly into the Tory camp.
What about the front runner? Ignatief versus Harper in a quick election would be a disaster for the Liberals. Ignatief will get the Al Gore treatment from the former Reform party --"he's an ivory tower intellectual from Harvard, our guy likes beer and hockey." His support for Bush's methods in the War on Terror will push small L liberals to back the NDP and result in a Conservative majority. He's not likely to stay on as Leader of the Opposition in such a situation, even if offered that opportunity by the party (which he wouldn't be). His people are touting him as the second coming of Trudeau, but I don't think we really need Margret back in 24 Sussex.
Nope, if the Liberals need someone who can beat Stephen Harper and the Conservative next Spring, the best choice is Dryden. He has the lowest negative reaction among the general voting population according to the Gandalf poll and would steal a lot of swing voters from Harper across the country. He is a well known and proven element. He may not be flashy, but he is as solid as a rock on policy and has a liberal vision of Canada that matches the values of most Canadians. And most importantly, he would kick Stephen Harper's reactionary ass from St. John to Vancouver Island, from Windsor to Yellowknife.
"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
It's the election, stupid