Canadian general election – the (Liberal) aftermath

See also Canada after 2008 election and Canada’s political showdown and Liberal Party Convention 2009 ; “Being Michael Ignatieff” by Michael Valpy ; Update: Canada at 150

Rare praise from Rex Murphy: The new Michael Ignatieff, fresh off the bus
Ignatieff will be better in the House this Fall for being on this trip. Even if no one particular event or issue stands out from the tour, he’ll be stronger, more credible for having done it. He will have thickened his self-confidence.
3 September
Gerald Caplan: Michael Ignatieff’s highly overrated summer vacation
Almost weekly Stephen Harper has tried everything possible to self-immolate, but Mr. Ignatieff has taken advantage of none of it.
He appears to stand for nothing except the centre, wherever and whatever that is. There are no grand policy initiatives, and barely any modest ones. There are no insights on the economy, especially the unemployment crisis. There is no sense of how he will bring democracy and accountability back to a country that is watching it deteriorate before their eyes. If he’s concerned about growing inequality within Canada he has impressively hidden it. Only on the issue of preserving the long-gun registry has Mr. Ignatieff shown real leadership and courage, and for that he indeed deserves to be saluted.
9 July
Keith Beardsley: Hold the snickers over Ignatieff’s boonie tour
Never discount the impact of a handshake or a few brief minutes of conversation. It will also give Michael Ignatieff an opportunity to learn and practice the skills he needs to work a room full of people. It will allow him to practice speaking off the cuff and give him an opportunity to rally the troops and create some personal loyalty to him from the rank and file.
This summer tour will be a campaign classroom for both Ignatieff and his staff. My bet is he will come out the better for it. He will have an excellent understanding of what a real campaign takes out of him personally and as the leader. He will know which staff to use on a campaign and which ones to leave behind in Ottawa. Plus Canadians will have told him first-hand what they think he should be doing in Ottawa. These are important lessons to learn prior to pulling the plug on the government.
23 June
Don Martin: Ignatieff ’s not-so-slick oil proposal
While oil and water never mix, it’s now creating attractive political chemistry. With that Louisiana oil gusher blackening beaches, Michael Ignatieff’s pledge this week to ban oil tankers from the northern B.C. coast would appear to be a political no-brainer. But the Liberal leader is sacrificing practical realities for political expediency.
19 June
Ignatieff’s summer of discontent
The Liberal leader is in a deep political funk with no easy way out
(Maclean’s) Announcing the foreign policy strategy looked like a bid to play to Ignatieff’s strengths, timed to exploit Tory embarrassment over plans for the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto later this month. The Liberal party set the stage for Ignatieff’s “Canada in the World” speech by unleashing radio attack ads, along with a YouTube video, that hammer the government over the $1.2-billion cost of hosting the meetings of world leaders—including a jaw-dropping $900-million security bill and frills like the now infamous “fake lake” display at the Toronto summit venue. As well, the Liberals announced that Ignatieff will “barnstorm” the country this summer with a string of campaign-style bus tours, broken only by a five-day trip to China in early July.
None of it will amount to much, though, if Ignatieff can’t find a way to start connecting with Canadians. His party is mired in the mid-20s in polls, trailing the Tories in the low-30s. Pollster Nik Nanos’s regular tracking of Canadians’ preference for prime minister is even worse news for Liberals, with Harper favoured by nearly 30 per cent last month, compared to Ignatieff’s 17 per cent. Yet Nanos says the Liberal leader, unlike his rivals, still has a chance to redefine himself in the popular imagination. “Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton have been around a long time; it’s hard to get excited about them,” Nanos says. “Ignatieff remains the question mark in the whole equation.”
15 June
John Ivison: Ignatieff unveils ‘bumper sticker’ foreign policy
Michael Ignatieff unwrapped the Liberal party’s foreign policy platform Tuesday — a mix of practical, new ideas aimed at improving Canada’s standing in the world. Unfortunately for Liberals, the practical ideas are not new and the new ideas are not practical.
Canada in the World: A Global Networks Strategy sounds fresh — at least for anyone who hasn’t read the Canadian International Council’s recently released Open Canada: A Global Positioning Strategy for a Networked Age.
But the idea of promoting Canada’s interests overseas using transportation executives who provide rolling stock to China, doctors working for Médecins Sans Frontières and acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, as the Liberal plan envisages, smacks of gimmickry.
11 June
Chantal Hébert: Rift grows between Chrétien and Ignatieff
While the two men share a strong belief that a Harper majority victory in the next election would have profound and—from their perspective—tragic consequences for the country, Chrétien is convinced that little short of a pre-election recasting of the progressive side of the federal landscape can ensure that Conservative rule does not become the new normal in Canada.
9 June
It’s not a merger. It’s a leadership race
Rae’s real prize is convincing the left that he can lead them to power, but as leader of that historic Liberal Party. With Rae in the Liberal top-spot, Liberal-NDP switchers will go Liberal leaving the NDP a shadow of itself. Is merger on the table? No. But talk of a merger sends a signal to all that the Liberal Party is not content with itself and when you do the math it’s a question of leadership, not its constitution.
27 May
Ignatieff speaks out of both sides of his mouth on MP expenses
Michael Ignatieff preached transparency outside of caucus Wednesday but inside he was warning MPs not to go out on their own and post their expenses on their websites.
25 January 2010
Trumping NDP, Michael Ignatieff lays out tough new prorogation rules
M
ichael Ignatieff wants 10 days written notice to be given the opposition when the Prime Minister plans to shut down Parliament.
Arguing Stephen Harper lacks the character and discipline required to use his prime ministerial powers of prorogation responsibly, the Liberal leader said new rules are needed.
21 December 2009
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to embark on cross-country campus tour
Michael Ignatieff will start the New Year with a cross-Canada campus tour to meet with young Canadians in the lead-up to Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge – a non-partisan conference being held in Montreal in March 2010.
“We’re starting a national conversation about the Canada we can be on our country’s 150th birthday,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “We’ll be talking about the kind of Canada we want in 2017—and what we need to do today and tomorrow to get there.
9 December
John Geddes: First the HST, then pensions—Ignatieff’s new game?
Patterns in politics are obviously more revealing than isolated actions. When Michael Ignatieff decided last week to throw Liberal support behind harmonizing provincial sales taxes in B.C. and Ontario with the federal GST, it was merely an interesting event. Combine that risky political move with yesterday’s proposal from Ignatieff on pension reform, however, and you’ve got the beginnings of something that deserves closer attention.
20 November
Ezra Levant: Donolo fires Kinsella; Ignatieff’s poll numbers set to rise
The first move by Peter Donolo, Michael Ignatieff’s new chief of staff, was to fire just about everyone in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, other than the leader himself. Donolo’s decision to fire Kinsella has been done, so far, without Kinsella smearing Ignatieff as he did before, and as he did continuously when Paul Martin was the leader. I’d call that Donolo’s first executive success, though I wouldn’t bet on it being permanent — like a vial of nitroglycerine, Kinsella is quite touchy, and prone to angry explosions.
When Ignatieff hired Kinsella, the Liberals were essentially tied with the Conservatives. On the day Donolo fired Kinsella, the Liberals are 15% behind. I call it the Kinsella Effect; Donolo calls it time to end amateur hour, and bring in some grown-ups.
27 October
Ignatieff hires ex-Chrétien PR man as chief of staff
Michael Ignatieff has hired veteran political strategist Peter Donolo to take over as the Liberal leader’s chief of staff.
Donolo, who will be leaving his post at the Strategic Counsel, a Toronto polling firm, will replace Ian Davey, a longtime Ignatieff supporter.
25 October
Ignatieff would take Liberals to worse election showing than Dion: poll
A new poll shows support for the federal Liberal party has weakened so much that, were an election to be held today, Michael Ignatieff would lead his party to a worse showing than his predecessor, Stephane Dion, did last October.
21 October
Don Martin: Ignatieff happy to play waiting game with Tories
It’s no longer that the Prime Minister’s “time is up” in a mad rush to force a snap election. Emerging from a hellish month were everything went wrong, Michael Ignatieff has changed his mind and plans to “let him stew” until next spring to see if he can build on changing Liberal fortunes.
28 September
Liberal MP Coderre quits as Quebec lieutenant
Longtime Liberal MP Denis Coderre has resigned as the party’s Quebec lieutenant and defence critic, blaming unnamed “advisers from Toronto” for interfering with his home province’s affairs. Coderre said he no longer has the “moral authority” to act as leader Michael Ignatieff’s right-hand man in Quebec, after being overruled in choosing the Liberal candidate for the Montreal riding of Outremont.
24 September
Key Liberals back Cauchon in riding fight – Ignatieff offers Cauchon chance to run in Bloc riding
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is facing increasing pressure from within his caucus to accommodate former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon, who wants to run in the next election.
In interviews with CBC News, several Liberal MPs went public with their views about the party’s decision to reserve the Liberal nomination in the Montreal riding of Outremont for business executive Nathalie Le Prohon.
21 September
Ignatieff rejects Cauchon’s bid to re-enter politics
Former Liberal cabinet minister Martin Cauchon has failed to win the support of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to run in the Quebec riding of Outremont in the next election.
“Martin Cauchon was an excellent minister, an excellent MP, and a good Liberal. I spoke to him last night, and yes, I have made my decision,” Ignatieff said Monday while speaking at the Toronto Board of Trade. “I told him that we have been soliciting female candidates and we not only intend to have women candidates, we want them where they can win.”
7 September
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal poster boy
Like a recluse who has chosen a life in the woods, to be surrounded by fairies and forest spirits, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff sits in the middle of a forest in the latest Liberal pre-campaign ad. He talks about the need for a government that thinks big, a Canada that reaches out to the world and builds the economy of tomorrow.
30 June
Ignatieff on how the West will be won
… In part, he said, the Liberals have tried to win votes in Toronto by blowing off Alberta and bashing the oil sands. Mr. Ignatieff believes that strategy is insane for a number of reasons. “I think sometimes we tried to establish our environmental bona fides by running against the oil sands,” he said. “And I just think: This is a national industry. It’s pumping something like $8-billion into the federal treasury. So it’s slightly bad faith to beat the goose that lays the golden egg over the head with a stick. The goose is a little messy. The goose needs to be cleaned up. The goose needs to make better use of the yard, but let’s make this a sustainable industry that all Canadians can be proud of.” Mr. Ignatieff believes the federal government, and Alberta, need to invest in new technologies that will help clean up the oil sands and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The capture and storage of emissions, he believes, will one day be possible after more dollars are spent on research and development.
17 June
On the finance side, Alice Funke of the website Pundits’ Guide has made some rough calculations about the Liberals’ financial health. She calculates that the Grits spent $21.7-million last year (this includes their 2008 campaign spending, less their 50% government rebate, plus an estimate of 2008 spending, based on the 2007 figure). That compares to $20.3-million in revenue (fundraising for 2008 and quarter one in 2009, plus six quarterly government subsidies). The equivalent figures for the Conservatives are $37.4-million in spending and $41.1-million in revenue.
There is an argument that entering an election campaign levels the financial playing field, since everyone is then constricted by the same spending limits. … Curiously, the Liberals are still waiting for all of the $8.6-million in rebates from Elections Canada for candidates’ expenses during the last election (local riding associations can claim back 60% of a candidates’ expenses from the government). Elections Canada has processed 84 of 308 Conservative candidates; 47 of 308 NDPers; 23 of 75 Bloc candidates but only 4 of 308 Liberals. Nobody at Elections Canada could explain why 20 times as many Tories as Grits have had their submissions reviewed but it means that many Liberal riding associations will have to borrow against their outstanding rebates if they have to fight an election. More
Robert Galbraith’s photos of Liberal Fundraiser in Montreal – June 4, 2009
16 May
Rex Murphy: Tories attack: bad manners, bad politics BRAVO, Mr. Murphy!
There is an unacknowledged element in all attack ads. They say as much about those who design those ads, as about their ostensible target. These ads may well remind Canadians of something they already know – that Mr. Ignatieff was a long while before he chose, or deigned, to become a full Canadian. But they will also remind Canadians of something they know just as well, and do not like in the main: that the Harper Conservatives are a brittle, humourless and by-default-mean congregation. The ads, I predict, will hurt the Conservatives, far more than they will trim the rising Ignatieff Liberals.
15 June
Kelly McParland: Ignatieff’s decision is no decision (Well, at least we have the undiluted Conservative message)
While complaining that he can’t get answers from Mr. Harper, it’s similarly hard to pin Mr. Ignatieff down. He won’t say what the Liberals’ economic plan would be if they were in power. He won’t say how the party would reduce the deficit, while insisting the government should do so. He pledged a straightforward decision on the government “report card,” then didn’t deliver. “I don’t grade reports like this. This is too serious, it’s not a game,” he responded. He similarly won’t say what compromise the party would accept on EI, declaring the question “speculative.”  “I need to see what he’s got. I need to see the proposition,” he replied when pressed on EI. He seems to feel a four or five-point lead on the Conservatives is enough to justify taking the risk of alienating voters. I guess we’ll see if he’s right.
Ignatieff strikes back at attack ads
Conservatives trying to ‘change the channel’ from faltering economy, Liberal leader says
14 May
Ignatieff responds [to attack ads]
Some of you may have noticed that the Conservative Party has recently taken a serious interest in the Liberal Party of Canada and its Leader.
And the Conservatives think you should be interested in me, too.
They’ve bought ads on television stations across Canada, attacking me for having lived and worked outside the country.
We knew it was coming. When you’re down in the polls, when you’re presiding over the worst collapse in employment on record, you try to change the channel. You try to make Michael Ignatieff the issue.
Well friends, Michael Ignatieff is not the issue.
7 May
Gazette editorial: John Turner’s proposals would enhance democracy
He wants to gut the system of party discipline that makes MPs little more than puppets in the House of Commons. Turner’s two suggestions: no more central control of candidate selection, and “free votes” on most bills. Only on the Throne Speech once per session and the budget once per year, Turner suggests, should MPs be required to vote with their party or risk expulsion from it.
This would be a reversion to a long-lost style of parliamentary democracy in which each MP could – if he or she chose – really represent and speak for the electors back home, rather than being just another cog in a nation-wide machine controlled and manipulated from the prime minister’s or party leader’s office.
3 May
Michael Ignatieff speaks at the Liberal convention in Vancouver

  • On national unity Ignatieff took a jab at Harper suggesting he failed to unite the county.  “We are not two solitudes; we are one people. Harper pitted province against province and region against region. It is the job of a Prime Minister to unite a country, not divide it.”  Then Ignatieff criticized Harper for pushing Canada to a non-confidence vote.
  • On job loss and the economy he said Canada needs a common national standard of eligibility for EI. “There are Canadian’s who do not know if they will work again. We must send them a message of hope. Our government will lead you back to prosperity. We will turn this crisis into an opportunity. We need a Canada where an unemployed person can be trained.”
  • On green technology: “We need a Canada where scientists are supported, rather than abandoned by their government. Our training and researchers has to be the best in the world, and if we follow that, then the green technology we will need will be invented here in Canada.” Ignatieff then spoke about the University of Victoria’s Venus and Neptune programs and how they are doing ground breaking research in ocean science. “Countries that lead in ocean science will lead in the green jobs of tomorrow.”
  • On women’s rights: “We need a Canada where women get equal pay for work of equal value.”
  • On education: “We need a Canada where every student who gets the grade, gets to go to the best school. That means that every Aboriginal and Metis child gets a world class, not a second class, education.”

CONGRATULATIONS to Wednesday Nighter Brigitte Garceau, elected Vice-president (francophone) of the LPC Executive!
Chrétien blasts Harper to open Liberal convention
Jean Chrétien officially kicked off the Liberal convention Friday with a scathing assessment of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s foreign policy and economic management. With his trademark mix of humour and folksiness, the former prime minister revved up Liberal troops meeting in Vancouver by skewering Harper as a leader who’s gone missing on the international stage and bungled the economic crisis. Chrétien recounted how Harper, when in opposition, used to malign Canada as a welfare state while singing the praises of the George W. Bush’s Republican regime in the United States. But now that the Republicans have fallen out of favour and the world economy has melted down, Chrétien said Harper is trying to take credit for the very Liberal policies he used to trash.
Liberal Convention by numbers (some amusing statistics,e.g., Total number of former Prime Ministers in attendance at the Liberal convention: 3 ; Total number of former Conservative Prime Ministers still on speaking terms with Stephen Harper: 0 )
1 May
The long road ahead for the Liberals

Big questions, windy answers
This month, the Liberal Party of Canada picked Michael Ignatieff as its new leader. To help readers decide what kind of leadership Mr. Ignatieff might provide for Canada, members of the National Post editorial board are reading through his oeuvre, discussing their impressions as they go. This week’s selection: Mr. Ignatieff’s 2000 book, The Rights Revolution.
11 December
Dear fellow Liberals: The time for reform is now
Désirée McGraw, Carolina Gallo La Fleche, Catherine Mckenna and Brett House,
(National Post) Governor-General Michaelle Jean’s decision to press the pause button, combined with the Liberal party’s unity behind a new leader, offers a critical opportunity to embrace and enact renewal. We must address three key areas, starting now: – People The party needs to recruit new members, expand the diversity of its membership and draw on the power of the grassroots. – Party The backroom character of the party machine must end, and fundraising must be broadened and modernized. – Policy The party needs to engage in an open policy process and produce a forward-looking platform that will once again capture the imaginations, respect and confidence of Canadians.Read more
Murky past could haunt Ignatieff

Ignatieff is a man of formidable intellect, who has spent a lifetime thinking through some of the knottiest issues of our age. He is well suited to articulate a liberal vision for Canada, at home and abroad, the way Pierre Elliot Trudeau did.
But he cannot do so successfully while dodging his murky past.
United Liberal caucus solidly behind new leader Ignatieff
During an emotional two-hour meeting, the party’s 77 MPs and 58 senators endorsed Ignatieff to replace Stéphane Dion.
9 December
Liberals left to re-examine how to endorse leader
The withdrawal of Bob Rae from the Liberal leadership race adds another twist to the party’s efforts to crown an interim leader with broad support.
Rae clears way for Ignatieff to take over Liberal helm
The Liberals are eager to install a new leader before Parliament resumes in January as the minority Conservative government faces key confidence motions that could result in either a general election or a Liberal-NDP coalition’s rise to power.  By bowing out, Rae said he hoped to ensure Ignatieff was the undisputed and unanimous choice of the party.
30 November
John Ivison: Michael Ignatieff would be PM in a Liberal-led coalition
Michael Ignatieff will become Prime Minister in a Liberal-led coalition government if the opposition parties succeed in bringing down the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons next week and if the Governor-General deems it to be a viable alternative, sources said late last night.
20 November
Rae declares candidacy for Liberal leadership
Mr. Ignatieff is considered the front-runner going into the leadership convention in Vancouver next May; polls indicate Rae is having trouble shaking the legacy of his deficit-ridden government on the 1990s.
8 November
OTTAWA: LIBERAL PARTY CONSIDERING CHANGE TO LEADERSHIP RACE
(RCI) Quebec members of the federal Liberal Party have made a controversial proposal to change the leadership rules to prohibit anyone with an outstanding debt from the 2006 leadership race from seeking the leadership post. Candidates will have to pay an entry fee of CDN$90,000, almost double the fee required in the 2006 leadership race. They will each be able to spend only CDN$1.5 million, or less than half the former spending limit imposed.
28 October
Rae to run for Liberal leadership
(CBC) Bob Rae has confirmed he will run for the leadership of the federal Liberal party, ending weeks of rumours over his political future.
28 October
LeBlanc to run for Liberal leadership

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc said he will run for the leadership of his party, becoming the first Liberal to publicly announce his intention to seek the top job.
McKenna rules out Liberal leadership bid
Frank McKenna, a former New Brunswick premier, said Tuesday he will not run for the leadership of the federal Liberal party, putting an end to mounting speculation about his political future.
27 October
Manley ponders leap into Liberal leadership race
Speaking in Ottawa on Monday, Manley said many people across the country have urged him to toss his hat into the ring, but he’s not sure he’s ready to take the leap.
24 October
OTTAWA: LIBERAL PARTY ADDS ONE SEAT FOLLOWING RECOUNT
Canada’s opposition Liberal Party has gained one more seat in the House of Commons after a recount overturned a result in the federal election last week. The seat in Montreal had initially been won by the Bloc Quebecois. After the recount, Alexandra Mendes of the Liberal party won by 62 votes to give the Liberal Party 77 deputies in all. The Bloc Quebecois has 49 seats, still a substantial majority of the 75 seats in Quebec where the party is based.
21 October
Rae, Ignatieff work together to avoid leadership clash
The spectre of an Ignatieff-Rae grudge match worries some Liberals who are casting about for an alternative heavyweight contender who could change the dynamic of the race. New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna and former deputy prime minister John Manley are among those being urged to run. The prospect of another polarized contest is also encouraging lesser-known contenders to consider taking the plunge in hopes that they, like Dion, can make a run up the middle. It is informative to re-read the April 2006 Maclean’s piece on the long-standing relationship between the two rivals for the leadership: Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae are pals. Really.
20 October
Dion quits, but will stay until successor is found
OTTAWA — Acknowledging he “failed,” Stéphane Dion is stepping aside to make way for a new Liberal leader, but will remain in the job until a successor is chosen at a leadership convention.
Kelly McParland: The two faces of Stéphane Dion
… in the six days since the Liberals went down to defeat, we’ve been treated to a whole different Stéphane Dion, courtesy of leaks from the party’s upper ranks. He was stubborn beyond belief. He was willful, obstinate, immune to advice, unwilling to entertain suggestions from people who had been at the job of winning elections long before he came along. He refused to listen when the party’s pollster told him the Green Shift was deeply unpopular and needed to either be jettisoned or sold in a more innovative fashion if it was to be anything but an anchor on the party’s fortunes. He was deaf to the complaints of MPs who had to try and sell it on the doorsteps of voters and were getting rebuffed in no uncertain terms. He ignored party elders and campaign gurus — or simply didn’t speak to them — when they tried to put him on a more promising track. He bet everything on the Green Shift and stuck by it despite all efforts to wise him up.
Weirdest of all, he thought he was doing fine. Not for a moment had he ever led any of the dozens of polls carried out during the campaign, yet as Don Martin tells us, when someone finally broke the news to him on election night that the party had gone down in flames, he refused to believe it. He also apparently had no idea that the loss automatically meant his job was forfeit, even though the papers were already full of debate about his replacement; he thought he could battle on as leader of the opposition, maybe even carry on to the leadership review and win it. The sound of knives being sharped had been audible for weeks, yet Mr. Dion evidently didn’t hear it. It has taken him almost another week to get his head around the fact that it’s over. He’s been in seclusion the whole time.
Jonathan Kay: Stéphane Dion owes his party no apologies
Stéphane Dion was right to announce his departure: When you lose this bad, the leader takes the hit. No exceptions.
But he can leave with his head held high — and without apologies. Dion delivered exactly the same left-wing bill of goods he advertised back when he ran for party leader in 2006. The people who should be spouting mea culpas are the Liberals who picked this earnest beta male in the first place. Instead, they’re cynically indicting the man for exactly the same qualities they praised so effusively two years ago.
18 October
Canada still needs Stéphane Dion
The Gazette
Stéphane Dion has a lot on his mind this weekend: Should he stay or should he go? Whatever he decides, we hope that Dion remains in public life for a long time.
After Dion led his party to its lowest share of the popular vote since Confederation on Tuesday, his contributions to his country and party swiftly vanished from Canadians’ collective memory. We should remember them now.
Dion is a bright, brave and tough man who is an unrelenting and unquestioned patriot. He forever won the respect and affection of federalist Quebecers with his dogged defence of Canada during those dark and uncertain years following the 1995 referendum.
Dion came to Ottawa in 1996 at the behest of then prime minister Jean Chrétien, a fresh face from Quebec at a time when the Liberals needed strong Quebec federalists.
Looking like a graduate student with his earnest mien and ever-present backpack, Dion didn’t blend in. But he became an effective and persuasive voice for federalism in Quebec. He soon started a letter-writing campaign to Quebec separatists, challenging nationalist orthodoxy. Ultimately, those letters were an inspiration for his 2000 Clarity Act, which set out strict rules for any future referendums. This law might well have done more to help keep Canada together than any leader, policy or party.
When the Liberals chose Dion as their leader, it was as a compromise candidate, a surprise one, at that. Dion finished in third place on the first ballot with only 18 per cent of the vote. It was an inauspicious start to what would turn out to be a rocky time at the helm of the Liberal Party.
Dion was chosen Liberal leader because he was seen as someone who could unite the warring factions in the wake of the Chrétien-Paul Martin wars. If Dion wasn’t successful, it could mean that the job was harder than anyone realized.
Dion made the environment a priority, first by supporting the Kyoto Protocol as environment minister, later, as leader, by adopting the Green Shift, the Liberals’ $15.4-billion carbon tax plan. But Dion was unable to sell the Green Shift to Canadian voters, handicapped as he was by difficulties in English and an uncharismatic leadership style.
But if he is unsuited to political leadership, Dion’s considerable talents and undisputed intellect should not be lost to Canada.Twelve years after arriving in Ottawa, straight from an academic setting, Dion scaled heights that must have been surprising even for him. The Liberals need to rebuild, and Dion might not be the man to do it. But his talents, intellect and honesty are still needed by his country.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008
Liberal problems extend far beyond Dion’s leadership
(TorStar) Along with being wrong about every race – Conservatives retained 10 of the [Ottawa] region’s 15 ridings while increasing popular support – Liberals overestimated the party’s lingering appeal. Familiar names, names inseparable from the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin eras, all lost. Penny Collenette, an accomplished Chrétien insider and long-time cabinet minister David Collenette’s wife, was beaten in Ottawa Centre by Paul Dewar, the favourite son of the city’s first NDP family. David Pratt, Martin’s first defence minister, couldn’t unseat John Baird in Nepean despite allegations the environment minister meddled in municipal politics. In the hinterland, Dan Boudria, son of Chrétien crony Don Boudria, fell 5,000 votes short of Conservative Pierre Lemieux. The pattern, repeated on both the Ontario and Quebec banks of the Ottawa River, leaves behind more nostalgia than clout.
… The danger, not just for the party but for a party that needs viable options, is that Liberals will again settle for the quick fix of yet another saviour. Time and money are pushing the party in that wrong direction. Dion’s days as leader are numbered and a party deeply in debt can’t afford the serial conventions needed to consider policy and then pick a successor. Instead, the priority for a party that on Tuesday lost funding along with 27 seats (since the last election) will be to prepare financially for an election certain to come before Liberals are ready.
Liberals leaned too far left: Manley
The Liberals have traditionally governed as a large-tent party, attracting voters from both the left and the right. Dion pulled the party to the left, territory which is already occupied by the smaller New Democrats and the Greens.
He won the leadership race in 2006 by taking advantage of rivalry between heavyweight contenders Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, who fought each other in a bruising campaign.
Rather than watch the two men battle it out again, some Liberals are canvassing other candidates. The names most often mentioned are former federal finance minister John Manley and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna.
Pressure mounts on Dion to prepare a graceful exit before he’s kicked out
(National Post) As Mr. Dion held meetings to help him decide what steps to take in the aftermath of Liberal losses on election night, officials denied a published report that the Montreal MP was going to resign Thursday and said he had no plan for a news conference Friday either. Liberal Senator David Smith, a co-chair of the national Liberal campaign, urged Liberals Wednesday to show Mr. Dion “enormous respect” for his hard-fought campaign and to give him some breathing space while he ponders requests from inside the party to step down.
McKenna eyeing Liberal leadership: source
Former premier [and former Ambassador] said to be mulling leadership bid if Dion resigns
The poor performance by the Liberals in this week’s election, coupled with the prospect of a divisive fight for a vacant leadership between Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, has prompted a group of senior party figures to approach Mr. McKenna, 60, now deputy chairman of Toronto-Dominion Bank.
Supporters of a McKenna candidacy argue that the notion of uniting the left is a losing strategy for the Liberal party and that only a move back to the political centre will unseat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Tom Axworthy, a former principal secretary to Pierre Trudeau, said the party needs to address more issues than simply choosing a new leader.
Mr. Axworthy was the chairman of a renewal commission that was appointed to look at all aspects of the party’s operation after the past election defeat. The commission said there is an “implementation gap” between what Liberals promise and what they deliver, so greater emphasis should be placed on improving government effectiveness. It also urged that such major initiatives as Mr. Dion’s Green Shift be voted on by members.
However, the recommendations of the 30 or so task forces were largely ignored by Mr. Dion when he became leader. “Leadership ambitions today may mean they ignore the deep-seated problems of the party and hope that glitz will win the day. It’s always a dilemma between personal agendas and party need,” Mr. Axworthy said.

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  2. A Conservative friend October 31, 2008 at 12:19 pm · Reply

    I will skip right to the travails of the Liberal party whose hierarchy reminds me of troglodytes, working so hard but underground and in the dark. Your expression, “bankruptcy in the vision department” is regrettably highly appropriate. Once they determine what that “vision” is, they will have to communicate it as well, another department in which they seem a little inept. Although like you, I am not surprised that Frank McKenna has so sensibly said he will not toss his hat into the ring, I am similarly disappointed. Perhaps he also feels he wasn’t supported well by his own party when ambassador to Washington, recognises the party as a nest of vipers and that the feuding Martin and Chretien camps atmosphere persists.
    I fear John Manley should not run either. As astute and experienced as he is, he would be a great intellectual choice (a bit like Stanfield for the Tories years ago) but I am concerned he would fail miserably as a Liberal party leader only because he would not be effectively supported. He should be saved for other, important tasks.
    The alacrity with which Dominic Leblanc presented himself as a potential leadership candidate so soon after McKenna’s announcement was positively indecent and in my opinion, a harbinger of things to come if the mantle were ever thrust onto his shoulders. He may have the backing of the McCains (ours, not theirs) and the Irvings, but hopefully the “depth” of the party, of which certain Liberal movers and shakers speak but of which I have serious doubts as to its existence, will mean his aspirations will be short-lived.
    Of course, there are always Codere and Cauchon…
    As you know, I am not a Liberal, but please can we at least have a decent Loyal Opposition instead of the also-rans jousting inanely with their fellows of similar quality on the government benches?

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