By Jordan Owens - Friday, June 8, 2012 - 0 Comments
It’s been 12 months since Rae became Interim leader; what do Liberals have to show for that? I’m afraid it isn’t much
There’s no need to speculate about what kind of Liberal Leader Bob Rae would be – he’s spent the past 12 months showing us. At the end of the day, Liberals have nothing to show for it.
“It’s important for the party to look very much to a new generation of leadership,” Mr. Rae said in the days after the 2011 election. Many of us were too dazed, too exhausted from the previous years’ battles to look for that new generation of leadership, much less ask what would the future hold for the Liberal Party. As those of us in Michael Ignatieff’s office packed up our desks and updated our resumes, we should have recognized what was happening. We should have recognized, because it was the same interim-to-permanent leader power play we had pulled a few short years ago.
Bob Rae was a gift in those early days of post-historic defeat. He was a strong voice to mind the shop, a jovial substitute teacher who genuinely seemed to have no ulterior motive beyond ensuring that Canadian liberalism had a voice, a hope and a champion.
How wrong we were. Like the captain of the Costa Concordia, Mr. Rae has taken the helm of the ship he was trusted to mind and steered it into shallow waters in a brazen attempt to showcase his own attributes – his quick-witted comebacks in the House; his ease in off-the-cuff interviews; his ability to run a leaner, more disciplined organization on a smaller budget – rather than use his leadership position to ensure Canadian liberalism makes it safely to its final destination – one that has increasingly become something along the lines of “get at least 36 seats in the next election.”
While no formal rule prevents Mr. Rae from running for permanent leader, he made a promise when he took the job that he would not do so. A politician’s word is the promise that binds him not only to his constituents and his party, but to every Canadian, to folks of all political stripes. Just like political staffers serve at the pleasure of their bosses, politicians can and should be held accountable by the public they seek to represent.
Bob Rae could have been upfront with Canadians. Rather than playing coy about his not-so-secret desire to be Liberal Leader, he could have admitted he had leadership ambitions, stepped aside from the interim job, and kicked off his campaign by advancing bold new policy ideas that would propel the party forward, to the benefit of all Canadians. He still would have had the opportunity to showcase his political skills in the House, while at the same time raising the bar for other Liberal leadership candidates.
Instead, his dithering took the spotlight away from efforts being made by Liberals across the country to rebuild the party and regain the trust of those who have left in recent years, only to find themselves wandering in the political desert – too socially progressive for the Conservatives but too fiscally responsible for the NDP.
Mr. Rae made the decisions that were in his own best interests, and it is centrist Canadians who will pay the price. Under Mr. Rae’s watch, political moderates have been left with a shadow of policy. When viewed in aggregate, through the lens of Mr. Rae’s leadership desires, even the most casual observer can detect that policy appears to have been crafted as a bargaining chip to attract support from the 34 other Liberal MPs, rather than designed in an attempt to solve any of the problems that Canadians face on a daily basis.
This isn’t the fault of the staffers in Mr. Rae’s office, nor is it the fault of the Liberal MPs who sit in his caucus. An individual staffer or a lone MP can only go as far as her leader will permit. The Liberal Party used to provide Canadians with bold policies – the Green Shift, the Clarity Act, the Kelowna Accord and the Learning Passport, just to name a few. Under Mr. Rae’s watch, the Liberal machine has withered to a campaign-in-a-box. Instead of serving as their champion, Mr. Rae offers the centrist majority of Canadians a strongly worded online petition or a call for the resignation of a minister. Liberal voices have disappeared into the abyss that is the “also said” at the bottom of a news article, leaving the headlines for Thomas Mulcair’s divisive politicking and an increasingly undisciplined Conservative backbench.
Canada didn’t get legalized gay marriage, a legacy of peacekeeping, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, bilingualism, a strong economy, universal healthcare and national unity with an online petition. Liberal leaders made bold declarations, that this is the Canada we want for ourselves and for generations of Canadians to come.
Individual Liberals have made remarkable strides to rebuild their riding associations, reinvigorate former members and reach out to the next generation of Liberals to ensure the party exists long into the future. But this is a country of remarkable, motivated people; likely these grassroots members would have done so on their own accord.
It’s been 12 months since Bob Rae became Interim leader; what do Liberals have to show for that? I’m afraid it isn’t much more than what we woke up with the morning after Election Day.
Jordan Owens is a Toronto-based communications consultant and was a communications aide to former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
By Jordan Owens - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM - 0 Comments
The kerfuffle over Thomas Mulcair’s dual citizenship illustrates one the biggest problems with our political discourse today: too much time taking cheap shots, not enough time focusing on the problems facing Canadians. Or: too much time taking cheap shots, not enough time tending to your own backyard. I’m a partisan hack, so either will do.
You’ll never hear me say that partisan politics is bad. It’s good for people to be reminded of the things that politicians do and say. We should be electing people who represent the best of us, so it’s important that we hold our politicians to a certain standard. Plus, partisan politics has often paid my bills. By all means, keep on keeping on.
Hypocrisy, though, is a different story. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 2:56 PM - 0 Comments
In the upcoming days, watch for criticism in the media—probably by anonymous Liberal sources (not to be confused with Anonymous Liberal Sources)—of the decision to allow the leader to veto policies. You should also expect criticism of the other major constitutional change to take place this weekend: the process to select the next leader has been opened to include non-member “Liberal supporters,” in addition to card-carrying members.
The objection by these folks will be that membership is now twice-devalued. Members don’t get final say over the party leader, and they don’t get final say over party policies. This is easily summarized and easily stated, so it will be easily repeated by those who agree. And when boiled down to that level of simplicity, it sounds dangerous, which makes it even more headline-grabby. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 8:31 AM - 0 Comments
Update: they have now ruled it out.
After a long floor debate that was slowed by technical difficulties and points of order, Liberals will continue voting this morning on constitutional amendments, including one on establishing staggered regional voting days.
Having voted last night to create a non-member “supporter” category that will be able to participate in the selection of the next leader without becoming a card-carrying Liberal, delegates decided to keep the nomination of local candidates a privilage of leadership.
This morning, keep watch to see whether or not delegates will continue to reform the process by which the next Liberal leader is chosen. Staggered regional voting days—the Canadian equivalent of the US presidential primaries—could be an interesting discussion. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
Anonymous Liberal Sources stole a moment of PEI Premier Robert Ghiz’s time during his visit to the Liberal biennial convention. Here are some highlights:
JO: What’s it feel like to win? There are a lot of Liberals here who don’t remember what it’s like—or have never known what it’s like. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal party presidential candidate Mike Crawley’s war room is a hub of action; volunteers are assembling swag kits, making stickers, and entering data, all to ensure their candidate becomes the next president of the Liberal party of Canada.
With over 200 volunteers spread out across the country, according campaign spokesperson Nicole DeKort, this is the first opportunity for many to meet in person. Throughout the day, volunteers stop by with information from the floor, so the team can dissect the message and adjust their strategy as needed.
One section of the room is taken up by a screen and projector showing HootSuite, so volunteers can keep track of the conversation on Twitter.
Once voting starts, the purpose of the war room will shift from getting out their message to pulling the vote. The campaign has been collecting contact information for delegates who have pledged their support, and will be making sure every supporter gets to the polls.
Whenever Liberal party politics is at stake, there’s the risk of having temporary battles turn into long-term feuds. According to DeKort, the Crawley campaign is different, because it’s about bringing people together. No matter who wins today’s election—results will be announced tomorrow—Crawley’s team wants to see a united Liberal party turn their focus to the real task at hand: a Federal liberal government in 2015.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to rely on a truly anonymous Liberal source to tell me what goes on in the Sheila Copps campaign war room. At the invitation of friendly volunteers, I waited inside for a communications person, who was then kind enough to remind this former staffer of the First Rule of War Room: no media allowed.
The hallway is just a place for spin.
By Jordan Owens - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
This morning, Anonymous Liberal Sources sat down again with Michael Ignatieff. We talked about his view from the stage at last night’s tribute and his thoughts on what comes next for the Liberals. We’ll have a longer piece later, but will leave you with this snippet where he mentions presidential candidate Mike Crawley:
The party’s got to understand—and Mike Crawley said this last night—the party’s got to see itself as being one public service organization in a very competitive field, all of whom are competing for the allegiance and commitment and brains of the next generation. They’ve got to be big enough to reach out to those groups and say “come on in.” We have no monopoly on public service, we have no monopoly on virtue, and no monopoly on wisdom.
By Jordan Owens - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 7:51 AM - 0 Comments
The Young Liberals of Canada have managed to garner attention with a priority policy resolution calling for the abolition of the monarchy. The reason for doing so? To make the country more democratic. Yet the means by which this resolution will arrive on the convention floor was apparently anything but.
The monarchy resolution had to pass several hurdles before becoming the Young Liberals’ priority resolution. Young Liberal policies originate from clubs, and are then submitted to their local Young Liberals of Canada (YLC) Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs). YLC PTAs then vote on the resolutions they receive; those that pass are then to be considered by the YLC’s National Policy Committee, composed of members of the YLC National Executive. The YLC Policy Committee takes the resolutions it is given by the PTAs and decides which one of these is to be given priority status. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Friday, January 13, 2012 at 4:27 PM - 0 Comments
Earlier today, Adam and I sat down with our old boss, Michael Ignatieff. We’ll have more for you shortly, but here’s some of what he had to say about the Canadian political landscape.
AG: What is it like to watch the Conservative majority unfold from your vantage point?
MI: Painful. The Prime Minister is saying that we’re now a conservative country. Who does he think he is? What does he think Canada is? It’s as arrogant as when we said it’s a Liberal country. It’s neither a Conservative country nor a Liberal country. It’s just the country, and it’s bigger than all of us. The Canadians that I know are practical, moderate, non-ideological, middle of the road, fiscally conservative, socially progressive, by and large. It doesn’t make them Liberal, doesn’t make them Conservative. I don’t think they’ve moved an iota actually. So when he says the country’s gone conservative, it’s just the kind of arrogance that will ultimately bring these guys down. Just the same way we were brought down by thinking the country was Liberal. There’s a message for us and a message for them.
By Jordan Owens - Friday, January 13, 2012 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
Following along with my previous post, the policy process has also taken a digital twist. At previous policy conventions, a floor vote would be held to select resolutions with enough support to be debated at plenary sessions. Instead of holding two in-person votes, the Party has used Liberal.ca to open first round voting to the entire membership. With the first round of voting moved online, priority resolutions will only be voted on by in-person convention-goers once, at a plenary session early Sunday morning.
I’m not sure what this means for En Famille, the Liberal members-only online forum designed for policy discussions—and championed by presidential candidate Ron Hartling. En Famille has largely served as a sandbox where those so inclined could discuss policy amongst themselves—and no one else. If you’re not familiar with En Famille, it’s comparable to the closed Facebook group “Liberals Rebuilding the Liberal Party” in terms of the kinds of issues discussed. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Friday, January 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
It’s too bad for the Liberals that 2011 wasn’t the year of the social media election. Despite killing it in online metrics, Liberal efforts to cash retweets in at the ballot box were largely unsuccessful. Unfortunately for us humble bloggers, social media remains largely dominated by members of the mainstream media, “web 2.0 experts,” people making slanderous allegations about Julian Fantino, Beliebers, people who aren’t Mike Duffy, and an increasingly large group of folks determined to give me an Ikea gift card.
But do not fear, pyjama-clad fans of weekend-long policy conference webcasts, the Liberal Party of Canada knows the Internet is more than a series of tubes. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 3:48 PM - 0 Comments
When did the wheels fall off the Big Red Machine? Ottawa’s chattering classes are obsessed, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when things went wrong for the Liberal Party of Canada. Do we blame Michael Ignatieff’s leadership, the feuds of the Turner-Chretien-Martin years, or Trudeau’s alienation of the West? Is there some other demon lurking in the shadows; was he waiting for us to be distracted by the Conservative foible of the day before snatching electoral victory from our collective, centrist grasp? Welcome, dear readers, to the Liberal Biennial Convention: Blame Game Edition.
I don’t expect discussion this weekend will stray too far from this narrative. This exercise will be as much about moving forward as it will be about diagnosing our institutional ailments. It will be as much about these two issues combined as it will be about hospitality suites. Such is the futility of Ottawa.
Settling the question of what went wrong matters, if only because it will determine how we rebuild. Continue…
By Jordan Owens - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM - 0 Comments
Recently, anonymous Liberal sources have commented on the following issues:
- Being in third place while there’s a Conservative majority keeps the heat off while we regroup and rebuild;
- It might not be the best idea to let a 20-year-old run the Liberal policy process;
- Before becoming interim leader, Bob Rae said he wouldn’t attempt to become permanent leader;
As a former communications staffer in Michael Ignatieff’s OLO, I’m as big a fan of the well-placed source as the next gal. But it’s a privilege to influence the national dialogue and that’s the best anonymous Liberals can do?
Allow me: Continue…