By John Geddes - Friday, May 4, 2012 - 0 Comments
Only Justin Trudeau, who has seemed to rule out a run, rivals Rae for generating interest
Mike Crawley, the new president of the Liberal Party of Canada, may be a youthful 43, but he boasts a surprisingly long history of stepping up when the party ﬁnds itself in dire circumstances. A few months after then-leader John Turner led the Liberals to a soul-sapping defeat against Brian Mulroney’s ascendant Conservatives in the 1984 election, Crawley opted to join the losing side. Growing up in an Ottawa family that didn’t care much about politics, he was nonetheless a teenaged true believer. “My ﬁrst event was a hoity-toity fundraising reception that I got a free ticket to,” he remembers. “I showed up, didn’t know anybody—a geeky 15-year-old with all these people in nice suits. Even though I was just 15, I thought I could have some inﬂuence, and that attracted me.”
Since Liberals elected him to head their national board of directors at a convention early this year, Crawley has taken on a behind-the-scenes rebuilding challenge even more daunting than what confronted his elders in the party back in the dark days of the mid-1980s. Turner had at least clung to ofﬁcial Opposition status. But in the May 2, 2011, election, Michael Ignatieff led the Liberals to a third-place humbling, as the NDP vaulted over them to become the government-in-waiting. A party laid so low normally looks to a leader for direction. But the Liberals put off picking Ignatieff’s permanent successor until spring 2013. That left Crawley and his board to map out two or three years of painful recuperation. His diagnosis of the Liberal malaise is blunt enough to come from a disdainful Tory or New Democrat. “The root of the party’s problem,” he told Maclean’s, “is that it’s gradually become more and more closed both to new people and new ideas.”
In fact, critics have long slammed the federal Liberals as a closed club. In the past, however, that club always offered the cachet of power, or close proximity to it. Losing three elections in a row under three leaders—Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Ignatieff—wiped out any aura of exclusivity. So now the Liberals are trying to reconnect even with sympathetic Canadians too wary to sign a membership card. As of this week, the party began inviting mere “supporters” to register, just by entering their names and email addresses on the Liberal website. No initiation fee is charged.
By Peter C. Newman - Monday, January 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Peter C. Newman on how the convention revealed a party still searching for a way back from the brink
It was like spending a frigid weekend huddled around the world’s biggest samovar, with 3,200-plus joyful Liberals, not one of them fitting my expectation that they had shifted categories from walking wounded to being the walking dead. Their joy is that, whatever else they might do in a future that remains a distant and ill-defined option, at least they can pretend that dreams still count. That even if the Earth moved last May 2, and left the one-time power barons barren of power, they exist, awaiting heaven’s command.
Assembled, they project the distinct impression that while they are in third—which is like having a one-way ticket to purgatory—they should still be heard. No longer members of Canada’s natural governing party, they are losers searching for a mission. Slip-sliding away, like drunks convinced they are holding up the lampposts. The Grits have yet to earn another chance to head an effective opposition. Beyond that, they can’t count on Bob Rae being the dream candidate who could lead them back to the Treasury benches. He has enough political baggage to fill an airport carousel. For some inexplicable reason, he reminds me of Sir John A. Macdonald’s line, “I do not say that all Grits are horse thieves. But I feel quite sure that all horse thieves are Grits.”
Before they’re taken seriously again, the Grits must correct a potentially fatal absence. The Ottawa delegates scored high on youth (a third were under 25) and gender (half were women) but dismally failed the skin-colour test. Swaths of white stands out in our multi-hued society. Also, the delegates’ decision to legalize marijuana hands Stephen Harper the most effective of cheap shots: I can visualize future Tory ads entirely devoted to attacking the “Marijuana Party.” The up-and-coming generation may swallow that Kool-Aid but parents and grandparents vote, too.
By Adam Goldenberg - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
“The country does not need another opposition party; the country needs another government.” For a political party pinning its hopes on redemption, it is a worthy sentiment, one that might have fit nicely into any of Bob Rae’s many speeches at last weekend’s Liberal convention. Too bad Joe Clark got there first.
The words were Clark’s, just before he won the leadership of the once-mighty Progressive Conservatives in 1998. In the end, Clark was right. His party returned to government, albeit as the junior partner in the right-wing coalition that now governs Canada.
Theirs is a cautionary tale, one that should check the surge of self-confidence that follows any successful partisan powwow. Last weekend’s Liberal convention certainly met that standard. This was not the usual nexus of nostalgia that many of us have come to expect from our party’s get-togethers. We did not sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings. But it’s what happens from now on that counts the most.
For delegates, that means a drowsy trip home and a morning-after spent scouring the papers, delighting in good news stories and cursing any trace of cynical punditry. For journalists, it means hours of agony, trying to figure out some creative new way to rain on the party’s parade.
For Bob Rae, this week brings a “cross-Canada skills and trades tour.” Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 16, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Highlights included a new president, changes in the party structure, and a pledge to legalize pot
More than 3,000 delegates gathered in Ottawa this weekend for a Liberal Party convention that was billed as critical to the re-positioning of the party after its worst-ever showing in a federal election last year. Among the key changes brought forward during the convention was the decision to allow non-card carrying “supporters” of the Liberal party to participate in leadership votes. Interim leader Bob Rae said this was the most important resolution of the convention. “We’ve opened up the party,” said Rae, quoted by the Toronto Star. “There’s no comparison with either the NDP or the Conservatives.” Liberals also elected Mike Crawley, a 42-year-old businessman and former head of the Ontario Liberals, as the new party president. He beat out Sheila Copps, a Chretien-era cabinet minister who was portrayed by many to be a member of the party’s old guard. There was also a much-discussed resolution to support the legalization of marijuana, which passed with support from more than three quarters of the delegates. “Let’s face up to it, Canada—the war on drugs has been a complete bust,” said Rae to a standing ovation, the Star reported.
By John Geddes - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 7:03 PM - 0 Comments
I’m going to venture a wild guess that certain Conservative party operatives might be taking a close look at the video of Bob Rae’s final speech at the Liberal party convention today, particularly the part where he cracks a joke by way of introducing the touchy subject of legalizing marijuana.
“If you want to be part of a group of free-thinking, innovative, thoughtful, pragmatic, hopeful, positive, happy people, come and join the Liberal party,” Rae said, then couldn’t help adding, with a grin, “And after the resolution on marijuana today, it’s going to be a group of even happier people in the Liberal party.”
By John Geddes - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
There was nothing the Liberals could have done at their convention, which just wrapped up in Ottawa, that would have justified anyone declaring with a straight face that this party, so badly mangled in last spring’s election, is back in fine form.
A mere policy convention—considering that the Liberals won’t pick their new leader until next year, and that the next federal election is three or four years off—just couldn’t accomplish anything so decisive.
On the other hand, the 3,000-plus Liberals who showed up here for the three-day confab might easily have taken missteps with the potential to seriously compound their deep-seated problems. And the fact that they didn’t sabotage their own chances of renewal counts as a success of sorts.
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 Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 2:31 PM - 0 Comments
“We need to save Canada,” said the woman at the microphone.
A line of people stood behind her, waiting their turn at this Friday afternoon open mic session on the present and future of the Liberal Party of Canada. A man in a suit stood just behind her, taking notes on a large white pad of paper propped up on an easel.
The next woman talked about Paul Martin and balanced budgets. Liberals need to remind people of those days, she said. “That’s how we’ll go forward,” she ventured.
An elderly lady fretted that the country was losing its compassion. The Liberal party needed to bring back such virtues. A Lynden Larouche disciple took the mic and lectured the few dozen listeners on the Glass-Steagall Amendment and the need to overhaul the monetary system.
Consider these 15 minutes—whatever they amount to—in the context of a weekend (whatever it amounts to). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Delegates have elected Mike Crawley—seemingly the choice of a certain contingent of younger Liberals—over Sheila Copps for the post of party president. If he does his job properly, you’ll never hear of him again.
In other news, an amendment that would’ve limited the party leader’s ability to appoint candidates did not receive the support sufficient to be adopted.
By Adam Goldenberg - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM - 0 Comments
Each morning, the Liberal party’s press office issues a notice to journalists, describing the day’s events. Today’s closing act, it says, is a “Speech by Liberal Leader Bob Rae.”
Among his audience, there are those who think that his job title is missing a word. You won’t find it on the Liberal website, either. “Interim” has been trimmed. But despite his best efforts, when Rae speaks today, those three little syllables will be on every delegate’s mind.
By refusing to confirm or deny his own ambitions, the interim leader has put himself—and his party—in an unenviable position. If he pulls his punches this morning, he’ll disappoint delegates who flew across the country for a partisan pep rally. But if he hits it out of the park, he’ll face renewed calls for clarity about his own intentions: why would he be doing such a good job as interim leader if he didn’t want to keep the job? It’s a ludicrous question, of course, but it’s Rae’s dilemma, distilled: as far as many Liberals are concerned, he’s stuck between a big black block and a leadership race. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal delegates voted in favour of a policy resolution this morning that recommendation the legalization and regulation of marijuana. So there’s your easy headline.
But, shortly before that vote, delegates endorsed an idea that one can actually imagine seeing in the next Liberal election platform: preferential balloting.
WHEREAS it is recognized that first past the post voting systems do not properly reflect the will of the people in a multiparty country;
WHEREAS the current system does not produce clear electoral victors (candidates seldom win with more than 50 percent);
WHEREAS the Liberal Party of Canada already uses a preferential balloting system in its own leadership and riding nomination contests;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada implement a preferential ballot for all future national elections.
By macleans.ca - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 9:16 AM - 0 Comments
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 Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM - 0 Comments
So this evening—after some amount of fussing over the technology that resulted in an electronic vote, two votes to conduct a manual recount and then a decision to redo the electronic vote—the Liberal party decided to open its next leadership vote to those who are not members of the party. Non-members can now register with the party as “supporters” if they wish to vote in the next leadership contest.
Delegates then voted down a proposal to extend this measure to the selection of riding candidates. And delegates then voted down a proposal that would have eliminated the party leader’s final say over the party’s policy platform.
Make of those events what you will.
Sunday morning delegates will vote on a constitutional amendment that would limit the leader’s ability to appoint candidates.
By Adam Goldenberg - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 11:05 PM - 0 Comments
“There’s a guy out there peddling a book talking about the death of the Liberal Party of Canada,” mused Michael Ignatieff yesterday. “What is he talking about?”
It was another easy standing ovation at Peter C. Newman’s expense. Amid the heady hoopla of this convention, the octogenarian author of When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada has been second only to Stephen Harper as an object of derision and ridicule. Don’t pity the man; scorn sells books.
Listening to some of the speeches this weekend, you’d think that this whole Liberal get-together was all an elaborate attempt to rebut Newman’s argument that the party is on its deathbed. If that’s the case, then it’s a waste of time—not because Newman is right, but because this weekend can’t possibly prove him wrong. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 8:03 PM - 0 Comments
“A party needs seven years to come back from an election defeat,” Martin Cauchon told me, index finger jutting forward to push his point at me. “I lived through 1984-91. I saw it. Things are really starting to happen now. This party is coming back.”
Cauchon, you will recall, was the federal minister of justice under Jean Chrétien. His seven-year thing will sound like a misprint, because in 1991 the Liberals were still two years away from winning power back, but it made some sense. It took most of 1991 for Jean Chrétien to stop being a really bad opposition leader and get his sea legs back. After that, his party was on a pretty steady road to victory. And since Cauchon was transparently trying to come up with some reason why today’s Liberal party should be any different from the ones that lost 37, 32, 18 and 43 seats in the elections of 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011, this was relatively harmless as number games go. Seven years from 2006 is…oooh. 2013! Just in time for victory!
Of course the whole thing is horse poo. I lived through 1979-1980. I saw the Liberals come back from defeat in nine months. I lived through 1980-1984. I saw the Progressive Conservatives come back in four years. I did not live through 1935-1957, but there are books and they tell me the Conservatives took three times seven years to come back from defeat. It takes an arbitrary number of years for a party to come back from defeat, unless it can’t. The best thing that can be said for Cauchon’s thesis is that it helps illustrate how anyone can believe in astrology.
But then, a party that refuses to believe Canadians aren’t buying what it’s selling will cast about for mystical explanations for events. Bob Rae consoled Michael Ignatieff on Friday night by telling him that elections are “a crap shoot.” This sounded to some in the press stands like contempt for democracy, but I think it’s closer to incomprehension of it. Damnedest thing. People vote and then, I don’t know. Something. Here’s a list of the people in Canada who, by virtue of their biographies, would be likeliest to view elections as a crap shoot:
1. Joe Clark.
2. Bob Rae. Continue…
By John Geddes - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 5:44 PM - 0 Comments
The most frequently repeated phrase printed in today’s program at the Liberal party convention here in Ottawa and tossed around in sessions by delegates is “evidence-based policy.”
As a political slogan, it might not have a bright future. But as shorthand for what has emerged as the prevailing criticism of the way the governing Conservatives devise policy, the phrase does the job.
The realization that Stephen Harper’s government doesn’t bother much with assembling evidence to support its main policies started to set soon after he won power in 2006. I didn’t realize how self-conscious the Tories were about brushing off expert opinion, and even dismissing data, until I heard former Harper chief of staff Ian Brodie speak to the subject in 2009.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
Liberals are spending much of the day discussing the concept of “evidence-based policy”—this curious and revolutionary and courageous notion that the government’s actions and promises should acknowledge demonstrable reality. Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician, addressed the convention this morning. Delegates have spent the rest of the day in sessions dedicated to discussing this novel approach in the context of various policy areas.
One of these sessions was to deal with the environment, which thus seemed like something of a test: could the Liberal party have a discussion about evidence-based environmental policy that didn’t deal with the preferred prescription of the vast majority of expert analysts?
The answer is: almost. But with a few minutes to spare in the hour a young man from the riding of Mount Royal stood and put the Liberal soul up for 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 Adam Goldenberg - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 2:44 PM - 0 Comments
AG: I imagine you’re being asked pretty frequently this weekend about whether or not you’d consider a run for the party leadership.
JT: Only by media, but yeah.
AG: What do you think it says about the Liberal party or the culture of Canadian politics that you keep getting asked that question? Continue…
By macleans.ca - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 2:42 PM - 0 Comments
By Adam Goldenberg - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
The first thing Michael Ignatieff noticed were my sneakers: black Converse All-Stars. “You’ve got your running shoes on!” he said, ushering us into his Ottawa hotel room. In the dying days of the spring campaign, he had stumped through southwestern Ontario in a bright red pair of the same, sprinting to shore up Liberal votes in ridings the party once took for granted. We lost all but one of them on Election Day.
That was eight months ago. Today, Ignatieff is a recovering politician with unrequited dreams. “I didn’t get there,” he told delegates last night. “God knows I tried. I didn’t leave anything on the table. I gave it everything I had. But I didn’t get there.”
This morning, he spoke with Anonymous Liberal Sources about the journey.
AG: Anyone who watched last night saw you showered with affection and respect. How did that feel? 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 Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
Presuming that a method of counting votes can be found, Liberal delegates will spend some of this
afternoonevening voting on proposed amendments to the party’s constitution. Jeff Jedras seems to have the definitive guide.
Tomorrow morning delegates will convene to vote on various policy proposals. Once again, Jeff is the one to read.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal MP for Ottawa South wandered into the media room a moment ago and was shortly thereafter surrounded by reporters. He confirmed that he is considering a run for the party leadership.
I’m not ruling out the leadership. I’m giving this serious consideration. I have an obligation to do this. If I’m going to stay in public life, I’ve got to figure out what’s the best way to serve. And that’s what I’m considering.
He was also asked about Bob Rae’s interim status and whatever leadership ambitions Mr. Rae might have.
I have every faith in the good faith of Bob Rae. Bob’s a great guy. He’s very talented, he’s very experienced. He’s a huge net asset for the Liberal Party of Canada. And for that matter, he’s a huge net asset for Canada. A person of that quality and calibre to be in public life today? It’s hard to get good people into public life and keep them there. So Bob will govern himself accordingly. I’m sure he will always do what’s right by him and what’s right by the party and what’s right by Canadians.
Mr. McGuinty joins Mark Holland and Marc Garneau as those who have publicly confirmed that they are considering a leadership run.