By Adam Goldenberg - Saturday, January 14, 2012 - 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 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 Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 4:39 PM - 0 Comments
On his way out, soon-to-be-former Liberal party president Alf Apps apparently posits that Bob Rae could run for the party leadership.
As for Rae’s part in becoming the new leader now that Michael Ignatieff has stepped down? “It won’t be me,” he said, to which the atmosphere in the room became heavy. “I’m not going to run for leadership.”
Anyway. Mr. Apps throws out three precedents for the current Liberal predicament—their electoral defeats in 1930, 1958 and 1984. Each time, the Liberal party rebounded (eventually) to win government. But those defeats also probably underline just how far the Liberal party has fallen and how much further it has to go this time.
A quick comparison:
1930. The Liberals won 36.7% of the seats, 45.5% of the popular vote and finished second.
1958. The Liberals won 18.1% of the seats, 33.4% of the popular vote and finished second.
1984. The Liberals won 14.8% of the seats, 28.0% of the popular vote and finished second.
2011. The Liberals won 11.0% of the seats, 18.9% of the popular vote and finished third.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Scott Feschuk on how the federal Liberals are trying to rebuild, and the results are absolutely adorable
Anyone out there remember the Liberal Party of Canada? Governed our country for the better part of the 20th century. Produced five leaders who each ruled the land for at least eight years. Briefly tried to convince us that John Manley had charisma. Is any of this ringing a bell?
What some of you may not know is that the Liberal party still exists. It’s true! In fact, by one measure the Liberals currently rank second of the three major federal parties. (That measure? Alphabetical order.)
The buzzword among party members these days is renewal. This month Liberals will gather in Ottawa for the party’s biennial convention (“biennial” from the Latin meaning “no longer able to afford an open bar”). At the convention, Liberals will try to demonstrate they are a relevant 21st-century political force by refusing to accredit bloggers and likely choosing old-guard stalwart and human klaxon Sheila Copps to be party president. EVERYONE CLEAR THE TRACKS FOR THE RENEWAL TRAIN!
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM - 11 Comments
Sheila Copps, currently running to be president of the Liberal party, explains her plans for reform.
She’s planning to hold a “Very Scary Stephen party,” complete with Stephen Harper masks (if she can find some), as part of her bid to become the party’s president. “We want to try to make the party fun again,” she said. “And make it a go-to place for people who want to make change and have fun can get involved.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 6 Comments
On Saturday, Bob Rae retweeted a link to a newspaper column that suggested he might be the best person to lead the Liberals into the next election. But on Sunday, Bob Rae retweeted someone quoting him about his own interim status.
Whatever one makes of all that, Mr. Rae’s comments of two weeks ago, to an audience at Carleton University, seem fairly definitive.
As for Rae’s part in becoming the new leader now that Michael Ignatieff has stepped down? “It won’t be me,” he said, to which the atmosphere in the room became heavy. “I’m not going to run for leadership.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 4:07 PM - 11 Comments
In his debut for Macleans.ca, Jeff Jedras criticizes the current clamour for open primaries.
I want to broaden the Liberal tent and make it more relevant to Canadians too. But open primaries are gimmicky and unlikely to build a lasting connection between the Liberal party and Canadians at large. I just don’t forsee a groundswell of Canadians rushing to get involved to pick the next leader of the third party. Gimmicks aren’t the way to engage people. I’d rather build a democratized party where membership matters, and encourage Canadians to join and support us for our ideas.
By Jeff Jedras - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 3:45 PM - 20 Comments
Interim leader Bob Rae says he would support U.S.-style primaries to select his replacement. Here’s why it’s a bad idea.
As desperate as Liberal party of Canada members may be for reform and renewal, we shouldn’t just jump into bed with the first pretty reform proposal that happens by. This should be a slow and deliberate process. As a Liberal, I fear we’re jumping into bed with open primaries too quickly, and risk regretting it the next morning.
On Thursday, the Liberal party’s national executive released a list of proposals for reforming and restructuring the party, after leaking it to select media days earlier. (The leak is a major problem in itself, but one for another day.) The idea generating the most attention would see the Liberals adopt an open primary system for selecting the party’s leader and riding nomination candidates.
The proposal involves creating two classes of Liberals: full-fledged party members, who can stand for party office, vote in internal party elections, and be delegates to a convention; and “supporters,” who would sign a “Declaration of Liberal Principles” confirming non-membership in any other party. Both classes would be able to vote in a primary-style process to select the next party leader, with results weighted by riding. The primary campaign would take place in different regions over a few months to maximize media attention. A similar process is envisioned for riding nominations. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 2:38 PM - 15 Comments
The Liberal party executive has released its “Roadmap to Renewal” and party president Alf Apps has penned an accompanying treatise on “Building a Modern Liberal Party“—87 pages in all of agonizing and pondering and hoping.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:53 PM - 40 Comments
In a speech to a Liberal riding association in Halifax, Stephane Dion considers the history and future of the Liberal party.
In 2008, as Liberal Leader, I did talk about the economy. I truly believed that the main focus of my campaign was the economy. The Green Shift’s subtitle was: “Building a Canadian Economy for the 21st Century.” But because I was promoting sustainable economy, which I strongly believe must be the economy of the 21st century, I was perceived as a one-issue candidate, exclusively preoccupied by the environment. I failed to convince Canadians of the link that exists between economy and environment. And we paid the price.
In 2011, I am sure Mr. Ignatieff talked about the economy in his speeches. But the voters did not hear him, and neither did the Liberal candidates who were so busy campaigning in their ridings. Most of our communications plan was about helping families: housing, daycare, home renovations, family caregivers, tuition fees, etc. In the midst of global economic turmoil, we appeared to abandon the themes of employment and economic security to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. It seemed that we were trying too much to look like the NDP. Unfortunately, the natural NDP voters chose the original over the copy and many Liberal supporters who were worried about the economy went over to the Conservatives.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 5 Comments
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae offers a kind word for a move toward open primaries.
Mr. Rae kicked off the debate with a frank assessment of the party’s failings. But he also had some suggestions about how Liberals can pick themselves up off the mat and become contenders for power once again, including allowing the “broader electorate,” not just party members, to choose the next leader and candidates for the next election.
“A successful political party is not a debating society or a social club,” Mr. Rae told Liberals at a convention of the party’s British Columbia wing in Victoria.
Rob Silver, who has proposed open primaries for Liberal nominations in the past, notes a few other changes being considered, including the elimination of the Liberal leader’s power to appoint candidates and the elimination of the protection afforded to incumbent MPs.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM - 6 Comments
Which political organization or organizations oppose this dangerous figure do not matter to most citizens, although the issue preoccupies militant New Democrats and loyal Liberals. What does matter is that the former centre, which now becomes the left alternative to Harper’s extremism, must regain power if a parliamentary civic culture is to be restored. Unless this restoration happens soon, it is hard to believe that it can be done without adding 21st-century, global wings to energize and internationalize what has become the country’s social-market alternative.
For the sake of argument, here are the popular vote share changes in the six applicable elections this year. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 22 Comments
In the session ahead, the PM needs to remember that his mandate ‘has a big old fence around it’
In the early morning hours of May 3, with the ballots almost all counted, he basked in a Conservative majority. The Liberal Party of Canada, his nemesis, was in shambles. The Bloc Québécois was decimated. If the world seemed then to have tilted in Stephen Harper’s direction, his political situation has become only more advantageous since.
The NDP, though now the official Opposition, has lost its uniquely popular leader, removing Harper’s primary challenger from the House of Commons. What’s more, with Progressive Conservatives mounting serious challenges in Ontario and Manitoba, Harper might awake one day next month to find that every single province west of Quebec is led by a right-of-centre government—a resounding endorsement of the Prime Minister’s twin assertions that “Conservative values are Canadian values” and that “the Conservative party is Canada’s party.”
But if it is to be Stephen Harper’s world, what will Stephen Harper do with it? Perhaps only as much as he said he would do. “The challenge will be getting the balance right and not overreaching,” says Jim Armour, who once served as Harper’s director of communications. “If the Prime Minister goes too big or tries to go too fast, then he risks unifying the opposition and attracting the media’s attention. If, on the other hand, he continues with the ‘stick-to-the script,’ ‘no-surprises’ approach to governing that he’s taken for the past five years, then he’ll be fine. As with all things—even once-in-a-lifetime political opportunities—the key is moderation.”
By John Geddes - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 4 Comments
The interim leader must be rousing, but leave room for the real leader to wow them in 2013
There’s no how-to guide for the renovation job Bob Rae has taken on. As interim Liberal leader, Rae has nearly two years to try to rebuild the once-dominant federal party before his permanent replacement is chosen in a spring 2013 convention, and Rae is being called on to do much more than merely serve as a placeholder. Skeptics doubt even this skilled and battle-scarred veteran can turn around a party that sank steadily through four national campaigns to post its worst-ever third-place finish in the May 2 election. But Rae sees brute necessity as his ally. “It takes a crisis to make change happen,” he told Maclean’s. “Everything I’ve seen in the public and private sector tells me that people make changes when they have to, and right now we have to.”
With the House returning for its fall session this week, Rae is bound to be rated to a great degree on how much question period attention he draws. Widely acknowledged as one of the best orators in Parliament, he’s expected to more than hold his own. Yet he vows not to be “eaten up by the 24-7 news cycle.” Instead, he’s concentrating more on hauling the creaky Liberal machine into the current era. Among other challenges, that means emulating the organizational efficiency Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists on for the Tories and that the late Jack Layton ushered in for the New Democrats. Unlike its more centralized rivals, the Liberal party is still largely run as an unwieldy federation of provincial and territorial party associations. “We do need a more unified approach,” Rae says.
The chance to make that key reform will come next January at a party convention in Ottawa. Among those urging Liberals to change their ways, few know the problems better than Steven MacKinnon, a failed candidate from the spring election, who lost a Quebec riding to the NDP’s “Orange Crush.” As national director of the party from 2003 to 2006, MacKinnon helped usher in reforms that gave the national Liberal machine control over membership and fundraising. However, provincial and territorial wings kept their hold over field organization and policy development. “No other party is hobbled by that,” MacKinnon says. “A radical streamlining is required.” Perhaps surprisingly, key Liberal insiders don’t see any pressing need for an overhaul of their fundraising apparatus. Even though they lag far behind the Tories when it comes to pulling in donations, Liberal officials say the U.S.-designed computer system they introduced in 2009 is up to the job. Improving its performance requires patiently collecting the data on Liberal members and donors that the system is designed to manage. “We’re just scratching the surface of how effective it can be,” says one senior party official. In fact, they need a lot of scratch: to replace the public subsidy to parties, which the Harper government is phasing out over the next four years, the Liberals must more than double the $6.6 million they raised in contributions last year. Rae stresses that no matter how up-to-date the party’s technology for reaching out to its supporters, fundraising will only ramp up when backers are inspired by ideas. “Money follows passion,” he says.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 3 Comments
Mostly Liberal supporters shell out to get heard above the din
Outsiders have never been terribly welcome in Canadian election campaigns. In federal votes, the 95 per cent of us who don’t belong to registered parties face a bulwark of laws restricting third-party campaign spending—rules rooted in the fear that, left unguarded, democracy will be sold off to the highest bidder. This theory has been an article of faith among left-wingers since the early 2000s, when a conservative activist named Stephen Harper waged a court battle against the limits, to the delight of Bay Street’s heavy hitters.
The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately upheld federal third-party spending limits. But few provinces have strong limits of their own. And if Ontario’s current election campaign is any guide, fears of big business stealing elections for conservative parties may have been laughably misplaced. As of last week, all six third-party advertisers registered with the province’s election watchdog were either labour organizations or coalitions who have in the past run attack ads against Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Meantime, an array of environmentalists, NGOs and green entrepreneurs have joined forces in hopes of saving the province’s two-year-old Green Energy Act, with plans for unprecedented forays into the ground-level campaign. Leaders of the ad hoc group deny they are acting for or against specific candidates or parties. But Hudak is the only leader committed to undoing the act’s key provisions.
The Tories might have seen this coming. Four years ago, they felt the full force of a labour-funded coalition called Working Families, which took advantage of Ontario’s loose laws on third-party advertisers by unleashing more than $1 million worth of anti-Conservative attack ads that helped propel Premier Dalton McGuinty to victory. The Tories later complained to the province’s chief electoral officer, claiming the group was a front for the Liberals. An investigation indeed revealed ties between Working Families and Grit campaign director Don Guy. But the probe found no evidence that the group was outright controlled by the party.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 42 Comments
Andrew Coyne on why this is a case where two and two sum to a good deal less than four
At the height of last week’s frenzy of speculation, argumentation, insinuation and accusation over the possibilities of a Liberal-NDP merger, I half expected to see the headline: “Opposition divided over unity.” Not only were the parties no closer to agreeing on a merger than at any time in the past: the suggestion seemed if anything more likely to divide each of the parties in two.
Those who dream of uniting the “progressive” vote under a single party should take heed. The premise that there is a natural anti-Conservative majority just waiting to be consolidated may appear to make arithmetic sense—the Conservatives having obtained just less than 40 per cent of the vote in the last election—but rests upon a misreading of politics, of history, and of human nature. Whether we are talking about the parties themselves, or their support in the electorate at large, this is a case where two and two sum to a good deal less than four.
The voters first. The assumption underlying the merger argument is that the votes of the two parties can simply be added together. This assumes, in turn, not only that the two have more in common than divides them—that their voters really do vote against the Conservatives, rather than for either party—but also that each party’s supporters could be herded obediently into the merger corral. It assumes, in other words, both that voters have no particular loyalty to either party, and that they are so loyal as to remain in the fold even after both have been extinguished.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 12:47 PM - 4 Comments
Former heritage minister confirms plans to run for top backroom post
Former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps has solidified plans for a return to Canadian politics. The one-time heritage minister intends to run for the presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Hamilton Spectator reports. Copps left politics after Paul Martin took over leadership of the Liberals in 2004. She was Martin’s lone opponent in the race to replace Jean Chretien, and finished a distant second in the two-person race.
By macleans.ca - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 11:51 AM - 0 Comments
Interim Liberal leader says “ blockage” in Quebec has cleared, Liberals must move in
Renamed “Bob the Re-builder” by party members hoping for an imminent comeback, Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has expressed his party’s need to re-evaluate its methods, particularly in Quebec. During a visit to Montreal on Sunday, Rae—who is currently engaged in a cross-Canada summer tour aimed at getting feedback on how the Liberals can “better express our values and ideas”—cited poor organization and bad communication as factors in the Liberal’s near obliteration in this year’s federal election (the party plummeted from 77 seats to only 34). Rae says that “blockage” in Quebec has ended, and the Liberals must work to make themselves as much a realistic option for Quebecers as the NDP proved to be.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 1:55 PM - 27 Comments
Mike Crowley considers the past and future of the Liberal party.
Take the first two attributes: centrist and moderate. By definition both of these mean that the Liberal party is really defining itself by positioning itself relative to policies advocated by others and is, therefore, reactive. To be centrist or moderate, some other party must first define what is left and right. This is hardly the basis for bold, visionary leadership. As far as “progressive” goes, it is one of the most broadly used and ill-defined political terms. Many provinces have Progressive Conservative parties advocating right of centre of policies, whereas the Progressive party of the 1920s and 1930s promoted free trade but was also aligned with some socialist ideology. The least that can be said is it is very difficult to be both reactive, at the core of the centrist and moderate monikers, and progressive at the same time.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 29, 2011 at 5:13 PM - 47 Comments
Bob Rae draws lessons from the U.S. debt crisis.
The deep partisanship that has marked the crisis in the United States Congress has some lessons for Canadians. Polarisation is not the “new normal,” as New Democrats and Conservatives are preaching. It corrodes the body politic and takes us away from the simple truth that most people want a moderate, intelligent politics that’s based on facts, evidence, good values and compromise … we need to understand that most goals in politics, as they are in hockey or soccer, are scored from the centre. That’s where the action is, and that’s where most Canadians are. But not the dead centre where it’s safety first and always ‘on the one hand and the other hand,’ but rather an action-filled, resilient, and lively centre that is not afraid of ideas, debate, and looking at issues afresh. And that’s where the Liberal Party needs to be as well.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 1:53 PM - 3 Comments
Former deputy PM will make decision by summer’s end
Sheila Copps says she’s been doing some “serious research” into running for president of the Liberal Party of Canada. The former Hamilton East MP and deputy prime minister says she’s already spoken with Bob Rae about the job. Copps says she will decide whether to put her name in for candidacy at the January 2012 convention by the end of the summer. Copps held her federal seat for 20 years, from 1984 to 2004. The outspoken political veteran says given the Liberals’ third party status, “it’s time for people to step up to the plate and either put up or shut up.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 33 Comments
The final humiliation: a cash bar…
Last week the Liberals gathered the night before
The final humiliation: a cash bar
Last week the Liberals gathered the night before what would be their final caucus meeting with both defeated and elected MPs. One Liberal staffer called the party a “wake”; a Hill security guard predicted it would end early because it was a cash bar. Surviving Toronto Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan arrived with a bandaged hand that will need surgery. “I fell on Wednesday and the government fell on the Friday,” she says. Five weeks campaigning didn’t help: “Even when you break your hand,” said Duncan, “people still want to shake it.” Some days ended with Duncan in excruciating pain. Defeated MP Marlene Jennings arrived with a white cane, announcing that she is now officially vision-impaired. The one person who spoke at the party was surviving MP Ralph Goodale, but no one seemed to be listening; former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff left before Goodale spoke. The Liberals’ only two rookie MPs were there: Sean Casey from Charlottetown and Ted Hsu from Kingston, Ont., which was previously represented by Speaker Peter Milliken. Hsu’s win was a surprise for the Conservatives, who for years said that once Milliken retired they would easily win the riding.
By Erica Alini - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 7:00 AM - 20 Comments
Either way, he says, ‘I’m gonna be a happy guy’
On the subject of the Liberal party circa May 2011, and specifically how the most dominant political institution of the 20th century has come to be in its present situation, Bob Rae recalls some words offered to him by the late Philip Givens, a former mayor of Toronto who also served in the House of Commons and the Ontario legislature. “He once said to me,” Rae recalls, adopting a nasal tone to impersonate Givens, “ ‘Bobby, in politics, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what’s coming to you.’ ”
So fated does the Liberal Party of Canada now find itself with 34 seats, relegated to third-party status in the House of Commons for the first time in its history and confronted with myriad questions about its purpose and future. From his place within this shrunken caucus, Bob Rae has to decide, after a long and varied career of public life, what he is to do next. And with the stories of the Liberal party and Rae having come to this, the first question seems to be how they will move forward together.
“I want to be a constructive member of the team and I’m happy to help in any way that I can,” he says, “but obviously I want to make sure, I think everybody wants to make sure, that everybody knows what we’re getting ourselves into—and right now it’s still a little unclear to me.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 10:33 AM - 32 Comments
Michael Ignatieff maintains his pitch.
My sense is that Canadians value moderate, evidence-based, pragmatic, fiscally-responsible government right down the center. That’s what they really want. They’re being told by every poll, every expert, every smart aleck in the country what they want, but I think actually what Canadians want is good, moderate, pragmatic government and I’m very convinced looking at every rally I’ve been to since the campaign began, that that yearning to get back to that, to get back to the Canada that that represents, is the true, authentic yearning of the Canadian people, and that’s what I’ve got to serve and fight for and defend.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 10:16 AM - 45 Comments
Having spent much of his political career trying to destroy the Liberal party, Stephen Harper now appeals to its supporters.
I believe Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal party are in trouble not because they’ve been true to liberalism, but on the contrary. I think their platform represents a departure from the Liberal party at its best. The Liberal party has been its best – now, you know, I have problems with the Liberal party, I think sometimes think flexibility becomes something else in the case of the Liberal party – but nevertheless, you have to be realistic about the economy and the NDP has not been prepared to be realistic about the world in which we are living and have economic choices that are fitting for that.