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 John Geddes - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
The cover of the issue of the Maclean’s that’s on newsstands today features my colleague Paul Wells making the case, which you will surely want to read, for a certain pugilistically proven Liberal for the party’s vacant leadership. Working in Wells’s corner, I provide a glimpse into the Liberal party’s internal rebuilding effort, leaning heavily on an interview earlier this week with Mike Crawley, who was elected the party’s new president at its convention back in January.
But beyond Crawley’s insider perspective, I spoke with many Liberals about efforts, after last spring’s election knockout punch, to clear the party’s collective head, and start getting back in shape for the next campaign, expected in 2015. Inevitably, quite a few telling observations ended up on the cutting room floor, so here’s a compendium of what I wish I’d been able to squeeze into the article.
By Paul Wells - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 2:53 PM - 0 Comments
An email from Liberal Party president Mike Crawley, in response to smart-ass heckling about the party’s refusal to respond to Conservative attack ads against their leader:
Dear [insert name]
A few weeks ago, Conservatives hit us with an ugly, Republican-style TV attack ad.
When we asked for your help, you didn’t hesitate. As one of the 3,892 donors who gave some $225,433 to that campaign, I want to thank you for your support.
Now, some of you are asking when we will respond. It’s a fair question. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 16, 2012 at 2:48 PM - 0 Comments
May 19, 2011. Bob Rae is giving up on his dream of leading the Liberal Party, offering instead to act as interim leader and taking on a rump caucus with diminished resources and a huge rebuilding task ahead. The Toronto Centre MP sent out a letter to the caucus Thursday, saying he would seek the interim leadership and agreeing to forfeit a run for the permanent party leadership.
May 25, 2011. Mr. Rae told reporters he had pledged not to run for the permanent leadership in writing. “This is a job that needs to be done now … this is just my chance to serve,” Mr. Rae said. “I think there will be a broader chance for renewal in the search for a new leader in a year and a half (or) two years, and I think it’s important for the party to look very much to a new generation of leadership. And I’m sure that will happen.”
May 25, 2011. The national board of the Liberal Party set ground rules for the interim leadership, which limited the number of candidates. Those interested in the job had to be bilingual and agree not to run as permanent leader or to pursue any merger talks with the NDP. Rae, who had made it clear he only wanted to be interim leader if it lasts longer than a “summer job,” said he accepts the conditions and had also given his word to his wife that he’s only taking the interim job.
May 25, 2011. But he’s adamant his job is only part-time and said it is important for the party to seek a new generation of leaders. ”What I told caucus is that there is a higher power over me than (party president) Alf Apps and that’s my wife Arlene. We made a pact. I’m doing this interim job and that’s the job I’m doing.”
November 10, 2011. 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.”
January 8, 2012. In an interview on The West Block Sunday morning, host Tom Clark asked the Liberal leader whether he would consider “ever seeking the position of permanent party leader.” Rae answered only referring to the current rules, saying, “The party executive made a decision with respect to the appointment of the interim leader… I’ll continue to respect the rules.”
January 15, 2012. “What I’ve said clearly all along is that an interim leader, if they decided that they were going to seek the permanent leadership of the party, would naturally … have to step down from that role if they ever reached that decision,” Crawley told reporters about an hour after being named new president at the party’s biennial convention in Ottawa. “However, any decision with respect to the rules and the selection of the leader of the party will be made by the executive of the party over the next few months.” Rae said he “completely” accepts Crawley’s position, however, he still won’t say whether he’ll run in the 2013 leadership race.
April 15, 2012. Whether Rae will be at the helm of the party remains past 2013, when a new leader will be elected, is uncertain, even to him. “The party is going to have to decide what the rules are and if they say they’re going to take the limitation on the interim leader than, obviously, I’ve got a decision to make. Arlene and I will make that decision once the party’s made up its mind,” he said in the one-on-one interview. “There’s going to be a contest for the leadership. It’s not going to be a coronation for the leadership. It’s going to be a very competitive, open race. I’m just waiting to hear whether or not I’m allowed to participate in it.”
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 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 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.