Tuesday November 28, 2006
Questions of loyalty
By BILL TIELEMAN
Leaders must pick causes they won't abandon easily, remain committed despite setbacks, and communicate their big ideas over and over again in every encounter.
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter
This weekend the Liberal Party of Canada chooses a new leader it hopes will become prime minister - by encouraging enough voters to abandon the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.
But each of the top three leadership contenders has abandoned something very important to get where they are today.
And federal Liberal delegates have to judge whether what these candidates abandoned makes them unworthy to be their leader.
Michael Ignatieff abandoned Canada itself for more than 30 years to teach in England and the United States. Despite being somewhat a stranger in his own country, Ignatieff is the frontrunner.
Ignatieff has also abandoned many of his former principles. Although he positions himself as progressive and a defender of social justice, he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush's leadership.
And in a frightening argument, he wrote that: "To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: Indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war."
Then there's Bob Rae, who abandoned the party he once led. The former Ontario NDP premier and Member of Parliament now pledges loyalty to the Liberal Party he previously trashed.
Can Liberals really believe that a man who disowned his last party will be true to his next one?
Can they forget his disastrous record as premier, where he alienated both left and right, business and labour with his policies and performance?
And Rae, who racked up record Ontario deficits, can't be helped by his leadership campaign easily borrowing $845,000, including $720,000 from his brother John Rae, a Power Corporation executive. "We're not worried about that at all," Rae told the Globe and Mail last week.
Stephane Dion has somewhat abandoned his own province - or nation - of Quebec. Dion is seen as an outsider there, an Ottawa federalist who came in second to Ignatieff in the leadership delegate vote on his Quebec home turf.
Dion also disagreed with the overwhelming majority of Quebec Liberals - and Quebecers generally - on their desire to recognize Quebec as a nation.
Gerard Kennedy should have benefited from all this. But despite having the third most delegates on the first ballot, Kennedy seems abandoned by his party.
Yet Kennedy should be the obvious choice. Young, energetic and a life-long progressive Liberal with no Jean Chretien or Paul Martin baggage, Kennedy's major flaw is his less-than-fluent French - the easiest problem to fix.
But if Liberal delegates choose Ignatieff, Rae or Dion they face a serious challenge convincing Canadians their new leader can be trusted not to abandon them, because it's happened before.