Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Top Federal Liberal Leadership Candidates All Abandoned Something Very Important

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column - News, Views & Attitude

Tuesday November 28, 2006

Questions of loyalty


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.

1 comment:

Mark Crawford said...

Bill: You are wrong about Bob Rae. As my old boss Tim Armstrong--a kind of Vince Ready and Bob Plecas rolled into one--has said, in defence of Bob Rae's term as premier: "In my experience in the labour relations field, if you displease both labour and management, you are likely on the right path." When you say that Rae managed to alienated both business (for not laying off thousands more public servants) and labour (for not racking up hundreds of millions of dollars more debt) you are unwittingly paying him a compliment for acting in the larger public interest. I wonder how many public servants who hated Bob Rae for "Rae days" were subsequently fired by Mike Harris--and then revised their opinion of Mr. Rae.

In Sweden the central Labour Organization (LO) sometimes has occasion to go along with government policies like the Social Contract, because they know that to not so is in effect to impose a highly inequitable loss sharing--in the form of job losses, higher taxes and debt, or all of the above. In Ontario, the Labour Movement missed a great opportunity to demonstrate that it was not just another narrow sectional economic interest group; instead, it behaved according to stereotype.

I urge you and your readers to read Armstrong's article, "Political Mythmaking, Ontario Style", from the Hamilton Spectator, August 14, 2006, p. A15; reproduced at my blog, http://www.markcrawford.blogspot.com/ Tuesday, December 05, 2006.