Politics

How We Do Things In Canada : Liberal Leadership

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By December 2nd, 2006 the Liberal party will elect a new leader.
As we’ve discussed earlier, Canada has a minority government – so this leader will be the one to take on Stephen Harper in the next federal election.

There are four leading candidates, with their last Liberal Party support:

Recall that the last Liberal government left power due to corruption charges. Only one of the candidates, Stéphane Dion, was a liberal MP during the prior government. Ignatieff and Rae ran in the last federal election and Kennedy was a provincial liberal MP.

The two main candidates are Ignatieff and Rae. There are talks about Kennedy and Dion winning, but its likely that they will have to throw their support behind Ignatieff or Rae. Dion has good support in Quebec, but not enough outside it for a win. If Dion supports Kennedy instead of Ignatieff or Rae, Kennedy may have a chance.

Ignatieff moved back to Canada in 2005 and is viewed as a breath of fresh air. At the same time he has not lived in Canada since 1978 and this causes concern that he is out of touch with Canadians. Ignatieff has also written on international relations which place him slightly to the right within the Liberal party. He supports the idea of the Iraq war if not the implementation and argued for supporting “lesser evils” – like indefinite detention and pre-emptive strikes. In the States one could draw an analogy to Lieberman – but in Canada the Liberal populace is very skittish about ‘war on terror’ measures.

Rae was the Premier of Ontario (like a State Governor) from 1990 to 1995 for the NDP. His leadership was contentious because his party leaned socialist but ruled during a recession — it’s hard to raise taxes to pay for social programs when the economy is in decline. He left political life and spent time aiding the government as a citizen on intelligence, education, the Sri Lankan constitution and the Air India inquiry. During this time he became a Liberal and wrote an article Parting Company with the NDP. His political views are similar to Tony Blair — he believes that social programs and economic prosperity are not at odds. His major hurdle is attracting Liberals, specifically Ontario Liberals, who remember his time in office as detrimental.

Now it’s time to get strategic — if the Liberal party wants to win against Harper in the next election they should elect Bob Rae as leader.

Michael Ignatieff could bring some moderate Conservatives back to the Liberal party. However Harper’s policies haven’t been extreme enough to move the moderate Conservatives to a different party. If anything, moderate Liberals may move Conservative. Bob Rae can bring moderate NDP voters into the Liberal party for the next election at least. In the last election the NDP had 17.5% of the popular vote, by taking some of that you could get a Liberal minority if not a majority. Instead of competing for Red Tories, you let the Conservative party take them and instead bring massive amounts of the left into one party — the Liberals.

The big question, as always, is how Quebec may vote in the next federal election. It’s my belief that Quebec will likely remain the same; Montreal goes Liberal, Quebec Federalists go Conservative and most of Quebec goes Bloc. It’s better to unite the left across English Canada than to focus on Quebecc. The ideal strategy would be for Rae to offer Dion a “right-hand-man” position in exchange for his support and try and move as much of the Quebec federalists to Liberal for the next election while simultaneously uniting the left.

We’ll see how things turn out at the Liberal Leadership Race.

Previous Posts:
Part 1 of 4: Would you mind if I told you how we do things in Canada?
Part 2 of 4: Minority Governments and the Parliamentary System
Part 3 of 4: A Conservative Work Ethic