Bob Rae resigns, who will replace him in Toronto Centre?

Yesterday, Bob Rae resigned from the House of Commons, giving up his Toronto Centre seat. The seat has been a safe Liberal seat for quite some time and the Liberal nomination race to replace him will be a competitive one.

Here are some of the Liberal names that I’m hearing that may be running for the Liberal nomination:
– George Smitherman, former mayoral candidate and former Ontario cabinet minister
– Seamus O’Reagan, of CTV’s Canada AM (via the Globe and Mail), close friend of Justin Trudeau
– John Duffy, former Liberal strategist, current lobbyist

The NDP could give the Liberals a good run. They’ll likely put forward a viable candidate. Potential names include:
– Jennifer Hollett (via Xtra), former Much Music VJ and CBC journalist, presented at the NDP convention
– Cathy Crowe, former candidate in 2010 by-election
– Kristyn Wong-Tam, city councillor

Potential Conservative nomination contestants:
– Andrew Keyes, former candidate
– Kevin Moore, former candidate

Bob Rae is out

And good for him. Today, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, the past leadership candidate for the same, and the former NDP Premier of Ontario announced that he won’t be seeking to make his current job permanent. No, Rae will not run to be leader of the Liberal Party and carry the Grits into the next election. In the end, he kept his word that he would not run, despite the fact that the party executive was ready to bend space and time in order to allow it.

Why did he dance and skate, as he remarked, through so many scrums and interviews on his leadership intentions? Perhaps Rae recognized that despite its legacy status, Parliament’s third-place party had an uphill battle when it came to generating news coverage for its activities and positions taken in the House of Commons. If Rae were perceived to be a “lame duck” leader with no clout, the press would have just passed over him knowing that any of his pronouncements were temporary at best or lacked legitimacy at worst. By leading everyone on until now, it is certain that he was able to shine a brighter spotlight on his party.

It won’t surprise you to hear that we at the National Citizens Coalition think that Rae made the right decision. While we do wish him well in his future life, if Rae were to become Prime Minister, it would have been a nightmare scenario. During a recession in Ontario, Rae worsened the province’s standing rather than improved it. The NDP has always feared Rae because of his cross-partisanship and ability to draw socialists and centrists together. A Rae leadership would have done more to unite the parties of the left. Even this week, Rae and Mulcair were singing from the same songbook when it came to bailing out Spanish banks and the Eurozone with Canadian cash. Throwing good money after bad is a hallmark of the worst in fiscal management. As Europe seeks to discredit capitalism by rescuing bad investments, flattening risk, increasing sovereign debt while thumbing their nose to calls for spending restraint on entitlements, an amalgamated Canadian left within striking distance of power would only embolden and encourage these instincts at home squandering our hard-won advantage.

But Rae as Prime Minister, or now that he’s out, any Liberal for that matter? That is indeed projecting far into the hypothetical future. Indeed, the Liberals haven’t even found their foothold yet to rebuild their party to challenge the NDP for opposition status. But yet, that is the next task that they face. Rae’s exit will allow an open and fresh leadership race that won’t likely be haunted by any phantoms from generations-past. Granted, Justin Trudeau’s name carries a lot of baggage west of Ontario (and in Quebec) but with Rae out, we will likely see full generational change in the lineup of Liberal contenders.

This will excite some Liberal partisans because the Liberal Party will be a blank slate, without foundational policy to anchor it in any way or another. This will also be to the benefit of other parties that will easily define the Liberal Party for their purposes as well.

Early details about the Liberal leadership race

Remember the Liberal Party of Canada? The House of Commons third-place party has had the luxury of waiting in order to replace Michael Ignatieff with a permanent leader. Former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae has stepped in to fill the void in the interim, however, his critics suggest that his plan is to use the office of the Liberal leader to promote and entrench himself to give himself advantage in an eventual leadership contest.

Details are starting to emerge from various Liberal camps upset with this very real scenario. The newly elected Liberal President Michael Crawley was backed by a younger generation of Liberals who have influence behind the scenes of the party in Ottawa. The nightmare scenario for many of these Liberals would have been to present a “renewed” party with Sheila Copps as their President and Bob Rae as their leader. These Liberals have been moving Crawley to define the upcoming leadership race.

I’ve learned that Crawley and Rae will likely agree that the latter must hand over his “interim” title at the end of this spring sitting of Parliament as the House rises for summer.

Also, the projected date of the Liberal leadership race, according to my sources, will put the leadership election date in March or May of 2013. Rae will likely want a shorter race and I’ve heard that March 2013 would be his preferred date. This may indeed be the concession reached, despite the protestation of the other candidates.

As for these other candidates for Liberal leadership, I’ve heard the names David Bertschi, Martha Hall-Findley, Marc Garneau and David Merner.

What do you think of this?

Just a small observation about recent NDP caucus appointments made by Thomas Mulcair and different reactions to them. What do you make of this?

Liberal “interim” leader Bob Rae,

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre,

Peek-a-boo politics

The Liberals are complaining that Julian Fantino, the Conservative by-election candidate for Vaughan is playing “Peek-a-boo politics” by skipping all-candidates debate. For Liberals, they hope, this plays into a bit of a weak narrative of a secretive and scripted government that doesn’t want to engage “real Canadians”.

“This type of ‘peek-a-boo’ politics is straight out of the Harper playbook where scripted, invite-only photo-ops keep candidates safely out of reach of real people with real questions.”

All-candidates debates, while they sound great in principle, have very little value to the candidates themselves, especially if they represent mainline parties. If you’ve ever been to one of these events you know that each candidate brings their staff and volunteers and cheers and jeers and “engagement” with the “voting public” comes in the form of planted question after planted question. All-candidates debates sound good on paper, but in practice they’ve become farcical. All-candidates debates are more accurately described as “all-decided”.

In fact, when we used to train campaign managers (of all stripes) at the Manning Centre, we advised that all-candidates debates should actually be avoided if possible. Why? Because more accessible (leaning or undecided) voters are met at the door or on the telephone. A candidate’s time is much better invested knocking on doors or by doing telephone canvassing. All-candidates debates turn into a competition for fevered applause versus exaggerated boos for all candidates. The media is disappointed when a candidate is a no-show, of course, because these “debates” are a lazier opportunity for “getting the pulse” of the “electorate”. In fact, we used to advise candidates show to as few as possible in order to check the box for the media.

The Liberals should also be careful with the “Peek-a-boo” label as they’ve been guilty of their own charge in the past,

From a Globe and Mail report during the Liberal leadership race of 2008,

The weekend brouhaha at a meeting of Liberals from Ontario made it clear that Mr. Ignatieff is viewed as the leading contender, and that Mr. Rae’s first goal is to ensure his opponent does not quietly coast through the race.

On Sunday, Mr. Rae boycotted a leadership “forum” where candidates were to take questions from riding presidents and other party officials, after Mr. Ignatieff refused calls from his two rivals to open the session to reporters and cameras.

Mr. Rae accused Mr. Ignatieff of preparing a “peekaboo” campaign.

“There is a fray: It’s called a leadership race. And you can’t very well stay above it. If you want to stay above it, you’re not going to be in it,” Mr. Rae said outside the meeting at a Mississauga hotel.

“The Liberal Party is a political party. It’s not a private club.”

Bob Rae, self-styled “jihadi” fighter

Juxtaposing comments from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae from the same Globe and Mail interview given on the edge of Rosedale at a noisy cafe,

A grey-haired man wearing a tweed jacket and tortoise-shell glasses sitting at a nearby table overhears our conversation.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?” he interjects. “What I’m interested in is Afghanistan. The point is, it’s all tribal. They don’t give a shit about democracy, so what are we doing there?” he asks.

Mr. Rae proceeds to unleash a complex argument about the futility of military adventure, the importance of our long-term political interests and the violent history of Western civilization.

[Rae] firmly believes that the Liberals can defeat the Harper government, and cannot wait to take the Prime Minister down.

It’s come to the point where you’ve got these 25-year-old jihadis in the Prime Minister’s Office. They are very, very focused on undermining, destroying. Attack, attack, attack. There’s no other way,” he complains.

[Link]

Upcoming political books

Today I received a list of upcoming books from Random House Canada for their fall season. The list is sent out to potential reviewers to provide publicity for the upcoming titles.

Here are a few that you might be interested in,

by George W. Bush (11/9/2010)
George W. Bush’s presidency in his own words. From rallying a nation after 9/11 to bringing it’s troops across the Tigris river in Baghdad. From tax cuts that stimulated the economy (and debate) to the continued growth of government and the banking sector bailout, this presidential account is sure to cause discussion.
by Ezra Levant (8/17/2010).
Ezra will do a multi-city tour to promote this book which makes a case for the Alberta oil sands against environmentalists who turn a blind eye to oil extraction in places such as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan where from it’s wars and genocide, Ezra calculates that each barrel of Sudanese oil has a tablespoon worth of blood spilled for its production. While the world inevitably continues to use cheap energy from oil, diminishing Canada’s production share only supports unethical alternatives.
by Tarek Fatah (10/19/2010)
Canada’s most famous ‘moderate Muslim’ voice speaks out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world held strongly among some of his co-religionists.
by Bob Rae (10/26/2010).
I’m going to read this book so I can figure out what the Liberal Party may be proposing in their platform on the foreign policy front (under Ignatieff or Rae as leader). We wonder if the book will rehash many of the guiding nuanced soft-power principles of the DFAIT establishment or if Rae (like Ignatieff used to) now believes in certain cold hard facts about the modern world and the actors now bent on destabilizing it.

The tolerant NDP

Libby Davies voices her opinion on Israel:

This drew strong condemnation from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

and from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae,

“The comments of Ms. Davies are more than just a ‘serious mistake,’ as the Leader of the NDP now maintains. To deny the State of Israel’s right to exist and to propose an international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against a legitimate member of the world community for over sixty years is to reveal a level of hostility and ignorance that is truly breathtaking.

“These are not the off-the-cuff ramblings of any ill-informed or biased person. Ms. Davies is the Deputy Leader of a political party that aspires to reflect and represent the views of Canada on the international stage. In this role, fully cognizant of her responsibilities, she stated that Israel has been occupying territories since 1948, the year of its independence. The logical implication of these comments is that Israel has no right to exist.

“She called this ‘the longest occupation in the world.’ That is simply untrue, and reflects a complete disregard for the facts.

“This is a position that is more than just ‘unacceptable.’ This rhetoric is responsible for more than ‘confusion,’ and an ‘inadvertent error,” as Ms. Davies now suggests.

“The appropriate decision, given her stature and responsibilities with the NDP, is for Mr. Layton to ask for her resignation as Deputy Leader and for Ms. Davies to issue an apology to all Canadians. Nothing short of that will do.”

The referenced “Helen Thomas moment”:

In related NDP tolerance news, NDP MP calls a Catholic denomination “creepy”,

UPDATE: B’nai Brith unsurprisingly calls for Davies to be sacked.

“B’nai Brith Canada is calling on NDP leader Jack Layton to take action against Libby Davies for her outrageous remarks against the Jewish State, and by extension the Jewish people,” said Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada. “The fact that Davies made her comments at an anti-Israel rally held in front of a Jewish-owned business speaks volumes to the fact that anti-Israel agitators in Canada are blurring the lines between criticism of Israeli policies and antisemitism.

“Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Party foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have justifiably called for the resignation of Ms. Davies. NDP leader Jack Layton has gone on the record today stating that her remarks are not the policy of his party – if that is the case, then Mr. Layton should take the next step and relieve Davies of her leadership positions in the party.”

So we’re talking merger?

The news over the past few days has been Liberal-NDP merger. This is all talk and serves to undermine Michael Ignatieff as leader of the Liberal Party. Over the past month, there’s been renewed talk of coalition between the Liberals and NDP and this was spurred on by a couple of polls indicating that a Michael Ignatieff led coalition would lose to Stephen Harper, a Bob Rae led one would tie and — just for fun — a Jack Layton led coalition would win. Another poll was released to suggest that a majority of Canadians would support a coalition party against the Conservatives (you gotta love those leaderless ideal-leader poll questions!)

The problem is, however, is that the electorate wouldn’t be asked as they were by their friendly dinner-time-calling pollster friends. Michael Ignatieff has explicitly said (at least in his latest iteration) that he would not run as a coalition during the next election and that the numbers post-election would govern his choice.

When we ran against the coalition (extra-writ) in December 2008, what most Canadians found offensive about such a proposed coalition was that the separatist Bloc Quebecois would be given a veto on government of Canada decisions (as a partner to government). Furthermore, an election result returned just six weeks earlier would have been overturned. While constitutional, most Canadians felt that such a move lacked moral authority; Stephane Dion had dismissed any talk of coalition during the election campaign and then was ready to form one after the ballots were counted. A coalition was forced upon Canadians without consultation or consideration, but worse, it was done so after it was explicitly stated that it would not happen.

Fast forward to today. Michael Ignatieff’s problem during any future election will be the big question mark placed upon him by voters (helped by the Conservative Party) that asks if he has different intentions in his mind than what he utters from the stump. He’s been for the coalition, then against, then for one if necessary but not necessarily, then against, then for but only after Canadians decide against his party. Canadians rejected Stephane Dion because they were unsure of his uncertain carbon tax (and leadership) during tough economic times. Now, a question of political instability still looms and Michael Ignatieff is doing nothing to firm up confidence in his leadership.

Make no mistake, coalition talk (and merger talk) at this time serves no other purpose than to undermine the leadership of Michael Ignatieff. In fact, winners from such musings are Stephen Harper, Bob Rae and Jack Layton. Michael Ignatieff has had few perceived victories since taking the helm of the Liberal Party. His now famous “your time is up” bellicose utterance to Stephen Harper is now a cliche in Ottawa circles. The summer season can spell death for opposition leaders as they clamour for the media spotlight and Michael Ignatieff is about to embark on his summer tour with no gas in the tank. Consider that while Michael Ignatieff was trying to find his feat during prorogation, Stephen Harper hosted the world at the Olympics. While Michael Ignatieff uncomfortably flips burgers with all of the enthusiasm of a dyspeptic turtle this summer, Stephen Harper will be hosting world leaders at the G20/G8 summits and the Queen during Canada Day to boot. Michael Ignatieff will emerge this summer a faded version of his grey self or with Rae’s daggers in his back.

And now there’s talk of merger with mere weeks of Ottawa spotlight left for Michael Ignatieff? This is nothing more than to give the party something to chew over while they consider their leader’s long-term viability. The Liberal Party will not merge with the NDP. The party’s grassroots put up with enough as they told their Central-Nova activists to stand down against Elizabeth May during Dion’s cooperation deal with the Greens. One cannot imagine 308 (times 2) riding associations trading horses for the right to run their chosen candidate — most have already been nominated. Consider too that the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political party of western democracies over the past 100 years. A mere four years out of power is no time to get desperate, lads.

Rae’s real prize is convincing the left that he can lead them to power, but as leader of that historic Liberal Party. With Rae in the Liberal top-spot, Liberal-NDP switchers will go Liberal leaving the NDP a shadow of itself. Is merger on the table? No. But talk of a merger sends a signal to all that the Liberal Party is not content with itself and when you do the math it’s a question of leadership, not its constitution.