Closed Encounters of the Stupid Kind


According to a press release fired off from Bob Rae’s leadership campaign to Macleans last night:

The Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) is hosting a leadership candidates’ forum with Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Dominic Leblanc on Sunday afternoon. The party has indicated the debate will be closed to the media, but is prepared to open the debate to media if all campaigns agree. The Leblanc campaign agreed, but the Ignatieff campaign, as of 8:00 pm Saturday, refused to open the session to media.

Unsurprisingly (and quite rightly in my opinion, I might add) Rae has refused to attend the forum unless it’s opened to the media:

Liberal Leadership hopeful Bob Rae will not participate in the leadership candidate’s forum… unless the campaign of Michael Ignatieff agrees to withdraw its objection to opening the debate to the media, and its suggestion the debate be cancelled if a closed encounter cannot be agreed upon.


“This isn’t a good note on which to start this race, and I think Liberals will be disappointed,” said Rae. The Rae campaign has called for a series of many open debates, starting immediately, across the country.

“I am calling for open debates, and I think we have to start right now, this weekend,” Rae said.

Hmmm. Yes, I would say that “disappointed” is putting it mildly. This secretive, closed-door, media-averse attitude and lack of transparency is precisely the sort of thing that so many people find thoroughly obnoxious about Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Why was conceived of by the LPC as a closed session in the first place? And why is Michael Ignatieff so resistant to having it opened up? What is he afraid of being said on the record?

What a crummy start to the race. Way to go Liberals!

43 Replies to “Closed Encounters of the Stupid Kind”

  1. Perhaps, but don’t you think that openness and transparency should be the order of the day when everyone is talking about “change” and wanting to draw strong contrasts to the Conservatives?

  2. I agree with you, but I can’t help but feel that perhaps there was an original agreement and then Rae pulls a tactical stunt. They’ve been talking all week about this being closed door.

  3. That’s politics for you.

    Why was it going to be “closed door” in the first place though? I was kind of hoping they might broadcast it on the Internet…

  4. Liberal Leadership NotWatch: Oh, for heaven’s sake.
    By Kady O’Malley – Sunday, November 16, 2008 –

    Seriously, guys, did you even try to work this out over the phone before resorting to passive aggressive press releases? As Colleague Wells points out (in inexplicably teeny tiny text), two of the three of you haven’t even officially joined the race, and I’m honestly not sure if that makes this whole thing more or less ridiculous. Maria Minna’s suggestion to have y’all flip a coin is starting

  5. Via Paul Wells:

    Rae has indicated he will run for the Liberal leadership, and will launch his campaign formally next week.

    So that’s the Rae camp’s take.

    I reached an Ignatieff supporter but, this late on a Saturday night, he wasn’t in the loop. My assumption is that if he were he’d say something like, this is a very preliminary, informal meeting, en famille, and two of the candidates haven’t even formally launched, so could we please have a chat among friends without inviting the cameras in just yet? Also probably the Ignatiefferati would probably point out that, as the Rae release itself acknowledges, the original decision was no-cameras, and it’s the others, not Ignatieff, who want to change horse in midstream. Or whatever the more apt metaphor would be.

    Dominic LeBlanc supporters are saying this kind of instant ex nihilo Rae-Ig bickering is precisely why the party needs to look past them to…well, you know.

    Inkless has no opinion, nor any real sense of surprise. It was so encouraging to see the period of mutual respect and accommodation among Liberal leadership contenders last fully one-third of the way through the announcements of the major candidacies. Sunday should be fun.

  6. I’m confused here – I thought Dominic LeBlanc had a press conference and officially entered the race.

    Rae has only been on the political TV shows over and over again in the last few months making sure everyone sees him – but no press conference yet.

    So, isn’t it really only one that hasn’t offically entered the race?

  7. Hmmm. The plot thickens… Well, if this was to be “a very preliminary, informal meeting, en famille” as Wells puts it, then they should have just gotten together at someone’s house, met over dinner, or in a hotel room… rather than have given it a formal air by calling it a “leadership forum” sponsored by the party. Sheesh. Nice to see these guys getting their act together this way, isn’t it?

  8. Well, it wasn’t going to be well-attended anyway, since some bonehead conveniently scheduled it at the exact same time as the Santa Claus parade. (I wouldn’t expect BCers to know about it, but it draws close to a million people, mostly couples with kids in the 25-45 yo category, the exact demographic the Libs need to win.)

    Hopefully, they’ll do another one at a better time.

    Meantime, the Mike and Bob show continues….I can’t understand the strategy. Like, if they fight a lot, then it will attract people to their campaigns? Blech… turnoff for me.

    I disagree with Paul Wells’ take completely, these things never work that way, unless as you say they are at someone’s home. But his word, “Ignatiefferati” has me laughing my butt off! Hysterical!

  9. Rae trying to make himself superior as usual…what a showoff…what an @@hole….he did not like it that Iggy was frontrunner…I hope he falls on his fat a$$…he thinks he is so great…go back to NDP Bob…we dont want you.

  10. Is this what we can expect from Rae and Iggy over the next 5 months?

    If so, Dominic Leblanc should play the age card. He’s the only one not acting like a freakin’ 4-year-old.

  11. Getting back to the original issue. Why won’t Ignatieff let the press in the forum? If he wants to dispel his previous reputation for making gaffes he should address that head on otherwise it makes it look like press avoidance, more bad press for Ignatieff and this drags down the Party with bad press.

  12. Checked out Wells and O’Malley blogs as the Ignatieff supporter suggested. Yes, Rae and Ignatieff are playing games but that is not the issue. The question still remains unanswered as to why Ignatieff would object to media at the forum??

  13. I still don’t understand what the point of setting up as a closed session was in the first place. You would think, just as a matter of overt symbolism if nothing else, that they would have strained themselves to make it open, just to stress the contrast with the Conservatives.

  14. The Lib Party executive set this up – not Iggy. Rae knew 2 weeks ago – why did he not state his objections then?

    No one has said that future debates were going to be closed door as far as I know.

    Perhaps, when Rae declares “officially” that he’s running – then he can play the games.

    I watched him today on CTV – he giggled nervously and coughed nervously when questioned by Oliver – he knows he’s playing a sleazy game here.

  15. *Sigh*

    This is why I washed my hand of the Liberal Party and this leadership race a few weeks ago.

    The race has barely started and it has already degenerated into negativity.

    This race is going to end and then the new leader is going to have to unite Liberals to fight Stephen Harper. That task will be very difficult and time consuming if this race continues on its current course.

    It will be weeks and possibly months before the “anonymous sources” in the other camps stop yapping and we all know that our MSM, which has not done any favours for the Liberals in years, will be hanging on every word.

    It will be in that atmosphere that Stephen Harper will call the next election and he will win, possibly win big. (Depending on where the economy is at the time).

    I firmly believe that the Liberals have come down with a fatal case of the political stupids and evidence is mounting to prove I am right.


  16. Sandi — Oh, thanks for the reminder. I always forget to watch QP. I wish it was on in the morning along with the American shows. Right about now would be good after NBC, CNN, Fox and ABC are done their thing.

  17. Hear, hear, Ottlib. I think both Rae and Ignatieff need a stern talking to. And if these two old warhorses can’t develop an understanding of what the electorate might be looking for (including the 41% of it that didn’t bother voting in the last election, which is where I believe the Liberals could make serious gains, if they smartened up), then they should be sent off to the rest home. Otherwise, we’re going to have to conclude that they’re really appealing to the same old eminences grises who don’t care about Canada or democracy anyway.

    I’m going to suggest no one donate any money to either of them until they set few ground rules about what bickering we’re going to put up with.

  18. BC’er in Toronto –

    I came out to Mississauga Saturday afternoon to attend the leadership hospitality suites in the evening, and then the leadership forum this afternoon. As I attended Michael Ignatieff’s and Dominic LeBlanc’s parties and got a chance to meet them both, I found myself wondering where Bob Rae was. Then, when I dragged myself out of bed this morning (had a few glasses of wine last night) and got online, I found out.

    This is all rather ridiculous, frankly, given that no one is an actual formal leadership candidate yet at this stage. The debate this afternoon is an informal one, organized as part of the LPCO executive meetings. Which isn’t some elitist gathering by the way as some have claimed, any Liberal can attend. And the debate itself is open to any party member for just $20, or $10 for Victory fund members. That’s how I’m getting in.

    Executive meetings such as this have never been open to the media. That has always been the rule, agreed to by all. My understanding is that, last minute, Bob Rae wanted to change the rule to open the forum to the media. Dominic LeBlanc was fine either way, Michael Ignatieff preferred to keep it more informal and stick with the original rules, as laid down by the LPCO and agreed to originally by all.

    And rather than work this out within the party and see if a compromise couldn’t be found, Bob Rae seems to have decided to boycott the entire weekend (I hear he was in the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa last night schmoozing Young Liberals) and go running to the media to break his pledge for a clean campaign and attack Michael.

    ….seems to me this wasn’t an “official” debate so to speak. I think this has gotten out of control.

    A repeat of QP is on again today – not sure of the time.

    Rae’s reminding me of McCain

  19. I can never remember when it’s on. And it’s on channel 105 or some damn thing and I don’t have a remote, so it’s a complete pain to get all the way up there…

  20. Maybe Iggy’s just feeling a bit shy? Kinda endearing.

    Besides, if cameras, cells and recorders are going to be capturing the session for posterity, a fella needs to look his best. That takes time. (One can’t very well go before the media with rumpled eyebrows…)

  21. The only grown up in the room right now is Dominic Le Blanc. the more I see of these two “old men” the more I despair for the liberal party. Bring back Stephane Dion.

  22. This has gotten just too silly to believe. Rae and LeBlance don’t even have proper websites set up. Ignatieff has an event on November 27, but Rae and LeBlanc don’t seem to have a schedule yet. There’s been no word yet a about a debate schedule and I think Rae may have been manipulated by the CPC to cover up for the lack of transparency at their convention – as set out by Kady O’Mally.

  23. Bill (LS) D. Cat, while annoying me over at Macleans made me think of something…maybe the Liberals should periodically “stage” gaffes to keep the Conservatives coming and going with regard to the content of the negative advertising campaign they’re no doubt planning to waste money on.

    The Conserva-tards could be easily managed if someone just puts a little thought into it.

  24. I just watched QP on the the CTV website. Funny stuff. Seems Wells was right about the en famile nature of the meeting, but Rae claims he simply assumed it would be open and was never told it would be a closed meeting. Iggy said he was just doing what he was told by the party.

    If nothing else, it generated some interest and introduced a “feisty” aspect to the race (per Rae).

  25. “You can’t have a town hall without the town.”

    Bob Rae’s little quips to the media borderline on genius and inanity… that’s what I like about him.

  26. Well, I guess it’s another gotcha by the CPC – they were the ones that brought it out in the open and Rae was manipulated…..and we are not discussing the closed door stuff in Winnipeg anymore are we? Oh, and we’re not discussing their extreme right wing resolutions that were approved.

    Yup, Harper and his strategists got the Liberals again.

  27. So Iggy and Rae managed to be civil for a couple of weeks…. that must have taken a bit of self-control.

    I have a feeling that this is politicking on Rae’s part. I’m both impressed and at the same time I wish I could take a stick to him, especially since he didn’t bother to show.

    Bob Rae’s little quips to the media borderline on genius and inanity… that’s what I like about him.

    It’s what I like about him too.

    To be honest, I don’t like the whole idea of this leadership race becoming a coronation.

  28. Where did you get this info that the Conservatives “brought it out in the open”? Did I miss something?

    Apparently, you missed the rampant paranoia slowly developing here.

  29. “To be honest, I don’t like the whole idea of this leadership race becoming a coronation.”

    I have a big problem with that as well.

    Moebius, funny, parania was my take on that theory as well.

    And here I thought the myth of the absolute brilliance of the Tory War room was put to rest last election, I guess not.

  30. The Tory War room just sits back, and watches the LPC self-immolate once again. 🙂

    Iggy wanted no media, because he didn’t want to see his words used in CPC ads to discredit the eventual leadership winner, whomever he or she might be. Sorry, whomever he might be.

  31. I have a big problem with that as well.

    Why bother having a race if it’s a coronation? Both Iggy and Rae have baggage. I want to see them both be open about it and explain ways that they will counter what will be thrown at them (it’s not just the Consevatives but also the NDP that they should keep in mind, so the Iraq war will be something that will be brought up and Rae’s former status as premier).

  32. Yeah, well, it could go one of a number of ways…

    1. The Conservatives and the NDP take notes and guess what’s in the next round of attack ads.

    2. They deal with in the same manner way Obama dealt with Wright — with a speech that managed to win people’s respect.

    3. Some weird mix of the scenario 1 and 2.

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