From a Source You Can Trust!

Ugh, I hate The National Post sometimes. Well, most times actually. Surely there’s some horrendous irony in a paper that constantly shrieks from its editorial pages about the infallibility of the “free market” that’s been hemorrhaging millions of dollars in losses almost since its inception. Clearly it’s been a financial disaster — a bottomless sinkhole with no prospect of recovery. So why doesn’t it fold up operations? Die already and stop annoying everyone with your hackneyed right-wing drivel.

But that’s only tangential to my point. Today, their editorial board deigned to offer some free, unsolicited advice for the Liberal Party. After thoroughly trashing and deriding Ignatieff, it’s their considered opinion the Liberals “should give up on the idea of replacing the Conservatives at the end of January when Parliament reconvenes.” Instead, the NP feels the Liberals should put in place an interim leader “who has no ambitions to run the party” and is ostensibly neutral and then… just carry on with business as usual until the May leadership vote. Well that’s stellar advice, isn’t it? And coming from the NP… you have to know that it couldn’t possibly be any more impartial and objective than that!

Just for fun, let’s review some of the NP’s slagging of Iggy. First off, he’s a “a prickly academic, like Mr. Dion” who’s been overtaken with ambition. Worse, “he lived outside the country for nearly three decades” and “only returned to seek high office at the best of a cabal of party insiders.” Then comes the old, familiar charge that he was “an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Iraq.” Or at least he was “until it became convenient for him to oppose it.” In a similar fashion according to the NP, he was for the coalition until he was against it; and that was only when he realized it was unpopular with Ontario Liberals “because of the separatists’ support.”

Why they even managed to work Adscam into their piece and several mentions of the “power lust” of Liberals. Good work NP!

Adieu Dion

Everyone knew that Stéphane Dion would be stepping down, but that he’s doing it today would seem to indicate that Ignatieff will be installed by the caucus at Wednesday’s meeting.

How soon before Bob Rae backs down?

What do you think? Will he or should he?

Update: Dion’s statement is here.

And in other news, Gerard Kennedy now seems “inclined” to back Bob Rae (I thought he’d thrown his support behind Iggy). Anyway, just in case you needed a reminder of the significance of this move, the following video seems appropriate somehow…

Those Belt-Tightenen’ Conservatives

So, let’s get this straight. Stephen Harper provoked a constitutional (and some might argue a national crisis as well) in order to ostensibly save $26 million and yet, lo and behold, today we learn that over the past two years his government has spent $383 million more than their Liberal predecessors on unspecified “management consulting” of one kind or another.

Oh yes, I know… Priorities. On the one hand, there’s pesky shite like democracy and on the other… such things as hiring the husband of a local fitness center who specializes in “change management” to help with the “team-building” skills of the folks at Revenue Canada. Excellent.

Put it to a Vote

libs-online

First of all, let me say that I have no particular problem should the Liberal caucus decide, in their infinite wisdom, to appoint a new “permanent” leader of the party. But seeing as Bob Rae has shown no indication of gracefully withdrawing from the race (in which case, the matter would be a moot point), it’s reasonable to suggest that all members should have a say in the outcome.

Simply working out matters in caucus (“behind closed doors” as it’s usually described) would have the unfortunate consequence of leaving many members of the Liberal grassroots organization feeling disenfranchised from the process. This is especially so, given that the membership in certain regions of the country is currently unrepresented (or at least under-represented) by elected members of parliament. Creating angry or bitter feelings of resentment amongst the grassroots is probably the last thing in the world the Liberals need right now, which makes a compelling argument for putting the matter to a vote of some kind or other.

The question then remains is a twofold one: the best manner in which to achieve this; and, the optimal timing involved. Actually, it’s a threefold one, if we consider whether there should be an interim leader, or go straight to the election of a permanent leader.

So, let’s address that last aspect first. While appointing an interim or “caretaker” leader may well be the technically correct thing to do and even the appropriate measure under normal circumstances, these are not such times. Make no mistake that the Liberal Party is on the brink of crisis — it’s bankrupt, dispirited, in a state of chaos by all accounts. Moreover, public support is at the lowest level in living memory — from an electoral standpoint, it’s a disaster looking for a place to happen. Strong leadership and a commitment to begin making the needed reforms to rehabilitate the party are needed now, not five or six months from now (just before summer… so that will probably translate into not much happening for 8-10 months or even a year).

Working on the assumption that, in fairness, the interim leader couldn’t be one of the men in the race, it’s also perhaps worth pointing out that such an appointment would bring the total number of leaders of the LPC, between Chrétien and the next one, to five in as many years! Another drawback to the appointment of an interim leader would be that it effectively takes the possibility of an election off the table. Now, I don’t think that provoking an election or heading into the polls would be a judicious decision for the Liberals at the moment, but it’s important that the threat of one at least be conceivable and credible if this minority parliament is to function the way it’s supposed to (rather than as the Conservative majority that Mr. Harper seems to envision it being).

Continuing to work backwards, the next part of the question is timing. In light of the urgent circumstances and the need to restore some sense of order and continuity to the leadership of the party, the more immediate the timing the better it seems to me. Waiting until the convention in May to resolve the matter just doesn’t seem like a realistic option — “untenable” as Dominic LeBlanc put it. In part, the timing relates to both the first and last part of the question — whether there should be an interim leader and the method of voting chosen. If Liberals are willing to break the rules (which they’re perfectly entitled to do) and move to a different voting arrangement, then the matter of timing becomes more flexible.

Which brings us to how best to express the “democratic” will of the membership. My preference is for OMOV via an online vote, as this would give the most immediate expression of intention to the largest number of people in the most direct way possible. The feasibility of this shouldn’t be all that difficult to work out, although there are some legitimate concerns with this method of voting based on the past experience of other parties. I’m certain that the necessary precautions could be taken to ensure that it’s secure, tamper-proof (gotta watch out for those wily Conservative miscreants, you know). However, if the technological hurdles can’t be overcome in time, there are other low-tech means of achieving something similar that may involve votes being taken at individual riding associations across the country, or something of that nature.

As I’ve said before, the important thing is to get this thing wrapped up and settled before parliament resumes at the end January. Then Harper will have to face an Official Opposition with a legitimate leader that has the full backing and support of his party. The importance of this over this next critical period of time cannot be underestimated.