Tuesday, May 08, 2012

An update on all the people MAYBE running for Liberal leadership

The expectation is that rules for the Liberal leadership race will come down in June, setting the stage for a summer of getting to know the men and women wanting to lead Canada's third party.

But while we won't know the rules of the race for another month or two, that hasn't limited speculation in the interim...or speculation about the interim leader, for that matter.

Back in January, I looked at the ten most commonly rumoured Liberal leadership candidates...and 18 fun longshots - the Naheed Nenshis and Amanda Langs of the world. Today, an update on the names that were most on the lips of delegates at the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) convention in Toronto this past weekend.



Don't count on it

From that January list of ten "buzz" candidates, we can likely scratch off Scott Brison and Dominic Leblanc. While their names still get floated in most newspaper articles, the Liberals I know who would be first in line to support them aren't expecting either Maritimer to toss their cap into the ring.

Which is a shame, because both represent the kind of generational change the party needs - and both are highly engaging and entertaining speakers, with pleasant demeanors that would contrast nicely with the gruff angry man personas of Harper and Mulcair.



The Big Names

While this is very much anybody's race to win, in my mind there are three candidates who would instantly vault to frontrunner status if they ran.

Trudeau. McGuinty. Rae.

All three are political superstars with the name recognition and organizations that would make them very difficult to beat.

While Justin Trudeau has done his best Chris Christie impersonation by repeatedly denying he has any interest in running, there have been new rumblings about his potential candidacy in recent months - and they haven't just been fueled by his TKO of Senator Brazeau, or idle media speculation.

The word on the street is that Justin is listening to the calls for him to run, though I'm still skeptical he'll move beyond the listening stage. The man has shown remarkable restraint thus far in his political career, so the smart money is on him waiting until next time. That said, if the Liberals make the wrong choice there may not be a "next time".

The reaction to Dalton McGuinty at January's convention was electric, and he would enter the race with a formidable track record and political machine behind him. But given he's fighting tooth and nail to tip the scales in Ontario to a majority, I seriously doubt he'd resign his own seat and plunge the OLP into a leadership race. There's also the harsh reality that, for perhaps the first time since confederation, leading the Ontario Liberal Party is a more glamorous job than leading the federal Liberal Party.

Of course, if big brother isn't interested, perhaps little brother will be. David McGuinty was one of the first candidates to openly muse about a leadership bid, but he's never acted like someone coveting the top job. The man rarely leaves his own riding and was a no-show in Toronto this weekend.

So what about Bob? One year ago, Rae categorically ruled it out, solemnly swearing he would not seek the top job, saying it was time for "a new generation of leadership". Now? He says a decision hasn't been made, and he's waiting on the rules. It's a politician's answer, and even his most ardent critics agree Rae may be one of the greatest politicians of his time. For this reason, many would follow him without hesitation if he runs - but others are so dead set against Rae they'd sooner back Alfonso Gagliano.



Seriously considering a run

Martha Hall Findlay sounds like the most serious of the "maybe" candidates. She's been sending out newsletters, holding events, and getting herself in front of cameras - Findlay herself acknowledges it's "not a secret" she's thinking about it. While Martha was the plucky underdog the last time she ran for leader, she's definitely in it to win it this go around.

Also from the class of 2006 is Gerard Kennedy, who has openly mused about running. Kennedy was ahead of his time with his "renewal" themed campaign, back when Liberals assumed everything could be fixed with a new leader. He has continued to beat that drum of late, holding renewal roundtables, renewal BBQs, and renewal pub nights. The real key for Kennedy will be how many renewal french lessons he's taken in the past few years.

One of the guests at Gerard's Political Renewal Fair a few weeks back was Kirsty Duncan. Duncan would be a great addition to the race, as an intelligent well spoken woman. If she runs, expect a strong focus on Health Care and the environment from her campaign, as she has written books on these topics.



Envisagent sérieusement de briguer le poste de chef

If you buy into the alternance theory of Liberal leadership, it's time for a francophone leader, and there are certainly plenty of candidates from La Belle Province making noise.

The loudest has been Marc Garneau. Like Ken Dryden in 2006, Garneau has plenty of star power, but the question comes down to whether or not he has the right stuff to lead. I hope he runs, if only because I have a dozen out of this world astronaut puns that will go to waste if he takes a pass.

Even though Martin Cauchon and Denis Coderre have never run for Liberal Party leadership, they've each spent more than a decade thinking about it. I suspect Coderre's future lies in provincial or municipal politics, though he will undoubtedly be a major asset for whichever campaign he winds up backing this go round.

Cauchon held a hospitality suite at the national convention and attended the LPCO convention this weekend - a clear signal he'd like to take on Thomas Mulcair not just in Outremont, but on the national stage. Believe it or not, he'll only turn 50 this summer, but in some ways going with Cauchon would feel like a throwback to the Chretien era. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm not sure that's the mood of the membership.

It doesn't take a lot to start a leadership rumour, so the fact that Mauril Belanger quit the official languages committee and then showed up in Toronto this weekend was enough to get people talking. Of course, being an Ontario MP, you'd expect him to be at an LPCO convention. And of all the things holding Mauril back from a run for Liberal leadership, I really don't think his spot on the official languages committee was very high on the list. But such is life in politics, where a new pair of glasses is taken as a sign of leadership aspirations.



People you've never heard of

The candidates making the most noise about running at this point are the ones with no chance of winning. After all, given enough time, a politician can delude himself into thinking he has a chance at winning anything. Moreover, Martha Hall Findlay and Martin Singh’s longshot campaigns did wonders to raise their profiles, so it’s not even always about winning in the conventional sense.

The most credible of the “no names” appears to be defeated candidate David Bertschi, a persistent worker who ran a strong campaign in Ottawa Orleans last spring. Bertschi is assembling a team, has a website, and has launched a teaser video that tells us a lot about Canada's potential as a country...but little about Bertschi's potential as a candidate. Bertschi is a dynamic speaker one-on-one, and everyone who talked to him at the LPCO convention, myself include, left impressed.

Also making the rounds at the Sheraton this weekend was Toronto businessman George Takach. While he lacks elected experience, he'll have no trouble raising money and, in the end, the amount of coin you bring in is the deciding factor in how long you can stay in the race.

Another name being floated is David Merner, the president of the BC wing of the federal Liberal Party. I've never met Merner, but this race needs a western voice or two, and to date Joyce Murray is the only MP west of Etobicoke making any noise about running.

39 Comments:

  • Dan,

    How are your french lessons coming along? ;-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:12 AM  

  • Justin Trudeau is seen by the Conservatives as the most likely - They are already lining up SUN Media to portray him as a "child of privilege" and elitist who is out to spend Canadians' money on himself...

    By Anonymous Mark Watson, at 10:37 AM  

  • If David Bertschi was such a great politician, how come 10 months of door-to-door efforts failed to put a dent in his bid to oust the lame duck conservative incumbent backbencher.
    This leadership bid smells like a "get my name in the national news" gimmick. Sad.

    By Anonymous orleans resident, at 10:41 AM  

  • Orleans - You'd know better than I would if you're from the riding, but there wasn't a Liberal candidate able to win an unheld riding last spring. As the NDP's Quebec performance will attest, there's only so much a local candidate can do.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:44 AM  

  • Takach also attended the Nova Scotia AGM at the end of April - only person on your list besides Rae that was at the AGM.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:02 AM  

  • Though Bertschi didn't win his riding he was able to maintain the Liberal Party's support, which is something few candidates did. He won 38% of the vote while Bob Rae won 41% of the vote in Toronto Centre, he also had more people vote for him than Rae. I don't know much about Bertschi but casting him off because he didn't win his seat is dumb, Steve Harper wasn't elected his first time.

    One thing I'll mention to is who really knew Brian Topp a year ago? I know he has deep roots in the party and was acclaimed president last June, but I'm sure there were still many NDP members who didn't know his name. While he might not have won the leadership he did have a significant amount of support for someone never elected.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 11:38 AM  

  • And where is Brian Topp right now?

    By Anonymous Cynical, at 1:25 PM  

  • Policy content aside for the moment, I'll be looking for someone a little more aggressive in dealing with opponents. Somebody who can respond quickly, decisively, and often off-the-cuff.

    I will trade some policy content in exchange for someone who can be a little more political.

    By Blogger James Calder, at 1:50 PM  

  • Jordan; Agreed.

    I'm fairly sure we'll see at least one candidate not on the list above.

    That said, anyone who is serious about running should at least be making preliminary calls at this point to test the lay of the land.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:51 PM  

  • IF and that's a big giant IF, if Bob Rae chooses not to run you can guarantee Kevin Lameraoux will run. He'll be an interesting voice. I would like to see him run even if Rae does run.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

  • @Mark Watson

    You think the Conservative party runs SUN Media? If so why are they attacking themselves so much, and why did they back an opposition party in Alberta's election?

    There's no doubt SUN Media is rabidly conservative, and that they hate Justin Trudeau, but they sure seem to hate the Conservative party too.

    Bob Rae will be permanent leader. Everyone should stop kidding themselves.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 3:37 PM  

  • If Bob Rae becomes the permanent leader I don't know if the Liberals deserve a comeback, though Rae will likely try and merge the NDP and Liberals.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 4:33 PM  

  • Is it possible Dalton McGuinty is trying to get a majority government so he could resign as premier? He says he doesn't want to run again, and while it's unlikely he wants to be PM, he's probably looking to get a majority so it's easier to resign and let the party have a leadership race.

    Maybe he's trying to speed it up to take on Rae...

    By Blogger Jordan, at 5:18 PM  

  • How about Phillippe Couillard? Panelist at a Canada 2020 event on healthcare in Ottawa... We'll see how his years out of politics have affected his public persona and appetite for politics.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:40 PM  

  • I think its a bit soon to count out LeBlanc or Brison from running, after all we don't even have the date set yet for the leadership race. Given how easily they could end up as frontrunners, I can't see the disadvantage to them really (aside from the fact that it costs money to run).

    All I know is that I don't want Rae to run uncontested. If we have another coronation where Rae ends up either the only candidate, as Iggy was, or ends up the only credible candidate, like Martin, then we might as well pack up shop now. Who will take us seriously when even I wouldn't at that point?

    By Blogger Volkov, at 7:10 PM  

  • Well Brison said last year he was trying to start a family and therefore wouldn't run and CBC reported that LeBlanc is taking over for Rae when he resigns as interim leader.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 7:13 PM  

  • So when Brison says he isn't running, therefore that's more credible than when Trudeau and Rae say they aren't running? Hm. There's a disconnect there.

    As for LeBlanc, I'd rather see him as permanent leader than an interim one. I hope CBC gets its facts wrong.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 8:36 PM  

  • i really hope Martha runs. she's gutsy, genuine, people love her, a true Liberal (one can't imagine her an NDP or Conservative), and with qualifications galore to boot. she'll get people's attention, especially when the Harper/Mulcair angry old man shoutfest gets tiresome (and who wants another angry old man in the mix?)

    i also appreciate a bit of the Nenshi "politics in full sentences" thing she's had going on ever since she entered politics. she was definitely the person i enjoyed listening to most in the last (real) leadership race.

    the liberals also need to think long term, as in several elections or more. we don't need a shiny flash in the pan candidate who will abandon the party in a few years or after voters have "rejected" them in one (or even two, or three) elections. like what the previous third party has done, liberals need to elect someone who can be a unifying figure, who's strongly committed to the liberal cause (and knows in his or her heart what that is), and most importantly will stick it out in the long term to re-establish a steady liberal brand, identity, goodwill, and faithful grassroots across the country. someone who can and is willing to do the slow and steady work over the course of several election cycles if necessary and continue to inspire and motivate people over that duration. the liberals also need a leader that most of country can take seriously (and as invulnerable to Harper attack ads as possible -- we cannot underestimate their impact). i just don't know if the country would be able to take the party seriously if, say, Justin Trudeau was leader.

    By Anonymous jared, at 11:58 PM  

  • Biggest thing to remember - we're selecting a Leader who will be Leader for a few elections, not one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:32 AM  

  • I liked Martha Hall FIndlay last time, and would have supported her had I been a Liberal party member.

    I met Kirsty Duncan when I appeared as an expert witness in front of the standing committee on health (re: Human pathogens and toxins act), Joyce Murray too. Kirsty is a very impressive young woman, and we are fortunate to have people like her willing to enter politics. However, she may be too earnest and sincere for a leadership role at this time.

    By Anonymous Michael, at 3:59 PM  

  • Bob has it in the bag,you know that was always the game plan,and that is what is wrong with the party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:10 PM  

  • Sheila Copps had the presidency in the bag too.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 7:19 PM  

  • Should we rule out McKenna? Maybe he's getting bored of Bay Street. I've voted PC/Conservative in every federal election in the last fifteen years, but I'd strongly consider voting for a Liberal party led by McKenna.

    He's only 64...

    By Anonymous mgregoire, at 5:52 PM  

  • ^
    -too old (one election and he'll quit)
    -Pro-life
    -Bad French
    -somewhere between Paul Martin and Barbara Hall in oratory ability
    -out of practice
    -biggest accomplishment involved creating telemarketing jobs, which haven't really transformed New Brunswick.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 1:59 AM  

  • i really hope Martha runs.

    , a true Liberal (one can't imagine her an NDP or Conservative)



    Hahahahahaha
    Like it matters to actual normal people...

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 11:13 AM  

  • as a staunch ndp supporter who fully intends to vote for the worst possible candidate for your new leader, i like someone like kennedy or findlay, a toronto-based unilingual anglophone defeated last election. i also like the frank mckenna/marc garneau types with zero charisma. another thing that i'll be looking for when i'm voting is that the new leader doesn't have a seat.

    overall, the best bet for us is to have someone close to the corporate right, so that you'd be a useful boutique party that would siphon cpc votes and deliver the suburban ridings that we'll need for a majority. on this note, cauchon would be a great bet: he's the corporate schill we want, he;s tied to the chretien years (inoculating any linguistic bounce in quebec), he has very little charisma, and he was utterly blown out by mulcair in outremont last election - an unelectable in most ndp/lpc battlegrounds as we try to finish you guys off. obviously it would be better if he weren't from montreal, given that you could end up saving a couple west and north montreal seats, but i'll take it for winnipeg north, vancouver center and some other prestige ridings.

    and rae's annoying for keeping the even keel, but his election would deny you the excitement and renewal you need, and he has that terrible record to deal with, so i'll take him.

    By Anonymous lotta, at 11:38 AM  

  • I laughed at the mention of Frank McKenna. Like that guy would quit his sweet job to simply run for the Liberal leadership. If he wouldn't do it when he could at least pretend it was an election away from being PM why would he do it when the party could be an election away from being finished.

    And it's about time Liberals realize that being finished is a far more likely scenario than a return to power. The Conservative base is likely going nowhere and the NDP looks more competent to a broad core of Canadian progressives by the day. Yet, no sense of urgency and all Liberals seem to carry about is who should be leader even though that attitude is what got you in this mess to begin with.

    By Anonymous And the Band Played On ..., at 1:35 PM  

  • It's nice that people like Lotta have so little confidence in Tom Mulcair that they will resort to signing up as a Liberal supporter so that the "worst" candidate gets elected leader. I guess Mulcair does not have the skills to go up against the best, which is obvious by his willingness to divide the country for political gain.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 12:29 AM  

  • as a staunch ndp supporter who fully intends to vote for the worst possible candidate for your new leader

    Or, you could, you know, try playing like a grown-up. Like, as in, the kind of person (over 18) who can vote?

    Oh, I forgot -- you're a "staunch" partisan hack/shill.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:06 PM  

  • Mulcair...s willingness to divide the country for political gain.

    Exactly Jordan - no Liberal or Conservative ever thought of *that* tactic before.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:08 PM  

  • Hi
    The fundamental reason the Liberal party is in the mess it's in can be laid at the feet of Gerard Kennedy and his shenanigan at the leadership convention.
    Just look at the performance of Duncan on the various interviews on CBC's Power and Politics and you will see she is obviously not ready for prime time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 PM  

  • So the Liberals are in this complete mess because Kennedy supported Dion in 2006.

    Chretien booting Martin from cabinet, Martin tossing out Chretien loyalist, becoming lazy, anointing Ignatieff as leader and not preparing for last year's election had nothing to do with the Liberals downfall? It all goes back to Gerard Kennedy and Stphane Dion.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 12:17 PM  

  • I thibk saying that anyone has no chance of winning is a severe misunderstanding of the impact supporters are going to have on this race. Outisde of Ray and McGuinty, no one on your list is well known to average Canadians. People like Bertschi ansd Takach are starting from the exact same place as the lesser known parliamentarians. There could be 500,000 or more supporters voting on our leader. These are not people in the bubble. they are not Liberals.

    The onyl advantage to being a Liberal insider in this race is in building the campaign team, something that neither Bertschi or Takach are having much of a problem doing.

    By Blogger Brian G. Rice, at 4:44 PM  

  • I'd take bets on Rae winning. If Trudeau wins, the Libs are taking dazzle over substance, and will die a quick death.

    Martha HF is my favourite, but then, I'm a conservative.

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