Liberals Rush Headlong into an Undemocratic Solution

Just when you think you have a chance to catch your breath, you turn on the TV or open the paper and see the Liberals have cranked the political roller-coaster up again. Rumour is it St├ęphane Dion, the Liberals professorial leader, is being pushed out, and Michael Ignatieff, another professor is being pushed in. Weren't people saying being a professor was one of Dion's big drawbacks?

What I truly don't get is why Liberals are so enamoured with Iggy? It must be a native Canadian thing, preferring Canadians who move abroad, especially to the US, to make it, while scorning those Canadians who stay here and make a difference to our lives. At least Dion worked for our country; he left the comfort of anonymity to go to Ottawa to help unite our country, putting himself in the thick of the storm, while Iggy stayed comfortable in the US and pontificated at a safe distance from the hurly burly.

And so it looks like the Liberals are rushing headlong into an undemocractic solution to the problem of being in a leadership race while the Stephen Harper Tories are running attack ads and persuading the population to his undemocractic lies.

What a choice we'll have, come January end. A despot versus an intellectural rationalizer from another country. Peachy.


Mark Dowling said…
You would prefer the LPC waited until May while Harper continued to outmanoeuvre Dion and the Liberal poll numbers reached new lows?

I liked the idea where the 308 riding associations would have a snap ballot, but either way Dion must go, now. Having him stay on has been a disaster as the public don't want to see him as PM for five minutes never mind six months.

Maybe Goodale would have been a good interim leader with no permanent designs given the economic situation, but done is done and now the LPC needs a permanent replacement.

I think Ignatieff has taken the temperature of the public and decided they don't so much like the idea of a Coalition (Tories polling north of 40% since the idea was thought up) so much as liking the idea of Harper gone.

I think he will ditch the coalition deal as agreed by Dion in favour of voting against the Harper budget in January and having another election - although he may campaign on the basis that a post-election coalition would be countenanced if the Liberals could not manage a minority government, thus taking away the Tory argument about "nobody voted for a coalition" away.

As for your slam against Ignatieff - he didn't take a job at a Buffalo burger king. He has had positions at Cambridge, during which time he was a frequent commentator for the BBC, and at Harvard. He can appear on CTV's Question Period or RC's Tout le monde en parle without looking uncomfortable on either. He's got enough charisma to get Liberal donor wallets locked shut against Dion to open again.

Finally - there's nobody else except Rae and I think Rae misread the country (as opposed to Toronto's) desire or lack thereof for a coalition that includes the Blocquistes and Dion. He has support in influential salons in Toronto that have the ear of the local papers' editorial boards but that's about it.
Mark, thanks for your thoughtful comment! I always enjoy reading your stuff. I don't know if I said it in a previous post or maybe just to a friend, but I don't think they ought to wait till May. But if we can announce and hold a general election within 5 weeks, why can't the Liberals elect a leader in the same time or less? They may not be able to rent a hall in time, but they can certainly use other methods to hold a proper election.

Even barring the public's response, it's pretty clear the Liberals have their knives out for Dion, and so I agree he does have to resign soon. Having Goodale as interim leader would be a good solution, given his economic credentials, and then neither leadership candidate would get an undue leg up in the final vote.

I'm not sure how accepting a Harper budget will help get rid of Harper. The only sure way in the short term is to have a coalition government take over. I am also more for Harper going at this point, fate of coalition notwithstanding. But you give that man a mm of acceptance, and he grabs the whole hog.

Personally I'd prefer a coalition than another election. I'm fed up with elections at the moment, I already made my choice, and another one will only give Harper a bigger soap box for his national disunity penchant. Can Canada truly afford the west riled up against Quebec and Quebec riled up against everyone else, more than what Harper has already done?

Parliament needs to work the way it was designed to, and the best thing LEADERS can do is to LEAD and educate the public. I think we're heading into an era of minorities and fewer majorities, in which case the public has to learn why coalitions are democratic and how Parliament is SUPPOSED to work. Otherwise we'll have nothing but elections every 6 months. Ugh.

I understand your argument for Iggy, but I still disagree that a foreigner ought to lead my country -- I don't care where he was born and went to high school. The US does not allow immigrant American citizens to hold the Presidency, and I can't imagine any American-born man or woman swooping in after living in another country for decades and expecting to be a serious Presidential candidate either. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say the PM ought to be only Canadian born, I do believe that a person cannot lead a country that he hasn't lived in for years and years. There's a difference between someone being educated in Cambridge and then coming back to live, work, and make a difference here, and someone educated in Cambridge and then living in the UK or the US. The former knows what being Canadian is today, what living in Canada today is like; the latter only knows what it was like when he left town. And his perspective thereafter is both from the past and as an outsider, looking in from another country. It really doesn't matter how smart or well read you are; that doesn't substitute for the experience of daily living in Canada -- hearing your neighbour's experience in the ER, or your brother's experience in the law courts, or using public transit or the roads every day and seeing how they change over time, or being in the thick of a unity crisis rather than watching and hearing about it from the outside, or working with Canadians every day from Toronto, other parts of Canada, and the newly immigrated. That experience is what makes you a Canadian today who understands the issues today and how they evolved over the years and thus what we need in a leader. After living here for many years, then he will have learnt enough and immersed himself in our culture enough to be qualified to lead my country of Canada. Canada is quite a different place than it was 30 years ago. I know, I've been here all that time.

I don't see why him being a commentator on BBC is relevant to running Canada; after all the BBC hardly ever takes notice of Canada. It's a friggin' joke trying to get news of home when in England. I feel like I've been cut off from Canada. And the Brits have very different takes on things than we do. Very different!

Also, I'm pretty tired of vision-less leaders. Canada's huge support for Obama reflects that I'm not alone in that. We need more than a leader who just raises his finger to a wind, feels where it's going, and follows. We need a leader who raises his finger to the wind, scans the lay of the land, watches the movement of the sea, looks to the far horizon, and then leads the wind in the direction that will prosper and benefit it best.
Also to my point about not living here -- there was a lot of concern when Jean was appointed GG that not only was she a French citizen but also that she had no knowledge of Canada outside of Quebec. The GGship would be her first introduction to nine provinces and three territories, and people were seriously concerned that that should disqualify her from the post. Trudeau travelled a lot in his early years, but he also travelled a lot in Canada and knew this country cold.

When I look at Harper, I see Canada. It may not be a Canada whose views I agree with, but there's no doubt he's Canadian. Same with Dion, same with Rae. But when I look at Ignatieff, I don't see Canada. He's still more of a foreign intellectual than Canadian.

There's some chat on Twitter about this, the coalition, Harper, etc.
Mark Dowling said…
First of all, I want to say that I don't dislike Bob Rae, although it may help that I didn't live here under his premiership. I think that it would have been enthralling from a political standpoint to watch the two of them debate their way to the leadership of the LPC. Unfortunately, I think the timetable was against him and the rush to coalition has hurt him the most of any of the contenders, since LeBlanc has plenty of time to wait.

I disagree with your characterisation of Ignatieff as someone who deserted Canada. In fact, he (by dint of his family situation and his education and career) has left Canada several times during his life *and always returned*. He went to Harvard at 29 - the same age I left Ireland for Canada. Believe me when I say anyone who doubts my citizenship, my patriotism and whether I "get" Ireland is still going to have a problem with me in 2033.

We desperately need to move from a parochial to a local world view during our present security and economic times - Harper won't give us that, it took him several tries to appoint someone with a clue as Foreign Minister (Emerson) and Rae's foreign policy credentials are slight.

I also disagree with your characterisation of his judgement. If anything, Ignatieff's most public judgement call was on Iraq, and he published a lengthy article in the New York Times explaining how he got to where he did and how he learned from that experience. We're still waiting for Bob Rae to explain what he learned from his time as Premier of Ontario.

You refer to Michaelle Jean - except people did accept Mme Jean and gave her the benefit of the doubt in the call she made on prorogation even if all of them didn't agree with her choice. I think they would have accepted Mme Jean even if, like Dion, she was not railroaded into giving up her French citizenship not least because so many Canadians possess it themselves and wouldn't like to think of themselves as inferior to some kind of standard analogous to the "pur laine" Quebecois.

You refer to his being a commentator in the UK - but my point is simply that Ignatieff is known in the UK, still a major social and economic link to Canada. When I lived in the British Isles and saw Ignatieff on TV, I had no idea he was Canadian because I wasn't watching his contribution BECAUSE he was Canadian - he was a serious guy, a world citizen if you like. As someone who has lived outside of Canada Ignatieff is likely to be acutely aware of his country's place in the world and how it is perceived and reported - as you noted above.

Harper's "Tim Hortons and hockey rinks" regime hasn't been doing us much good and frankly doesn't resonate the varied cultural influences of Canada's urban centres where most people live. You think Ignatieff doesn't understand Canada but I think you'll find that if he does it right, Canadians of recent immigrant origin may feel he understands them on a personal level. In fact, I would venture that First Nation Canadians would dispute whether Harper gets "Canada" so much as the people Harper defines as being "true Canadians" pace Sarah Palin.

Finally - you may see Canada in Harper and Rae but Obama and Ignatieff's shared Harvard connection might be the thing we need most right now.
Mark, my brain is unfortunately too fried on video making and wrestling with Windows Vista to respond to your specific arguments (I'll try later if I can), but bottom line: we need more democracy in our Parliament, starting with the parties in their own structures, being reformed by Canadians who've seen how this Parliament has deteriorated over time and lived it. Going the easy, less democratic route just gives Harper more ammunition to continue down his undemocratic path.