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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Liberal leadership: which horse to flog

It is difficult for me to watch a political race from the sidelines without trying to pick the winner, and the current race to replace Stéphane Dion is no exception.

I try to look at the candidates from two points of view: their chances of winning and their ability to lead our country as a future prime minister.

Front runners in my book are Michael Ignatieff, the party’s current deputy leader, and Frank McKenna, the former New Brunswick premier. But McKenna announced Tuesday that he would not be a candidate so that leaves Ignatieff alone in the early lead.

Ignatieff is bright and thinks quickly on his feet—a far better politician than Dion. His choice to live outside Canada from 1978 to 2005 will work against him, however, as will his age—he’ll be in his mid-sixties in the next general election. I think this Harvard PhD would make a capable PM leading a party of the political centre and is my personal second favourite.

Next in line are Toronto MP Bob Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario and John Manley, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Rae probably has too much political baggage after a disastrous term as NDP premier of Ontario in the early 1990s. His age—a year younger than Ignatieff—is also like to work against him. I’d be very surprised if he won.

It is far from certain whether John Manley will declare himself a candidate. But if he did, he would be the best man for the job and is my personal favourite. He is a fading political memory, however, and many Liberals will never forgive him for chairing a panel on Canada’s future in Afghanistan. His report was widely praised, but to many Liberals, he sold out to the Conservatives when he accepted the appointment.

Toronto MP Gerard Kennedy, a former leadership candidate and New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, who has all but officially declared his candidacy will make respectable showings and solidify their power base inside the party.

I would chose LeBlanc over light-weight Kennedy, and he might be the one who will come up the middle and win.

LeBlanc has served in parliament since 2000, and is generally considered to have done a good job. He served as Defence Minister and so has cabinet-level experience.

Toronto-area MP Martha Hall Findlay may try again. She is a darling of the MSM so can count on wide and sympathetic coverage from them. She’s unlikely to win, but will increase her internal power base among the ex-Dion hard-core supporters.

Other potential candidates are Justin Trudeau and Ruby Dhalla. Trudeau’s day will come, I’m sure, but not this time. As to Ruby Dhalla: she is by far the weakest of the potential candidates. This woman lacks virtually every element needed to successfully lead a major political party, never mind a G-8 country. I saw her several times on the Michael Coren Show and, believe me, she’s far from ready for prime time.

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