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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Federal Grits learning the difference between being involved and being committed

I think we are all familiar with the breakfast dish: bacon and eggs, and with the chicken’s involvement and the pig’s commitment to the popular dish. So too must the federal Liberals be agonizing over the involvement level of their so-called registered supporters versus the commitment of their party members.

Here we have a political party that is struggling to remain relevant to Canadian voters at the national level, and now their leadership campaign seems to be falling flat on its face. The Grits have had to water down their voting requirements to the point that anyone and everyone seems to qualify, yet they are unlikely to garner enough eligible voters to even match the NDP, which restricted its 2012 leadership election to party members only.

According to The Hill Times, “One of the [Liberal leadership] campaigns told The Hill Times that as of Tuesday morning this week a total of 115,090 party members and Liberal [party] supporters … had gone through the registration process.” In last year’s vote for its leader, the federal NDP had about 131,000 eligible voters (party members)—though only 65,108 bothered to vote in the first ballot.

At this rate, the Liberals will be hard-pressed to reach 130,000 eligible voters by tomorrow’s deadline for registration. This despite a one-week extension of the registration deadline and the Grits’ crowing over an announced total of 294,002 members and party supporters signed up as of March 4. Further indication the Grits have indeed fallen to third-party status in more ways than one.

The whole faux leadership race has become somewhat of a joke.

Justin Trudeau’s huge Twitter following apparently chased off, at least, a couple of strong challengers even before the leadership race began officially. Then we had the spectacle of Marc Garneau bailing out to support the Dauphin, who he’d spent months trying to discredit, telling Liberals that Trudeau’s leadership is little more than a pretty face and empty platitudes. So the apparent runner up folds and genuflects to the Dauphin, in hope, I suppose, of securing favour with the eventual winner.

But the former astronaut may have miscalculated. There seems some evidence to suggest Vancouver MP Joyce Murray has been signing up more committed voters with her emphasis on the environment and a scheme (described as “electoral cooperation”) to unite the left in an attempt to defeat Stephen Harper’s Tories. She seems popular with David Suzuki and his crowd and those who would like to see Canada’s first-past-the post electoral system replaced with some kind of proportional representation system.

If Murray can get enough momentum going, more of these supporters might follow through by registering and voting for her than will many of Trudeau’s Twitter followers, and we still could see a real race to the finish.

But, perhaps, I engage too much in wishful thinking. The more likely outcome when voting ends April 14 (it begins on April 6) is a Trudeau coronation as most envisioned at the start of the contest.

I’d never want to underestimate Justin Trudeau, but nothing he has done or said so far in the contest leads me to believe he’s a gifted leader. Still, one never knows. I voted for Michael Harris as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives while believing he’d struggle to do justice to the job, and he grew into the job and became Ontario’s best premier since William Davis. Perhaps Trudeau can also rise to the occasion and reclaim second place from the socialist-Quebec souvernist NDP.

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