Canadians are watching what could be another long slow slide to nowhere by a federal Liberal Party leader. Should Michael Ignatieff continue with his inept leadership, he will certainly find himself the second Chief Grit in a row to never serve as a prime minister. Mr. Ignatieff may be brilliant in any number of ways, but he is proving to be a slow study in the ways of political leadership.
Not only has Mr. Ignatieff lost his Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, over his decision to overrule Coderre in the matter of who should carry the party banner in the Quebec federal riding of Outremont, but he finds himself facing a claim that critical decisions affecting Quebec are being made in Toronto by his inner circle.
This will go over like a lead balloon in Quebec, the very province Mr. Ignatieff had hoped would provide a leg up to the prime minister’s office. Without a very strong showing in that province, the Grits are unlikely to get a sniff at forming a government after the next election.
The Liberal brain trust will, of course, brush this off as the sort of little spat that happens from time to time in all parties. And they are right for the most part, however, there are indications that there is a serious rift in the power base of the Liberal Party. A rift that Mr. Ignatieff may not have the political skill to mend.
Mr. Ignatieff does not have the moral authority to demand the trust and loyalty of his party. He is, after all, an outsider who until very recently did not even live in Canada. During the 2006 leadership convention that voted in Stéphane Dion as party leader, 70 per cent of the Liberal delegates voted against Ignatieff on the first ballot. And not a single one of the six other contenders supported Ignatieff when they were eliminated from the ballot or dropped out of the race.
Less than two years later, the Grits allowed themselves to be buffaloed into appointing the untested former professor without even a vote by delegates never mind a one-member-one-vote leadership race. The other leadership contenders like Bob Rae were outmaneuvered by backroom deals, but their power bases remained intact and hungry for another run at the top job. Now there are other hopefuls like Denis Coderre and Martin Cauchon jockeying for position.
If I were Mr. Ignatieff, I would sleep facing the door with one eye open.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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