The inability of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada to win a majority in the House of Commons has probably hurt the Liberal Party of Canada more than it has the Conservatives.
Because the Tories were only able to form minority governments, all parties had to be ready to return to the campaign trail at any time, thereby denying the Grits the time to truly renew their party after several years of in-fighting between the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin factions.
In August 2006, the LPC, fresh from their Jan. 2006 defeat at the polls, published a report from their “Red Ribbon Task Force,” which acknowledged “that our [LPC’s] biggest challenge ahead is to remain competitive as a political body.” The Red Ribbon Task Force, which had been formed in 2005, made a whole slew of recommendations aimed at renewing and rejuvenating the party.
In Jan. 2009, Michael Ignatieff was still talking about “the establishment of a special committee to ensure the Liberal Party is well equipped during this critical period of reform and rejuvenation.” Whoa! Whatever happened to the Red Ribbon report of some two and a half years earlier? It proposed to do just that: reform and rejuvenate.
“Renewal will take many forms,” said Mr. Ignatieff in 2009. “It is my hope the Liberal Party of Canada will be guided by the views of each and every one of its members as we think about our policies, our structures and our methods of engaging with Canadians.” And Mr. Ignatieff said the special committee on party renewal will take into consideration the implementation of the 2006 reforms undertaken by the “Red Ribbon” task force.
Well, better late than never, I suppose.
The Grits live to govern. No other political party in Canada has the same level of expectation and entitlement as the Grits. And so long as there is a hint of a chance to regain office, the “natural ruling party of Canada” will not set aside their quest for power long enough to reform and renew a party which by its own admission faced the challenge of remaining competitive.
So eager were they to regain power, the Liberals set aside the opportunity to have their members select a leader of their own choosing. Instead the party allowed itself to set aside any semblance of democratic practice and be railroaded into a backroom deal by which it appointed a leader. A decent man like Dominic Leblanc never even got the chance to make his case to the membership.
As they have sown, now are the Liberals reaping frustration and discontent from among their ranks. Rumours persist that the supporters of failed leadership hopeful Bob Rae are feeding the media stories that reflect on the ineptness of current leader Michael Ignatieff. Apparently, Mr. Ignatieff has not told Rob Rae that the leadership race is over.
So shopworn has Mr. Ignatieff’s image so quickly become, the Grits are now trying to showcase their “team.”
In the past week we have been treated to the de-emphasizing of the leader and the emphasizing of a team-approach. But isn’t that exactly what happened when Stéphane Dion started to self-destruct… and look where that got them.
The Grits best—perhaps only—hope is that the Tory government self-destructs. The Grits have not the capacity to win power in the next four years or so, and so Liberals must stand helpless on the sidelines hoping the Tories will “lose it” and restore them to their rightful place in Ottawa.
And good luck with that.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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