Here’s my improbable forecast for the next 16 months: the Grits dump Michael Ignatieff, appoint/anoint Toronto MP Bob Rae as leader, merge with the NDP (at least the right-most elements of that hapless party) and force a general election.
Sound improbable? I agree. However, politics can be full of surprises, especially when one party, the New Democrats, has never won a federal election and has no real prospects of doing so in the foreseeable future. And the other party, the Liberal Party of Canada, is straining at the bit to regain the power it is used to wielding, but is frustrated by a leader that is about as effective as was last chief Grit, Stéphane Dion.
The Liberals can no longer be considered a “national” party. They are really a regional party (Eastern Canada) with a sprinkling of support elsewhere. Their historical base in Quebec is being decimated, first by the Bloc then increasingly by a resurgence of support in that province for the Stephen Harper conservatives—astonishingly the Grits are left with only 14 seats in La Belle Province. And, while in the past they could count on British Columbia (five seats) to give credibility to their claim of being represented coast to coast, the NDP and the Conservatives are increasingly shutting them out.
More than half their caucus is from Ontario—and recent polls show them slipping there—while elsewhere, the Grits are a second choice at best, and increasingly, they can only really hope for a third place finish. The Liberals have only about eight members west and north of Ontario—a record only slightly better that the Green Party which has none.
The very best Michael Ignatieff could do for his party is convince the backroom movers and shakers to replace him with Bob Rae, who has proven political leadership skills and is a virtual insider as far as NDP movers and shakers go.
Under Bob Rae and lieutenants like Ujjal Dosanjh, MP for Vancouver South, a significant portion of the NDP could likely be persuaded to split off and join a left-of-centre newly constituted Liberal party under the banner of, say, the Social Democrats of Canada.
In other words—Michael Ignatieff please take note—he also serves who quits politics and returns to teach at Harvard.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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