Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bob Rae is showing he’s no better as leadership material than Ignatieff or Dion

Wasn’t too long ago that the Grits hailed Stéphane Dion as their party’s saviour; he wasn’t and they dumped him unceremoniously. In came repatriated Michael Ignatieff, without benefit of a leadership vote—contraception24n_549102gm-a that came months after the backroom boys had him firmly ensconced as leader. The new leader, though, struggled to get out in front of his caucus, and, on occasions when he did, he stumbled so badly he began to lose the confidence of some caucus members.

Even the complete overhaul of the office of the leader of the opposition does not seem to have solved the party’s leadership headache. One silver lining did exist, however: former Ontario socialist premier and senior Liberal MP, Bob Rae, was waiting in the wings—only too eager to take the reins should Ignatieff falter. If only the Grits could dump Ignatieff—Iffy, as he is called—they could appoint Bob Rae and all would be well. Or so many in the Grit’s caucus thought.

That was then. That was before the vote debacle on Tuesday over a Bob Rae bill that was intended to make abortion a wedge issue and set Conservatives against each other. Too cute by far was the wily Mr. Rae.

As is traditional, the leader has taken responsibility for the gaffe and Bob Rae will let Ignatieff do that. But surely Rae cannot totally avoid criticism. After all, it was his bill.

A motion by Bob Rae demanding that the Conservative government’s maternal and child health initiative for the world’s poorest regions include “the full range of reproductive health options” [read abortion] was defeated by a vote of 144-138 yesterday when three Liberal MPs voted against it.

Rae knows full well that Liberal Party polling has previously shown that abortion is a game-changer for many Canadians, especially women. And he wanted to capitalize on that.

That was his motivation, not some higher-sounding motive he tried to lay claim to when he said, “What we are trying to achieve is to get a broader understanding in Canada, and in Canadian society, that this government has a very clear foot in the neoconservative camp where, frankly, ideology trumps science.” In a word, bull, as only Bob Rae can shovel it. At least, when he’s on his game.

Definitely, he was not on his game when he tabled his important bill without following through to make sure it had the votes to pass. Yes, Rodger Cuzner, the Liberal Party Whip, has that responsibility, but the sponsor of the bill should share some of blame, though that’s not really Rae’s style.

Instead of the bill sailing through with full Liberal, NDP and Bloc support, Rae’s own caucus scuttled his motion. And, to go from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, according to a Globe and Mail report,  “The miscue apparently so rattled the Liberals that they went on to accidentally vote in favour of Conservative spending measures.”

Red Grit faces with a bit of egg on each, no doubt. And based on another Globe and Mail report, the news today won’t offer much cheer. Jane Taber reports that Ignatieff’s and Rae’s Liberals are sliding back into Stéphane Dion territory, according to a new EKOS Research poll. Taber writes:

“The EKOS poll shows the Conservatives with a clear lead (outside of the margin of error) – 33.3 per cent support of the electorate compared to 27.7 per cent for the Liberals. The NDP have 15.9 per cent; the Bloc is at 9.8 per cent and the Green Party has 10.4 per cent support.”

So much for the spike in the Liberal poll results of a few weeks ago, when the Liberals were tied with the Tories, and the EKOS seat-projection showed the Grits could win more seats than the Tories, if an election had been held at that time.

So who’s left in the Liberal stable? Well, they still have another former socialist premier, the Vancouver South MP, Ujjal Dosanjh. The Grits could appoint him as leader.

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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