Fresh off recent speculation by Jim Travers in the Toronto Star that Michael Ignatieff, federal leader of the Liberal party, is being considered as a replacement for Janice Stein, Director, Munk Centre for International Studies, I read here and here about the possibility/likelihood that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is a contender for the federal Liberal leadership.
Interesting to speculate, but I doubt it could happen. Not that McGuinty would not be many Ontarians’ choice for federal leader—even after breaking so many promises they still seem to love the man—but the Liberal Party of Canada has a tradition of alternating their choice for leader between candidates from Quebec and the rest of Canada. Ignatieff has no Quebec connection and is seen as very much part of the Toronto crowd, so it’s very likely that the next leader of the LPC will hail from La Belle Province.
There is one scenario I can imagine. Let’s say Ignatieff continues his swoon in the polls and the Liberals drop below 20 per cent to near the level of the New Democrats. Panic will set in among the Grits and they’ll be looking for a quick fix as they did at the end of Stéphane Dion’s tenure. In such a scenario, the Liberals may bypass a Quebec candidate like MP Denis Coderre—since Liberal fortunes in Quebec are at a low ebb with little upside—and seek to secure their vitally important Ontario base with a leader like Dalton McGuinty, with his proven record of generating majorities in Ontario. In this scenario, runner up to Ignatieff, MP Bob Rae may not be the saviour the Grits will be seeking. After all, Rae could be seen by many as being a liability in Ontario and yesterday’s man. The younger, more-popular-in-Ontario McGuinty may just fill the bill for them.
Dominic LeBlanc, MP for Beauséjour, would be the better choice, of course. This is an impressive young man who could be seen as a “substitute” Quebec candidate to follow Ignatieff’s return to academia. Unfortunately, LeBlanc lacks the high profile of McGuinty and the party back-roomers may see the sort of landslide victory they so desperately need in Ontario too much of a long shot under the member from New Brunswick.
Some think McGuinty may feel he owes the Ontario party one more campaign in 2011, and if successful, a couple of years more as premier. But I’m not so sure. Give him a shot at being prime minister and I believe Dalton the Taxman McGuinty will jump at it.