T here is little glory in being leader of a third party, and that’s a sad fact of Canadian party politics. When a party slips to third-party status, it loses its appeal among high-profile potential leaders. Nothing so mutes the interest of those used to playing in the big arena of life as does a decade in opposition with little prospect of becoming prime minister—or perhaps even leader of the official opposition—in the short- or mid-term.
Most readers are familiar with the sense of entitlement which is so pervasive within the Liberal Party of Canada. For too many Liberals, theirs is the natural governing party, and we all recognize for the arrogance it implies, every Liberal leader’s assumption he’ll, sooner or later, become prime minister.
The grim reality is quite different now.
Such are the harsh lessons of political life: in 2006, eight hopefuls contested the party leadership, and another four had withdrawn in the months leading up to the Montreal leadership convention. In 2011, four or five names are being bandied about, the most prominent of which, Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau, are showing an uncharacteristic reluctance to let their names stand, leaving a rather dreary assortment of lesser-lights and wannabes: Scott Brison, David McGuinty, Gerard Kennedy. Dominic LeBlanc, who has been organizing to become leader for two years, is the one bright light among this rather dull array.
There is, though, an interest in the interim leader position—perhaps for an 18- to 24-month term.
Bob Rae told supporters on Thursday that he wants to be the interim leader and would abide by rules set out by the party’s executive banning him from a run for the permanent leadership. Critics in the Liberal party, though, have expressed concern this may be a cynical ruse, and, once he has been made interim leader, Rae may mount a campaign for the party’s permanent leadership despite saying he has no plans to do so. And Rae has one declared challenger for the job: Montreal Liberal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau.
The Liberal party caucus is expected to meet next Wednesday and vote for their interim leader, a selection that will have to be made official by the national board by the end of the month.