Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Who will lead Canadian Liberals now?

Potential dark horse contenders want to wait as much as 18 months to choose Martin's successor. But they fear the party's national executive, still controlled by Martin, is trying to arrange the convention for next fall, an early date that would favour perceived frontrunner Frank McKenna. McKenna resigned Wednesday as Canada's ambassador to the United States, clearing the decks for a leadership run.
"They're trying to set this up for McKenna by doing it so fast," complained one MP with leadership aspirations. The national executive will not meet until March to discuss convention dates. But party insiders suggest the most likely window for the convention is between next November and March, 2007.
Essentially, the executive must decide how much time contenders should be given to recruit supporters. Longer shot candidates will need more time to build support than high-profile candidates, especially McKenna who is widely expected to inherit Martin's political machine.
Once membership sales are cut off, a convention can't be held until at least five months later, under the party constitution. In determining the timing, party president Mike Eizenga said executive members will want to consider how long the party can afford to be leaderless given the "precarious" Tory minority government. At the same time, they'll want to allow time for membership recruitment which always helps "revitalize, rebuild the party."
"Clearly we have to have a balance between recognizing we have to be well positioned to fight in the House with allowing some time to go by to let the leadership process be all that it can be," Eizenga said. Michael Marzolini, former Liberal party pollster, said the slim Tory minority puts pressure on the Liberals to "obtain a quick fix." And that, he said in a speech to Toronto lobbyists, favours the candidates who are "established and perceived to be electable," in particular McKenna, a former New Brunswick premier, and former federal ministers John Manley, Allan Rock and Brian Tobin.
A Tory majority would have given the party the luxury of choosing a younger, "less traditional" leader who could spend a few years building a profile, Marzolini said. Dark horse candidates include former ministers Martin Cauchon, Stephane Dion, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Belinda Stronach, Scott Brison, Ken Dryden, Anne McLellan and Joe Volpe and newcomer Michael Ignatieff, the acclaimed Harvard academic who won his first election Monday.
Montreal MP Denis Coderre, another possible candidate, said the party needs to take its time. Before choosing a leader, he said Liberals should conduct a thorough post-mortem on the losing election campaign, reunite the warring factions and allow plenty of time for new ideas and new leadership contenders to emerge. Coderre suggested the party made a mistake anointing Martin two years ago with virtually no competition. And he said: "We don't want to repeat the same mistake. I don't believe in the Messiah."
Former industry minister David Emerson said the party needs to look to a whole new generation of leaders. "To me, that's what leadership is going to have to be, it's somebody who will hit their maximum appeal probably five years from today, not somebody who's maximum appeal was two years ago or maybe a year from now."
Emerson, who ruled himself out as "too old" at 60, also called on the party to take its time choosing Martin's successor as it starts the long process of rebuilding. He said the party has to take stock of the fact that it's support base has shrunk to the three largest cities, that it can no longer rely on the support of new Canadians and that the party "brand has been destroyed" in Quebec.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! » » »

10:49 AM, February 06, 2007  

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