Accept Justin’s “No” and go with Scott Brison
By Bruce A Stewart
Bob Rae yesterday did the right thing for his party and declined to run for its leadership. He’ll stay on as Interim Leader until the new one is chosen, then step down.
A good move, both for himself and for the Liberals.
Needless to say, of course, everyone and their uncle has now turned to Justin Trudeau, imploring him to accept a coronation: “let your ‘no’ be a ‘yes’”.
The MP for Papineau is also making a good choice. Let’s hope he sticks with it. The last thing this broken party needs at this juncture is another “saviour”.
The next Liberal leader has years of work to do to resurrect the party. That means they probably won’t enter the promised land of 24 Sussex themselves.
Yet they also have to be young enough, energetic enough, talented enough and strong enough to undertake riding-level renewal, executive growth, hold the caucus together, command time in the House and the media, build policy that makes a difference, and, oh, yes, bind together the still open sores in the camps within the party.
Rae was too identified with the old Chrétien axis to have done that, especially with most associations still in the hands of the Martin-Ignatieff camp.
There are huge challenges ahead: the party must hold off the NDP and Conservatives squeezing it out of existence, start gaining seats in areas lost for years (Québec outside Montréal, Ontario outside Toronto and Ottawa, anywhere in the West), build enough of a donor base to sustain it through multiple losing elections while rebuilding.
That other potential candidates are as much drawn from outside the caucus (amongst former leadership contenders from 2006) as inside it says much. The caucus is biased toward long-time seat holders. While they may be personally popular in their ridings, for the country at large they’re names from Chrétien and Martin cabinets. By 2015 that will be news from a decade or more ago.
One potential candidate the Liberals might consider would be the MP for Kings-Kants, Scott Brison (even though he also served as a minister under Martin).
He’s the right age, holds an Atlantic Canadian seat (where the party has its greatest residual strength), and is a former leadership contender for the Progressive Conservatives (thus likely helping him carve out some room from the Conservatives as well as keep some from shifting to the NDP). As a sitting MP, Scott Brison also wouldn’t require someone to stand down to create an opening to “get him into the House” as would a leader chosen from outside the caucus.
It would require the party to overcome its “rule” alternating Francophone and Anglophone leaders, which no doubt will emerge as it did during the 2006 campaign to help push Dion over the top in a mostly anglophone field to replace Paul Martin. There will be those who still see him as an “outsider” — and no doubt will want to label him as being in one or another of the internecine camps “Team Red” is made of.
But if the Liberals are to survive and ultimately to thrive, they are going to have to think differently about themselves. Might as well get started.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at email@example.com.