06.23.2011 10:32 AM

Federal Liberal leader job description

I’m no Bob Rae bestie, and vice-versa.  But it seems to me his job description is pretty straightforward:

  1. Show a pulse.
  2. Get noticed in the media as much as you can.
  3. Be ready for opportunity when it comes.

And that’s it.

Free advice for Grits from pollsters and pundits is worth what you pay for it: nothing.  Stick to the three points above; they’re simple and do-able.

Rae’s doing what he needs to do.


  1. VH says:

    Warren, I guess I must be old-school or something because I thought the job of a leader was to inexorably advance and sell your beliefs and values to the voters and public at large.

    None of which the esteemed Mr Rae can do at this point in time for the Liberal “brand”. Mainly because he’s associated with another party and something called “Rae days” and is generally disliked by a large amount of voters in the biggest province in the country.

    And also, because it is entirely unclear to many, if not most, Canadians what exactly those Liberal beliefs are. It’s hard to fit Iggy, Chretien, Martin, Belinda Stronach, Dion and Rae in one party and then claim some common underlying philosophy.

    While the Liberals fiddle, the Cons are out their in the public keep inexorably advancing and selling their beliefs of tax cuts and anti union rhetoric while simultaneously promoting fake pro-family, pro middle class values.

    I literally have no idea what you mean by #2 and #3 because without doing the constant work of promoting values, your “opportunity” in point #3 will never come.

    • Ted says:

      He’s the interim leader of the third party in Parliament, VH.

      Warren’s got it right on this one.

      • VH says:

        It doesn’t matter the relative position of your party. If you’re not constantly pushing your values and philosophy you’re not doing the job of a political party. The Cons do this *every day* and have been for as long as Harper has been their leader. I’m curious, what else do you think there is for a political party to do?

        Warren’s list, as stated, amounts to just waiting around playing silly media games hoping the other guys screw up badly.
        Where’s the beef?

        There are days I just don’t get fed Liberals. This is one of them. Looking over the election popular votes over the past ten years, I really don’t think I’m alone on this.

        • Ted says:

          “and have been for as long as Harper has been their leader”

          That is the critical part of your comment.

          We have no leader. Running around pushing an “agenda” when we don’t have one works against you. The Liberals need to fully fall back, let the spotlight shine on the other parties for a while – it’s been unevenly focused on all of the leadership battles, division, policies, personalities, failings, infighting, leaks, etc. to the benefit of the Conservatives and the NDP.

          For 11 years, we’ve been talking about renewal but acting like getting government back was just this next little scandal or policy adjustment or well-spoken leader out of reach.

          There are 4 years until the next election. There is plenty of time. Especially since there is virtually no way the Liberals will form government next time and certainly they won’t if they pursue your suggested route. Now is the time to retrench, regroup, rebuild in a serious way, away from the distractions of Official Opposition and do it right, not half-assed, not just going through the motions, not just optical change.

          • VH says:


            The “have been for as long as Harper has been their leader? is an indicator of his general discipline and focus and overall political competence not an indicator of how whether the Cons have values outside of Harper.

            You realize you actually wrote that if there’s no Fed Lib leader then there’s no Liberal agenda – that’s what “Running around pushing an ?agenda? when we don?t have one” means. You do realize that, right?

            I don’t know about you but my general philosophy and values don’t change just because the fed Lib leader changes or because there isn’t one at the moment.

            And you do realize that it’s supposed to be other way around right? First form a political party by finding people with like minded values and an agenda, then elect your most likable, competent or charismatic one to be your leader and then go convince voters that your way is the best alternative.

            You do also realize that this may be the #1 thing Canadians have noticed about Liberals in the past ten years, that apparently the Liberal party doesn’t actually stand for anything anymore except grabbing power and it’s values depends on who’s in charge, right? You could be the catalyst that led to the merger of the two right wing parties and the Libs will welcome you with open arms as a floor crossing cabinet minister or you can have spend 20 years working exactly against that person and been the premier of Ontario in the opposite party — and the liberals will welcome you with open arms as a interim party leader.

            Nobody likes a party that is neither fish nor fowl. As I wrote before, I don’t think I’m alone on this one.

          • The Doctor says:

            On this topic, it’s significant, I think, that that “Ideas Conference” that Iggy hosted came up with, as far as I’m aware, not one Big Idea that made its way into the LPC platform last election.

          • The Doctor says:

            Patrick, that document you link to is interesting. It’s definitely well-meaning and there are some good ideas there. One criticism, though: that talk in there about a “308 riding strategy” and a “rural riding strategy”, IMO, sort of delicately dodges the real elephant in the room. I would have been much more impressed with that document if it had clearly and frankly stated the problem as follows: “Why are we dead in the water from Western Ontario all the way to the BC Lower Mainland and what specifically should we do about that?” Included in that should be a frank, self-critical discussion by the LPC about the knee-jerk foot-shooting tendency of certain LPC supporters to slag Alberta and Albertans at the drop of a hat.

          • Patrick Hamilton says:

            @Doctor: Doc, you make a good point, perhaps part of it is that the document was produced in 2009, when if things went swimmingly in Ontario and Quebec, and Mr Harper faltered, we could have easily been back in the drivers seat. We now know that despite Mr. Harpers running roughshod over the rules and traditions of parliament, lying about G8 costs, and his neglect of environmental issues, the Canadian electorate can be jabbed with a cattle prod by Mr. Harper with little or no effect. The ideas in the document should have been implemented immediately,imho,(and let me tell you, many of the issues in the document were experienced by me personally), including as you say, a real and frank examination why we do so poorly in the West. If so, perhaps the disaster we faced on May 2nd could have been ameliorated somewhat.

          • Ted says:


            You’ve given about half a dozen reasons right there in your comment that tell us the Liberals shouldn’t be running around trying to form the next government right this minute. So thank you for proving my point. They have to find themselves again first, and that isn’t going to happen if Rae wavers from Warren’s list (plus fundraising).


            If you think nothing from that thinkers conference ended up in the platform then you were not paying attention to one of them or both. The idea of providing leave to family members to care for seniors being only the most obvious example. But the election was not won or lost on ideas and none in Canada have been for a very long time.

  2. Bill M. says:

    The LPC should be taking this opportunity to connect their platform ideas to the economy…the lofty ideals set out in the last campaign were fine but they existed in a vacuum for too many voters.

    Education, health care, environment, social policy are all important things…but many voters tune out because those things have become just buzz words.

    Connect the policies to the Tim Horton’s crowd and show them how they’ll be better off.

    I don’t think Rae is the right person, even as interim leader, but the strategy to victory seems simple enough.

    It’s still the economy!

  3. AP says:

    You know when I read articles like the one in the Globe I just want to scream:


    Is it possible for everyone to just chillax as today’s youth say? Poll watching? Seriously? The man is the interim leader of a party that is just trying to get its shit together.

    Let me just add to your list Warren.

    4. Water the plants in the Leader’s Office,

    5. Take out the garbage

    6. Get off a couple of zingers in Question Period

    7. Take some shots in the press while the party rebuilds

    8. Hand over the keys to the Leader’s car to the next leader with a full tank of gas

    That’s it.

  4. Ted says:

    I’d add:

    4. Throw the occasional fundraiser so the Leader, when chosen, isn’t starting from scratch.

  5. Philip says:

    Exactly that. Rae is doing everything he needs to do and doing it better than most.

  6. Chris P says:

    Sadly this is Nik Nanos A) Trying to still feel important and relvant post election B) Fulfilling his contractual obligations. I love that in a whole 7 weeks since the election inwhich the parties have essentially done nothing there is ‘no buyers remorse’ among voters. The beauty about being the third party is the focus is not on the Liberals meaning . Hilarious crappy analysis.

  7. Ted H says:

    Prior to the election, there was more and constant media coverage of Liberal problems than there was of Conservative duplicity and inconsistency. Time to let the light shine on the Conservatives and the NDP and let their faults stay top of mind. The Liberals can toil in the shadows for a while as they regroup without constant media attention. I think most of the work has to be done at the riding level anyway.

  8. Mulletaur says:

    I think that expectations are higher than that for Bob Rae, Warren. Here are a few things he should be working on :

    1. Changing the Liberal Party of Canada from the empty shell it has become in recent years to a real political movement. The passivity of Party members has to stop.

    2. Helping Liberals to redefine what it means to be a federal Liberal, and helping to make Liberalism more relevant to ordinary Canadians.

    3. Starting to build a genuine grassroots fundraising campaign based on direct mail and direct e-mail. This will require strategic planning and, at first, a lot of investment. We need to have money in the bank before we elect the next leader.

    4. Professionalizing everything the Liberal Party of Canada does at every level, but particularly at the centre in Ottawa.

    5. Renewing party structures and personnel with a view to opening the party and making the party more democratic at every level. The grassroots needs to have a greater and better defined role in decision making in the party.

    6. Building up the provincial and territorial associations including allowing them to “eat what they hunt” when it comes to fundraising, at least more than they do now, setting benchmarks and holding them to account.

    Not a single one of these will have any impact on the headline polls reported on by the media. It makes “Builder Bob’s” task thankless, but he is definitely the man for the job. You can’t manufacture good fortune, but you can prepare yourself to take full advantage of good fortune when and if it comes your way. That’s Bob’s job.

    • David Biltek says:

      mostly agree with everything you have said except the provincial associations….I am not sure they add any value to the cause, and my just be little fiefdoms that get in the way or sandboxes for people tomplay in but not get anything real done…the rla action has to be in the RIDING…but everything else you have said is so accurate…especially the direct mail/email….but foirst you ahve to have a believeable and fully functioning database with real data

      • Mulletaur says:

        Rebuilding can’t be done on the riding level directed from the centre. It has to be done on a provincial and territorial basis. And I did write that benchmarks for achievement should be established by the centre and enforced.

  9. JStanton says:

    This recipe failed the last few Liberal leaders, yet Mr. Harper was able to take over the government by sticking to it.

    To get noticed, Mr. Rae will have to do a lot more than Mr. Harper is.


  10. Kalford says:

    Warren, your post just looks like more free advice from another pundit to me. . . . . or did someone pay you to post this? 🙂

  11. dave says:

    I watched Rae yesterday in debate on the government back to work legislation. He was clear in showing that the Libs are a pragmatic centre between the ideologues of right and left, , funny the odd time, relaxed, – (he even looked old fashioned, speaking at length without any paper at all in his hands, and reading nothing at all from his desk) –

    Rae has a chance to articulate a clear alternative to both the conservatives and the NDP, and he looks perfectly capable of doing so.

  12. Big Old Goofy Man says:

    Maybe Bob Rae could borrow Bridgette Lepape ‘s sign every now and then?

    • The Doctor says:

      Not if he’s interested in looking like a grownup.

      Ask Stock Day how effective it is to flash a cheesy sign during a grownups’ debate.

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