11.17.2012 09:10 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: if you lost your seat, you can’t compete

Now that the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership race is officially underway — and that the party is moving up dramatically in various public opinion polls — here’s what some of the leadership candidates need to do.

Drop out.

We live in one of the world’s great democracies, and it goes without saying that any citizen should be able to run for any post he or she desires. The Liberal Party, too, should be open to the ambitions of any Canadian who shares its views.

But just because you can run for something doesn’t mean that you should.

Just because you want to be a leader of a political party doesn’t mean that everyone else thinks so, too.

It gives me no pleasure to say this, but Deborah Coyne, David Bertschi and Martha Hall-Findlay need to seriously reconsider their bids to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. They need to call it a day.

I’ve met Coyne, and have known David and Martha for a long time.

All of them are the kind of people the Liberal Party needs.

All of them are the kind of people we need more of in Parliament.

Smart, decent, hard-working and dedicated to public service.

But they shouldn’t be running for leader of the Liberal Party.


  1. ernest lustig says:

    Well said Warren

  2. Ottawa civil servant says:

    Um, not well said. Canada has a history of people surrendering their seats to new leaders so they can enter the House. And Martha ran, won and served her country before being defeated in the fallout from the Iggy collapse.

    We all know, Warren better than most, that local politics and candidates rarely determine riding success.

    Basically, Warren’s stance would cartoon character Hedy Fry ahead of Martha. It all smacks of a Trudeau or bust philosophy.

  3. !o! says:

    I agree, but I also agree that a leadership race draws media attention. It’s a bit of a dangerous game, but I suppose this post wouldn’t exist if Warren didn’t have some reason to believe that these other candidates have more than a remote chance.

  4. Sean says:

    Can’t disagree more. When it comes to National Elections, the era of local politics is dead and gone in all but about 50 ridings. Even Chretien admitted this in SFTH. If someone lost a truly local election, like a municipal election or a bi election, I’d say you have a point. In the present day, almost all local campaigns aren’t much more than a booster rally. Local candidates responsible for their own ridings? Beta VCRs, Commodore 64s, payphones, Jai Ali, the Dodo bird, Dinosaurs. National Campaigns killed the the Local Star a long time ago. Furthermore, would you have counselled Obama not to run for the Illinois Senate primary because he lost the Congressional seat? Would you have counselled Mackenzie King to quit after he lost his seat? Dieffenbaker won the largest popular vote in history. Ahem. After he lost in his own riding many times.

    • Reality.Bites says:

      Couldn’t disagree more with you Sean. Justin Trudeau was denied a safe Liberal seat so he took a safe BQ seat and won it for the Liberals. His wins had nothing to do with the national campaign. He and Marc Garneau kept their seats in the face of the worst national performance of the Liberal Party in history..

      Are Coyne, Hall-Findaly or Bertschi conceivably the next prime minister? The next opposition leader? Of course not. So what are they doing in the race? Sometimes people run in order to campaign for a cabinet post, or to draw attention to a personal or regional concern. That’s fine when you’re a major party or a third party that intends to stay one. For a party fighting to come back to its former place, they’re a needless distraction. Can’t win candidates in this case make the whole race look silly.

      • Sean says:

        Fair enough re. the Trudeau / Garneau examples. However, I’d submit to you that these gentlemen are in an extremely rare category. IE amongst the 50 or so MPs who actually make a difference whether or not they get elected. Are they better candidates than MHF and the rest of the B side? Of course they are. However, to say that the B side should just take a hike is exactly the wrong attitude for the party at this juncture. Further, I would put to you whether or not (for example) Kirsty Duncan is imminently more qualified to run than (for example) Ken Dryden. I submit that she is not.

        MHF is a two term M.P., who hung on in 2008 when the Liberals had their worst performance in history up to that time. I don’t think I’d support her for leader, but to say she should pack her bags and go home because she lost in 2011? Please. That is exactly the attitude that landed the Liberals in the mess they are in now.

      • Kaplan says:

        There were many in the Liberal Party in the early 1990s, before Chretien won in ’93, who could not – or would not – conceive of Chretien as the next prime minister, either. Ditto for McGuinty in the late 1990s, and same for Harper when he won the Alliance.

        So whenyou automatically say that Hall-Findlay or Coyne are not conceivably the next PM, or next opposition leader, you’re starting off with a premise that is real in only your mind. But some folks, like McGuinty, Chretien or Harper, faced the same attitude, and have a bit of a different story to tell.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Nope. She paid it off, money owed to herself, a few weeks ago.

  5. Kaplan says:

    This is a fine metric for someone to advocate for, but it’s essentially meaningless. Leadership candidates need substance. They should have ideas, experience and accomplishments. If, among his or her lifetime of experience, a leadership candidate has experienced electoral loss, then all the better. They’ve tasted defeat. They’ve picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and kept at it.

    Dalton McGuinty might have held his seat in Ontario, but as Liberal leader, he failed to form government in 1999. Should he have resigned as leader? I mean, he gave Harris, then Eves, another four years in power. As it turns out, McGuinty learned from his failures, and formed government in 2003. But by Warren’s yardstick, Dalton’s Liberals were not popular enough to be elected, and so should really have folded their tent and called it a day.

    Why should we disqualify a person like Martha Hall Findley, who brings a lifetime of valuable experience and skill to the job, because she lost her seat in a (very close) race in which most Liberals, across the country, also lost their seats?

  6. Michael says:

    With the OLP leadership underway there are a lot of old timers in my riding reminicing about the lcampaign 16 years ago. All agree that Guinty wasn’t terribly impressive. No one knew him, he wasn’t a great speaker or communicator. HE was just a nice decent guy. All he did was win and become the most successful Liberal premier in the province’s his history.

  7. J.W. says:

    Trudeau in a very tough seat wins, Hall Finlay in a smooth ride loses. How does anyone know she could win a seat if elected? Same with Gerard Kennedy. Ego maniacal retreads. Too Risky. I’m a split, sometimes Lib, sometimes NDP; if these guys win I’m NDP.

  8. North of the 407 says:

    I think people are willfully missing your point, Warren. Reads to me as if what you’re saying is that those candidates who LOST their seats shouldn’t run for leader. Making those candidates losers in their own riding. Can’t win your riding, can’t win the country.

    Is that about right?

      • Kaplan says:

        As a brief counterpoint, should we start a Draft Dion movement? He’s not only held his seat from the Chretien-era, but he clung to his riding even after that disastrous 2008 election, and through the disaster of 2011. So by the logic I’m seeing so far, we might just have the best leader-in-waiting you could hope for. 🙂

  9. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Really torn on this one. Recognize the soundness of your argument. Also can relate to the successful exceptions enumerated above. But when it comes right down to it — a successful exception, even if spectacularly successful, is exactly that. It’s like waiting for a comet to cross the sky. Can happen but what are the odds?

    That brings me to another point: we want a winner who is the strongest possible candidate available to go up against this Prime Minister. Our new leader could turn out to be the next Mackenzie King — or next Kim Campbell. Who the hell knows. In short, might as well watch the race play out and reserve judgment until when it counts. And then vote the clearly superior candidate into the leadership chair.

  10. Peter says:

    We’ll, I think Liberals should go on about their business and get this leadership race done and out of the way. Then get down to the real job at hand. Uniting the right.

    And more importantly, not give the Harper Reformacon propaganda department any time than needed
    Harper’s attack dogs are so predictable now, one can recite rote in one’s sleep what and when the thugs will appear.

    Let’s get this leadership campaign done.
    Let’s get strong again.
    Let’s get some serious money into the party coffers.
    Build a determined, highly motived and savvy team around the winner.
    Game tough. Really game tough.
    And then take it to the streets, to the people, to all those Canadians that feel disenfranchised by this present “Harper Government”.

    And let’s make life a living hell for the Conservatives on the Hill…
    Knock the smirks off their faces…

    And do with hard cold fact based precision.

    • Peter says:

      CORRECTION!!: Brain jam on my part…”Uniting the Right”…????? of course I meant: Uniting the Left. Wow…another cup of coffee before I go into the valley below! Sheessh.

  11. kre8tv says:

    Warren, too many weak choices hurts the brand: I get that. But the measure you propose for who ought to/ought not compete suggests by extension that someone like Stephane Dion would qualify, and the likes of Hall Finlay would not. This is not at all an endorsement of that particular candidate, but I do think the party needs more people like her. Maybe a leadership run — even one that’s all but certain to be unsuccessful — is just the kind of thing the party needs to attract more people to public office.

  12. wilson says:

    Martha has the come from behind master strategist, Carter, running her campaign. His most recent campaign was a PC win over Wildrose.
    The right people can make all the difference between winning and losing.

    • Warren says:

      For sure, and I like them both very much. But to lose your own seat, and then run for the top job, seems backwards to me. Win your seat, then run for the top job.

      • Sean says:

        She won her seat twice, which I believe is two more times than a certain consultant who has written three books on campaign strategy.

  13. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    I feel the more new ideas that are discussed over the course of the leadership selection the better, with the eventual winner having run a vigorous gauntlet of debate….The last thing this party needs is a cakewalk….so Im not opposed to any of the people named above running……their chances are slim, no doubt…..but I still feel that they(and their ideas) have a right to be heard….

  14. J.W. says:

    By the way, a National Newswatch headline on your column is a bit misleading Warren. It says “No Seat; Don’t compete”. You are saying don’t run if you were not able to hold a seat in bad times. I think you welcome newcomers from outside Parl. or Legis who are running for leader, Sandra obviously.

  15. maudie says:

    Good comments and replies; thanks, everyone!
    But the elephant in this room is election fraud, not to mention continuous attack ad campaigns vs. Dion and Ignatieff. There’s not much that’s been level about the playing field that Liberals have had to fight on, ever since Jack and Steve ganged up on them.
    Demonstrates the power of joining forces though, eh? Remains to be seen whether Trudeaumania becomes big enough to make it unnecessary in 2015 (or whenever).

  16. P Wilson says:

    I would go even further. Anyone who wants to run for Leader has to raise $1 million for the campaign. And it has to be in donations no larger than $1,000. So 1,000 donations of $1,000 or 5,000 of $200.

    If you are really serious about being Prime Minister, then you will need the network and the organization that can raise that money. It does not matter how smart or capable you are if you do not have that network. Chretien could have done it. So could Martin and Turner. From the conversations I have had recently, Justin can do it too.

  17. reformatory says:

    MHF is the token big name legitimate female in the race. The party does not want a coronation. She will add excitement and substantive ideas to the race. That can’t be bad. She knows she can’t win… so far the only name that appears to be lurking with the potential to win is Garneau.. but that is highly unlikely. The Trudeau name would not have been offered by the party.. unless victory would be assured. The rest and the next few months is all window dressing, and legitimacy creation.

    Back to MHF… she will add stature to her name, and unless a better name comes along… you’re looking at the first female finance minister under a Trudeau led Gov’t. You heard it here first folks…

  18. markthomas says:

    I want to again make the point that Barak Obama lost his run for congress. Should he have quit seeking higher office at that point? Sometimes the circumstances don’t play in your favour. There are lots of examples of people who lost something first and have gone on to do great things.

  19. Russ says:

    I have no problem with Martha et al. running. Why? Because I have confidence that the party members will be able to seperate the wheat from the chaff and pick the best leader. What the members do need is a wide selection of choices.

  20. Neil says:

    Here’s the argument ender: Mackenzie King lost his seat in 1911 and lost again in 1917. He was elected leader of the Liberal Party in 1919.

    • Sean says:

      Exactly! Way back then, local candidates actually made a difference. Not like today, where 80% of local campaigns are over before they start.

  21. David says:

    By this measure William Lyon Mackenzie King could not have run for party leader in 1919 as he had lost his seat in the 1911 election and was defeated again in 1917.

  22. J.W. says:

    Some good points about past leaders who lost elections then became great leaders later.
    But for both fed and prov, there is one huge elephant in the room, an absolute party necessity or it’s oblivion: RENEWAL. Renewal or death.

  23. sam theara says:

    I am deliberately obtuse.

  24. Tim Sullivan says:

    One does not have to be good at much to be in politics. Look at the current government. They are terrible at almost everything they do – economics, accountability, democratic reform. They do one thing well — get elected.

    MHF, Bertschi and others have not done that one thing, the sine qua non of eelctoral politics, well. In the case of MHF, she appears to have lost more often than she won, and Bertschi has not even done that.

    While I agree that we should accept all-comers, one has to question the can’t wins’ judgment, thereby making it a distraction to have them in the race.

    But maybe I don’t understand politics well. For instance, I can’t get why anyone would support Harper, and closer to home, G. Kennedy attractiveness is still a mystery to me.

  25. Danny says:

    In 1854 Abraham Lincoln lost a Senate seat battle.
    In 1856 he lost a Vice Presidential Candidate battle.
    In 1858 he lost a second Senate seat battle.
    Using Warren’s deep thought process, he should never have been allowed to run for President in 1860.
    Thank god he was a Republican and not a Liberal.

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