The interim Liberal leader job description is pretty straightforward.
One, make a racket in the House of Commons, which is where all the action will be for the next four years.
Two, try and get noticed by the media, so folks know you and your party are still alive.
Three, get Liberals feeling good about themselves again — and, wherever possible, raise some dough.
Four, get ready to hand over the leadership to the duly-elected, full-time leader, sometime in 2013.
This summer, a lot of Liberals — including some who aren’t big fans, like me — were feeling interim leader Bob Rae was doing fine on points one, two and three. He’s pretty good on his feet in the House, and quick with a quip. The media pay attention to him, still, much to the chagrin of New Democrats, who would like to see the Grits fade into oblivion.
And, mostly, Rae’s summertime barbecue tour has left many federal Liberals feeling a bit better about their prospects.
But on the fourth part of the job description — namely, Rae’s solemn promise to only be an interim leader, and to resign after no more than two years — Bob Rae isn’t doing so well.
In fact, in the view of a growing number of Liberals, Rae and his inner circle are busily at work on making the interim job permanent.
Assisted by a group of take-no-prisoners strategists who haven’t been seen since the brief Paul Martin era, Rae is making plans to jettison the many Michael Ignatieff loyalists who still make up much of the Liberal Party executive. Once that is done, Rae apparently intends to secure the approval of his own loyalists to seek the full-time job.
That is something that should never, ever be allowed to happen.
For starters, the Liberal Party needs new blood. Too many of its MPs had been in the House of Commons for too many years, which is one of the reasons it lost so badly on May 2.
Offering up a leader like Rae — who will be closing in on 70 by the time the next federal election takes place — is a big, big mistake.
Grits need to look to new generations — not three generations back.
That’s not all. For Liberals seeking to emulate what Stephen Harper did so successfully on the right — that is, bringing together progressives — Rae is an unmitigated disaster. New Democrats will never forget, nor forgive, Rae’s 2006 decision to become a Liberal — or his description of his many years as a New Democrat as “a mistake.” If progressives are ever to come together in a single, united force, Rae can’t be entrusted with the job.
Finally, Rae shouldn’t be considered for the full-time leadership for one reason above all others: His record as Ontario premier.
In the early ‘90s, Rae’s government’s legacy was massive deficits, labour strife, scandal, and social policy chaos. Conservative strategists don’t hide their delight at the prospect of a Rae-led Liberal Party in 2015.
Bob Rae is the right man to be interim leader.
If he gets his wish, however, and transforms the assignment into a full-time job, the next federal election will be the last for the Liberal Party of Canada.
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Neil Thomas says:
I had a heated discussion arguing the same points against Jim Karygiannis Sunday morning. Karygiannis was emphatically fighting that Rae was the only person able to lead the party at this time and pushed me to name even one other possible candidate. My response to that is, if the rules last year were the interim leader wasn’t restricted from running for leadership in 2013, other possible candidates could have used the interim role to raise their profiles and you would be arguing they were the only possible permanent leader now.
I’ve been a member of the Laurier club for the past few years and I’m on the executive of the Oak Ridges-Markham riding association and I’ll be very active during this leadership race on the ABB team (Anyone But Bob)