A Long Road Ahead

By electing an interim leader who will be able to firmly steer the boat, the Liberal Party of Canada has finally shown some good judgment, after its thunderous defeat on May 2.

For, truly, the Liberal’s caucus’s options were, to say the least, few. The list of Liberal names – names that would quite readily come to the mind of those believing in the return of a prodigal son – was sharply reduced upon finding out that such favourites as Justin Trudeau and Dominic Leblanc didn’t warm up at the prospect. Not surprising when a clause to the interim leadership election made it clear that the chosen one shouldn’t expect the post to become permanent.

And so Bob Rae got the job. A judicious choice, I think. He has leadership experience, having been Ontario’s NDP’s leader as well as Premiere of Ontario for one term. True enough the stint didn’t end with mutual promises of eternal gratitude in that province. So be it. He has since been successful at reinventing himself, becoming a federal MP for the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008. He was back working in the House of Commons, where he began his career in 1978 as an NDP MP.

His political baggage is as much an asset for him as it is a burden. It didn’t serve him well when in 2006 and again in 2008, he tried to gain the leadership title of the Liberal Party.  Members were afraid that he would not be able to lead them to an electoral victory in Ontario. But really, choosing Michael Ignatieff over Bob Rae in 2008 didn’t prove beneficial to the Liberal’s either. Quite the opposite, actually.

With that said, Bob Rae is an excellent communicator, who will no doubt be able to breathe new life into his party. He is comfortable in front of the media and his experience will serve him well in the House of Commons.

But the real challenge for the Liberal troops is to go deep into self-analysis. It’s obvious that the Canadian electorate has declared, loudly, that it didn’t see anything of value in what the Party had been offering these past few years. It must, at all cost, resist the temptation to choose a leader simply on the basis that he or she would appeal to Canadians in the short term.

And even before thinking about a new leader, the Party’s first assignment must be to reevaluate the very foundation of its organization. A fresh wind of confidence must be generated. Members will have the task of modernizing their approach, fitting it better to the 21st century, given that their efforts, since 2006, have failed, and the Party has incurred increasing losses.

The only sound option for the Liberal Party of Canada is to delay, for at least two years, its leadership race.

Translation Monique Kroeger