No Such Nonsense

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who will it be?

The Liberal Leadership Convention is starting!!! Yup, that's three exclamation points you see there. Why so excited over a stodgy, dull, procedural convention? Well, because this convention actually promises to be anything but dull!!!

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement; it'll have plenty of dull moments - there are always those endless hours between ballots, wherein the networks fill the air with blathering pundits and panels of political has beens and never weres. But the fact is, we're going into a race that is still anyone's game. Ignatieff blew his lead and now Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion all have a legitimate shot at the top job. And that's the really top job we're talking about here. Prime Minister, don't ya know. Because we all know that's what this convention is all about... Whoever wins this weekend has a damn fine chance at moving into 24 Sussex next year.

And , if the Liberal Party decides this weekend to change the leadership election rules to a one-member, one-vote system like the other parties, this may be the last traditional leadership convention Canada ever sees. No more frantic backroom deals, no more dramatic shifts in momentum on the floor, no more electoral surprises. And that's a sad thing. Oh, sure one-member, one-vote is more democratic (if you're into, like, democracy) but a convention has got the drama. What's not to love?

So this weekend, it comes down to four very different men. Once the also-rans - Hall Findlay, Dryden, Volpe and Brison - bow out (after the first ballot, most likely - though Dryden may hang on longer), they'll each proclaim their support for one of the top four and all heck will break loose. Will the backmarkers' delegates follow their candidates? Who'll generate the most second-ballot support? Not Ignatieff, surely, which is why he looks to be in big, big trouble here. Who's got what it takes to win? Let's run it down:

Michael Ignatieff
The race was his to lose and, well, he lost it. He's done. He finishes second. Thanks for coming out Iggy. I hear Boston is lovely this time of year. (But if I'm wrong and the delegates actually elect Iggy, we should get really comfortable with Stephen Harper in the Prime Minister's office. There is just no way this guy can win a federal election - what with one foot always in his mouth and the other stepping in something smelly.)

Bob Rae
It's been a good week for Rae. He got the support of the Toronto Star - bastion of the mushy Liberal centre. He got the support of respected party stalwart Ralph Goodale. And he seems best positioned to benefit from the anyone-but-Iggy movement. He's still hurt by his NDP past - haunted both by his party's poor management of the Ontario economy and by the sense that he's a Liberal-come-lately. Still, he's just as smart as Ignatieff, with a good deal more common sense, and his appearance on the Mercer Report was pretty damn funny. It bodes well.

Gerard Kennedy
His French is just bad. He came out against Quebec-as-a-nation. But, he's young, fresh and energetic. He probably wins the next Liberal leadership convention. For now, though, he's probably too weak in Quebec to be viable.

Stephane Dion
The dark horse and the biggest threat to Bob Rae, he has the support of a lot of Martin era Liberals and an endorsement from the Globe and Mail. His English isn't always great, but he has a high profile as a former cabinet minister and Martin's Quebec lieutenant. If the bottom four throw support his way, or if Kennedy does, he has a legitimate chance. The biggest mark against him is this: after Trudeau, Chretien and Martin - with just a brief respite for Turner - the party may feel it is time for leadership from outside Quebec.

So that's it. It's down to Rae and Dion. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. Party on.


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