Saturday, December 02, 2006

Who will lead Canada's Liberals?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Liberal Party -- Canada's governing party for most of its history -- is in the process of selecting a new leader in Montreal (and perhaps the also next prime minister). The four top candidates are public intellectual Michael Ignatieff, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, Quebec MP Stéphane Dion, and former Ontario Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. Former Montreal Canadiens goalie (and lawyer, author, and federal cabinet minister) is a distant fifth. (You can find more on the candidates here.) Here's the latest from the CBC:

Federal Liberal leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff held an initial lead early Saturday in the first ballot, but nowhere near the 50 per cent plus one majority needed to claim the job outright, forcing at least a second ballot to determine the winner...

Ignatieff received 1,412 votes, or about 29.3 per cent of the delegates, ahead of his chief rival, former Ontario premier Bob Rae, who garnered 977 votes, or about 20.3 per cent. Stéphane Dion narrowly finished third with 856 votes, just two votes ahead of Gerard Kennedy.

The leadership convention resumes later today.

I'm not as anti-Ignatieff as many Liberals are, but I do find myself in the anyone-but-Ignatieff camp at the moment. I just don't think he has enough experience in Canadian politics -- he's spent his life as an academic, mostly outside of Canada, and was parachuted into a safe riding in Toronto's west end for the last election -- and I find his hawkishness in foreign policy and national security both arrogant, given his defence of pre-emptive war (like Iraq), and unjust, given his "lesser evil" defence of torture and other such illiberal practices in support of the war on terror. I sympathize with his liberal interventionism -- I'm one myself, after all -- and would like to see him remain a leading figure in the Liberal Party, but now is the time for a leader who has come to understand Canada in practice, not merely in theory. Ignatieff is the celebrity, the superstar candidate, but now should not be his time.

I've always liked Dion and I've come to like Rae more and more over the course of the campaign. Either one would be good for the Liberal Party and good for Canada. Regardless, I'll support whomever emerges victorious from this race against Prime Minister Harper's Conservatives.

Even Ignatieff.

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