POLITICS

The Ideal Liberal Party Leader: Part Bieber, Part Mulroney, Part Gaga

06/02/2011 07:39 EDT | Updated 08/02/2011 05:12 EDT

If only you could build a Liberal leader from scratch.

After a humiliating electoral defeat that saw the great party of Sir Wilfrid Laurier fall to third-party status, interim Leader Bob Rae said his Grits need a new "generation of leadership."

Sure, youth is a good thing, but what else do you need? What qualities are a must for the next Liberal captain?

As Stéphane Dion proved, policy wonks need not apply. Michael Ignatieff's cosmopolitan intellect was an easy target for the anti-elites.

How would you build a super Liberal leader? What characteristics, strengths and personality traits would you throw into the witches' brew?

The Huffington Post Canada asked four experts on politics and the Liberal Party to come up with a shopping list. Their picks of must-have traits range from the obvious (Bill Clinton's political instincts) to the unusual (Lady Gaga's creativity) and all points in between (Justin Bieber? Really?).


Antonia Maioni, political scientist and past director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

A good leader has to know the game, a skill Wayne Gretzky could teach the party, says Maioni. "Sidney Crosby also has focus and plays to win. That's essential for a Liberal leader."

Who else?

  • Celine Dion: "We don't want Celine leading the party, but because the game is played in an atmosphere of hyper-mediaization, the leader has to be able to move the media and have a stage presence. Celine knows how to work it."
  • Shania Twain: "A leader has to be out there, willing to connect. With her sincerity and vulnerability, Shania does the Oprah stuff very well."
  • John F. Kennedy: "He was a smart man, but knew he wasn't always the smartest in the room. One of the problems recently has been Liberal leaders trying to be the smartest in the room. The more important challenge is surrounding yourself with smart people."
  • Jack Kerouac: "Leaders have to blaze a path or at least be one step ahead of the edge. That would be refreshing. The party is atrophied in terms of new ideas."
  • Michael J. Fox: "He's overcome obstacles and carried on. It's not humbleness that the leader needs, but the idea of humility. That's something the Liberals haven't been very good at."
  • William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk: "To go where no man has gone before! You have to be a bit kooky to lead the Liberal party, but the endearing captain also commands respect. A little Captain Kirk could go a long way."

Jonathan Malloy, political science professor at Carleton University.

"They don't need charismatic, exciting celebrities - they need someone with political instinct," Malloy says.

  • Bill Clinton: "He had among the best political instincts of any politician anywhere in terms of being able to think, play the game and interact with people. He was very smart, but sometimes downplayed that."
  • Johnny Cash: "He was the first to admit his imperfections and came across as honest, so people liked him. The Liberals would benefit from someone whose appeal is rooted in their imperfections."
  • Keith Richards: "You don't want the Mick Jagger front man. He's more about showing off and collecting knighthoods. You want Richards - the more respected backroom man, the purer musician of the two."
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King: "He was completely dull and never said an inspiring thing. But he was extremely adept at politics and finding middle ground, and he was our longest serving prime minister."

Scott Reid, senior advisor and director of communications to Prime Minister Paul Martin

"I think that generally when youth movements take over a party that's listing, good things happen."

If they could bottle Justin Bieber's youth appeal - Reid says they'd be good to go.

Who else?

  • Lady Gaga: "Her boldness, creativity and ability to excite and draw a fan base are critical. We're going to need that."
  • Brian Mulroney: "He was a pure political beast - on the phone calling potential candidates, talking with the grassroots. His charm was virtually incomparable. I'm not sure people understand how difficult a job (rebuilding) is going to be. We need someone who can raise roof beams, who's committed to making everyone involved feel important."
  • Wilfred Laurier: "For his Quebec appeal. That's going to be fundamental."
  • Kevin O'Leary: "For his ability to raise money and his ruthlessness. It takes balls of steel to do this job."
  • Scotty Bowman: "He has passion to win. The Liberal Party is not an organization that exists to challenge Parliament to be an honest broker. It's there to put its ideas into effect. It's about winning and we can't lose sight of that."

Warren Kinsella, longtime Liberal strategist, columnist

"I expect at the end of the four years, we're going to see a lot of social conservatism, lots of cuts. Stephen Harper's now going to give fuller expression to his personality, which is an angry white guy."

Who better to face off with him and Jack Layton, men in their 50s and 60s, than a woman in her 40s, Kinsella says.

Someone fresh and optimistic, with a sense of higher purpose, who, like Clinton and Obama, offers hope, he added. The leader need ideas that buzz, like the Family Day statutory holiday and Highway of Heroes implemented by the government of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, he said.

She has to get the world and speak more than English and French: "She'll be a smart, urban, a new Canadian who also knows how to put on a pair of wellies and milk a cow."

As for where to find her, Kinsella says: "I don't have a f--king clue."

Who would be your ideal Liberal leader? What traits are you looking for? Join the conversation in our comments