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Peter Worthington

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Bob Rae's the Only Good (and Experienced) Apple In the Bunch

Posted: 06/19/2012 11:27 am

Bob Rae's only problem -- no, that's not right his "biggest" problem -- is that if he were Liberal leader and not just an interim leader, it's unlikely he and his party would be elected to run the country.

Rae's got too much baggage, especially when he led the Ontario NDP and was premier. Everything disintegrated around him, immunizing the province against electing another "socialist" government. Instead, the province got Dalton McGuinty.

Bob Rae has recently come out and stated firmly and unapologetically that he will not run for the permanent leadership of the Liberals. Anyone following Canadian federal politics is aware that the most effective leader in the Liberal Party is Bob Rae. Like him or not, he knows politics and handles any issue with grace and is never an embarrassment to himself, his party or his country.

When he took the interim job he pledged that he wouldn't run. So who's likely to be chosen liberal leader? It's a sorry field when Justin Trudeau seems the choice of many -- a callow fellow who many claim has charisma -- as if that's a substitute for wisdom and judgment.

Astronaut Marc Garneau may also be a leadership contender. While he has little in the way of damaging baggage, he also has little in the way of obvious substance to be PM. In fact, looking over the field of Liberal hopefuls, the only one with apparent substance of leadership is... Bob Rae.

But he's isolated himself -- declared he won't renege on his original word! Okay, so what if he were "drafted," begged by the party to be their leader? Well, then things would change. How could he refuse? He's already acknowledge that he'd like to be PM and that he thinks he could do the job, but that he's not moping or shedding tears. He's prepared to soldier on as an ordinary MP.

It's kind of noble -- but it may also be a ploy.

Liberals are unlikely to unanimously agree to draft Rae as leader rather than go through a leadership convention. A tough choice for the party. One gathers Trudeau would be a shoo-in if he chose to run -- which he's said is not something he's contemplating at this moment. The more he resists, the more tempting it is to pressure him. A reluctant bridegroom, so to speak.

Curiously, just as Bob Rae has baggage that would probably get the Liberals defeated in an election, Justin Trudeau might have even greater trouble. His father, when he made his bid for leadership, had more Liberals against him than for him until the final ballot. His first election was a decent majority (after nearly a decade of minority governments) and his second election was a two-seat minority government. Lucky for him it was nice Bob Stanfield as his Tory opposition.

Trudeau may be the Liberal flavour of the week, but as a political operator he's not in the same class as Bob Rae. And that reality must burn Rae's britches. Neither one is likely to lead the Liberal party to victory. So get used to Stephen Harper, whose Conservative government has made Canada the envy of the world in these times of crumbling economies and European unrest.

 
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