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Nine Years After Chrétien Resigned, Where Is the Liberal Party?

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The Canadian winter endures. It starts with a murmur we barely notice. Before you know it, it defines our very existence by dictating our access to daylight, the vesture we employ to shield ourselves from the elements, the activities we allow ourselves. It feels like Canada's longest season. And for the federal Liberals, it's lasted nine long years.

It was on this day in 2003 that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the little guy from Shawinigan thrice elected to govern our great nation, announced his resignation as PM and as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

As the limelight under which Chrétien's Liberal Party governed through a recession, a referendum, and a federal deficit problem soon faded, media coverage of the party shifted from the front page to the gossip column. Frost had formed around the Grits, but the dueling factions had yet to draw its temperature.

What was billed as a free and democratic leadership race proved to be the first of many shams the Ol' Boys Club would attempt: a coronation is good for the ego of those who feel entitled to their entitlements, bad for a party that claims equality, equity and justice as its core values. Chrétien's successor, Paul Martin, misread the tea leaves and Canadian voters' appetite for the values the party once stood for. As such, he was punished at the polls.

The drawn out seppuku spiral continued through the 2004 and 2006 general elections.

Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
~ African proverb

By 2008, the Liberal's humble cloak gave way to pretentious vesture. The backroom boys would repeat the pseudo-leadership exercise: this time, using "extraordinary events" to impose their preferred mouthpiece in Stornoway -- the residence reserved for Leader of the Opposition. Another coronation, another cringe-worthy backlash from both inside and outside the dwindling halls of the Party once self-assessed as "natural governing." So dark were the days that calls rang for the hero of happier times to return.

Nine years after Jean Chrétien's swan song, have the federal Liberals finally fixed their structural faults? Can they mend their frail faille? Or are they doomed to repeat the same mistakes?

The Party has opened a window to real pluralism by allowing members to participate in the leadership voting process at no cost. They have eliminated the requirement for members to defray costly leadership convention fees. However, the door to pluralism was slammed shut when the hefty entry-fee to the leadership race was set at the prohibitive rate of $75,000.

This decision seemed in line with the vestiges of yesteryear, leaving many plausible contenders on the outside looking in. Again. The party backroom was rumoured to scramble in recruiting additional leadership candidates so as not to regurgitate the pseudo-coronations that left so many with a bad taste in their mouths.

"Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men."
~ Chinese proverb

As the long wilderness endures, the Liberal Party fortunes could possibly be shifting upwards from its current 3rd place stance in the House of Commons. No one knows for sure. For once, the whispers of inevitable conquest have quiesced. They've realized that no man can predict Mother Nature's quarterly transition -- it is the rosebuds in bloom and the re-emerging cardinals who announce the change of seasons.

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