The federal Liberal Party leadership contest now has a ninth candidate: former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon. The more the merrier, I say. At least, this will make the coronation of Justin Trudeau a little less likely.
The news will make every political pundit's heart jump -- this is the stuff we all live for. But ordinary Canadians should also rejoice.
While the Liberal Party is currently only Parliament's third party, the former Natural Governing Party should never be discounted or written off. Its time may come again, and if it does, wouldn't it be great if voters had a real choice?
Too many Canadians, including in the media, I find, are focused almost exclusively on the Conservatives and the NDP, as if the next election in 2015 will be nothing more than the ultimate showdown between the right and the left.
I tend to disagree.
In 2015, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will have been in power for almost a decade. In politics, where even six weeks can produce 180-degree turns, nine years is an extremely long time -- it's virtually several political lifetimes.
What drives pollsters up the wall is the fact that people's behaviour can't really be predicted. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that people will do what people do. This means they will act without rhyme or reason, and at the end of election night, it's all we can do to stand around, with our jaws resting firmly on the floor in front of us, barely believing what just happened.
Most of us eschew change in our lives, even though once we give it a try and see the positive outcomes, we end up embracing it. When spinning the roulette wheel on someone else's behalf, though, we're not as squeamish.
Hence my prediction for 2015: No matter how well the Conservatives perform between now and the next election, there will be enough Canadian voters wishing for change, for the sake of change to oust Harper. Not only will the Conservatives have lost a lot of their previous voters, because in the latter's view Harper and his team weren't conservative enough, but a considerable number of them will also simply want a different government after so many years.
In 2011 Canadians were prepared to take a gamble on the NDP as the Official Opposition, but actually handing them the keys to 24 Sussex Drive was a big no-no then, and will continue to be in 2015. Thomas Mulcair is no Jack Layton. If Jack were still around, things might turn out differently two years from now. But with Jack gone, Canadians looking for change will choose a "safe option". (On the eve of the crucial Outremont by-election, I downed a beer with Jack in Montreal, and although I'm not what one would call the typical NDP voter, I liked Jack. He was a real and decent human being who cared deeply about his country.)
That is to say, no matter how good or bad the Conservatives have been, and regardless of who becomes Liberal leader, the odds (indiscernible by pollsters today, as well as in 2015) are very much in favour of the Liberal Party.
Yes, whether we like it or not, the Liberals may return to power in 2015. Saying that this couldn't happen is just wishful thinking (quite ubiquitous among Conservatives and NDPers alike). The realist, however, who understands that voters are only human, knows that a Liberal victory is a distinct possibility, especially if they manage to stay clear of any cooperation or merger deals with the NDP and Greens.
Canadians, for the most part, are a centrist bunch, which is why the NDP, or any party like it, has never been awarded (federal) governmental power in this country.
With Liberals seeking new leaders, and one hopes a new sense of direction, not only at the federal level, but also in Ontario and Quebec, 2013 could very well be remembered as the year of Liberal renewal -- provided they play their cards right this time.
As I mentioned, a coronation of any candidate should be avoided. Liberals may be fine with it, but Canadian voters at large could have a big problem with that, as it would put the legitimacy of the party's leadership in question.
Michael Ignatieff, who was acclaimed as leader, rather than elected, carried this "scarlet letter" with him wherever he went, and it did break his back in the end -- a shame, really, because as I said then, he would have made a good prime minister one day.
Here are the 6 things you need to know about the Liberal leadership race for 2013.
The Liberal Party of Canada will hold an all-candidate showcase on April 6, 2013 in Toronto to kick off a week of voting before announcing the new leader on April 14 in Ottawa. Whoever wins will the seventh leader for the party 10 years.
There are at least eight people challenging Justin Trudeau for the title. They are: defeated Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay, lawyer and former professor Deborah Coyne (also the mother of Trudeau’s half sister), lawyer and failed Ottawa-area Liberal candidate David Bertschi, prosecutor and Vancouver Kingsway Liberal riding association president Alex Burton, the former head of the federal Liberals in B.C. David Merner and retired air force pilot and unsuccessful Ottawa-area candidate Karen McCrimmon. B.C. Liberal MP Joyce Murray and Montreal Liberal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau are expected to announce their bids next week, sources tell HuffPost. Ontario Ministry of Finance economist Jonathan Mousley has also sent emails telling reporters he is considering a run, but has not officially declared his candidacy. So far, the party hasn’t officially registered anyone’s name. Some candidates, such as Bertschi, are still collecting the 300 signatures needed in three provinces and/or territories in order to enter the race.
The party expects for candidates to drop out before debates begin in late January and had made it easy for them to do so. Liberal Party President Mike Crawley told The Huffington Post Canada the party designed a three- stage payment structure for the non-refundable $75,000 entrance fee in order to make it “really easy” for weak candidates to drop out. “The whole idea was to allow more candidates to come forward and test the waters and then as the second and third payments come up, I think candidates will see how much money they raised and whether they have the support, and they may or may not decide to continue,” Crawley said. “It is very deliberate to encourage a lot of interest at the beginning but to narrow it down to those who are serious as we begin the debates.” Candidates must hand over $25,000 the day they officially register. Those who have registered must pay another $25,000 on Dec. 15, 2012 and a third and final instalment of $25,000 on January 13, 2013. That is also the last day for any candidate to join the race. As for the debates, the first will be held in Vancouver on Jan. 20. Other dates include: Feb. 2 in Winnipeg, Feb. 16 in the Greater Toronto Area, March 3 in Halifax and March 23 in Montreal. The party executive has yet to decide on the debate format.
The Liberal Party might charge you to attend a debate, their showcase in Toronto on April 6 or the announcement in Ottawa on April 14. Charging admission — especially for debates — is another controversial point the party’s executive still hasn’t decided on. Liberal insiders say this is nothing new, the party charged delegates $995 to participate in the 2006 leadership selection in Montreal and charged $25 for the public to attend candidates debates. Former Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, an organizer with Trudeau’s campaign, told HuffPost he hopes the party won’t charge people even a nominal fee to attend the debates. “I understand the desire of charging a fee for a service, but we are in the business of proposing to lead a country and generating excitement about our ideas and proposals and we need to make it as accessible as possible.” While, Crawley stressed no decision has been made, he said the party is looking at cost recovery options to fund the showcase, the announcement and all the debates. Since this is also the first non-delegate convention, the party is grappling with need to keep costs low. The party fears the candidates’ registration fee and the 10 per cent levy on all the money raised during the campaign may not be enough to keep the party in the black during this five-month race.
For the first time, Liberals are inviting non-members to vote for leader. But some in the party believe these supporters should still have to pay to cast a ballot. The party created a “supporter” category at their last convention in January 2012 that allows anyone who is interested in the Liberals to pledge their support online and vote for the national leader in April. So far, 30,000 people have signed up to be supporters. The supporter category is controversial. Some party members suggest only serious devoted Liberals should be allowed to cast a ballot and members and supporters should have to pay to vote in the race. Although the rules say a fee could be applied, Liberal Party President Mike Crawley told The Huffington Post Canada he is staunchly opposed to the idea. “This is not something that I support,” he said flatly Tuesday. “I would be surprised if we end up putting a fee on voting.” But some candidates, such as B.C.’s Joyce Murray, see value in having a nominal fee attached to a vote as a way of ensuring only genuine supporters cast a ballot. She also doesn’t think $5 will discourage anyone who wants to vote from doing so. “I think the principle of ensuring that supporters are real genuine supporters it is an important one and I leave it to the board to qualify supporters to ensure that our intention, which is that those are people who are genuinely in support of the Liberal Party, is what we are getting,” she told HuffPost Wednesday. Murray said that when the party opened up its leadership race, people understood there was a risk that some people from “for example the Conservative Party” would sign up as supporters in order to try to influence the outcome. The Tories, who are currently defending themselves from allegations that they purposefully misdirected voters to non-existent polling stations, are not above such tricks, she said. “It wouldn’t be surprising if they would have a concerted, strategic, co-ordinated attempt to change the outcome of this race. So we have to be practical and we have to have measures that as best as possible ensure that won’t happen,” she said.
Even if you sign up to be a supporter, you could still be denied the ability to vote. The Liberals are looking at ways of verifying that supporters are who they say they are. The aim is to ensure supporters live where they say they do (the votes are weighted by electoral district) and that they are not a member of another political party. Crawley said the party is not sure yet how they are going to verify everyone’s identify and their party affiliation. He said the party will ask supporters to register and to supply additional information but declined to elaborate. The party’s executive has until March 17 to decide on registration procedures.
Here are the remaining candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Age: 40 Occupation: MP for Montreal-area riding of Papineau Website
Age: 58 Occupation: Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, former B.C. Liberal environment minister Website
Age: 53 Occupation: Former Liberal MP for Willowdale and 2006 leadership candidate Website
Age: 50 Occupation: Lawyer, former Montreal Liberal MP Website
Age: 57 Occupation: Lawyer, professor Website
Occupation: A retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian forces and mediator. Website
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