06/15/2012 04:17 EDT | Updated 08/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Why It Was Time For Ol'Bob to Step Aside


All things must pass. Even the good things. There was a time when the rotary phone was the best communication tool around. Today, a tweet can break the sound barrier faster than the zero dial's rotational clicks.

The Big Red Machine has been puttering for almost a decade. Lead by a calamity of baby boomers who, despite their best intentions, failed to modernize the machine, and a host of Moonie members all too happy to stick to the status quo... all the way down the abyss. "Hey, it worked before; it will work again. Just you wait," they predicted with the precision of the Mayan Calendar Doomsday prophecy.

Some of these champions of self-contentment failed to even realize the machine was broken, scoffed at the notion of rebuilding it. Sprinkle a Pierre Trudeau reference here, remind them about the Charter, and dangle a few multicultural society references, and the masses will come back, no matter how many rotten apples are kicking around the backrooms and chairing influential decisional committees.

As the "temporary" dry spell has morphed into the barrenness of the Sahara desert, it behoves the Liberals to take the time and space to reflect, renew, rejuvenate and all the other R words that were part of the fake-it-until-you-make-it catch phrases borrowed by leader after leader that never materialized.

The R-word that too many long-in-the-tooth Liberals fail to embrace in a timely fashion is R-E-T-I-R-E.

Like a meddling mother-in-law, formerly great men have spoiled the party by speaking out of turn. Beloved Jean Chrétien's repeated merger bombshells have rattled even the most ardent supporters. Michael Ignatieff's gauche reigniting of the Separatism flames underscores the "out of touch" perceptions Canadians feel about the man who wanted to lead the country under the Liberal banner.

We've retired the rotary phone. It is a great invention and it moved us through the late-century with style and precision previously unparalleled. We look upon the stylishly designed black-and-white instrument with nostalgia and, yes, gratitude for it delivered its purpose for decades.

But it's time to move on.

The party of self-important old' boys left little to no room for the next generation of leaders to grow, save the few who were born to former MPs or well-connected families. Have we forgotten that the 1960's Three Wise Men were recruited and nurtured to lead the next generation of Liberals and the country? Twenty years later, the Rat Pack shook up Parliament Hill with their youthful energy and much-needed gusto to foil The Establishment. Thirty years have passed since 1984, and the recruitment mechanism either saw any potential stars muzzled, or skipped a generation altogether while drawing from the same generational well.

After Bob Rae announced his non-leadership contention yesterday, many realised there is a gaping void of viable young candidates to replace him.

The party cannot turn back the hands of time, but it can stop the bleeding. Instead of grovelling to a perceived saviour-leader, renew by courting a few unknown but capable citizens who can speak, with some conviction and sincerity, to the fundamental Liberal values Canadians are longing for. Fresh faces, different names, younger voices to breathe new life to the tired eye-roll-magnet clichés.

Leaning on the intrinsic liberal value of equal opportunity, the time has come to pass the baton to the burgeoning crop of young personalities. In doing so, the best years of the Liberal Party of Canada will belong, not in the distant past, but in the near future.