Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let the Speculation Begin

And why not? The armchair pundits never rest - and an eagerly awaited contest is set to begin, one in which I will probably have a horse by the time the dust settles and the BBQ circuit is underway. So a quick parsing of the scene and cast of players, as Martin phones in the resignation:

Early on, former NB Premier and current Ambassador to the US, Frank McKenna, remains the frontrunner. Will Harper recall him? Our new PM is nothing if not a savvy tactician with an eye for the long view, so don't discount the possibility of his remaining on the scene. Harper could show an impressive non-partisanship by keeping that appointment in place, as well as backing Milliken for Speaker, even as both moves offer him significant advantages.

That aside, the biggest item actually working against McKenna right now is that he seems already to have garnered the tacit support of Martin's inner circle, and so their considerable organizational clout. In seeking renewal, that could prove to be the kiss of death, whether in winning the support of fellow Liberals or (should he win the leadership) in winning the support of a country sceptical of this particular cabal.

I am all for the NB Premier of our youth, Cooper. (Incidentally, welcome back from the cold, my friend. Glad to hear the champagne at Canada House tasted so sweet). I do worry that if people look to him as Martin's anointed successor (rightfully or not), his star might burn less bright. At least it would in the eyes of this scribbler.

BUT... then I examine the many remaining pretenders - Manley's too ancient regime, Tobin's more ambitious for the job than even Martin was, Brison's too much the Conservative, Ignatieff's too obviously inexperienced this time around, Volpe's simply an idiot, Belinda's Belinda, Dryden's too boring, Copps' too polarizing and a step backward, Cauchon's too unknown outside Quebec, etc, etc... At first blush, the race reminds me eerily of the 2004 Democratic primaries: many candidates with their own redeemable characteristics, but also with noteworthy flaws. In such environments do unheralded underdogs find their openings.

And so we arrive to my conclusion: that there is much to be said for a Stephane Dion candidacy. This is a time where one perceived as most reluctant to take a shot at the leadership could prove one of the most appealing. Widely respected outside the Liberal party [note today's musing by Cosh, for example], now staggeringly adept on the environment file after hosting the recent conference, a bilingual Quebecker who Canada would be fortunate to have at or near the helm when (if?) the separatists take their parting shot. With a Harper Mulroney-esque approach and Dion channeling Trudeau, the BQ could quickly get squeezed out. Plus he also carries a reputation as absolutely incorruptible, and with none of the ties to political elites or the biggest of business (not to mention the Bush family) that remains my one frank concern about our man Frank.

Dion's would be the kind of candidacy that gets noticed outside the Liberal party, as evidence of a ship willing to repair itself. Even if not ultimately successful, his would be a voice well worth hearing in the unfolding debate to come.

So - who might start this worthy grassroots draft movement?

UPDATE - an anonymous commentator on Cherniak's bizzarely triumphal post-election post floats the name of Gerard Kennedy, currently Ontario Education Minister. VERY interesting - and a classic example of another intensely credible dark horse that could end up having a legitimate shot given these circumstances.

To be clear, the above speculation on Dion and McKenna notwithstanding, we are a LONG way from the actual endorsement(s) of anyone at this point. It will be fascinating to see this all unfold.


Anonymous MississaugaPeter said...

Gerard Kennedy story:


10:50 AM  
Anonymous Judy said...

Gerard Kennedy is the ideal candidate for this party. I'd support him if he ran, hands down.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

If we're going to have our first wide open leadership convention since 1968, it wouldn't at all surprise me to see a dark horse like Kennedy come up the middle and win this thing.

7:09 PM  

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