Yappa Ding Ding is all in favour of Bob Rae for leader of the Liberal Party. I’m no Liberal Party member, so my views count for exactly what you paid to read them. But I can’t agree with this.
It’s not that I think Bob Rae left the province a smoking wreck or anything like that – although the man himself suggests that the NDP doesn’t know how to govern ("The NDP are good at how to distribute the cake, but not how to make the cake."). Rae Days aside, the popular picture of the NDP provincial government of the time doesn’t have a whole lot of relation to the reality.
It’s something else that bothers me. It’s this whole thing of people joining parties at the top. To hear Bob Rae, or Belinda Stronach, or Jean Charest, suddenly start talking about the traditions of the Liberal Party just makes my stomach turn over. Here is the front page of his web site:
The Liberal Party of Canada is one of the world’s great political
institutions, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to seek its
leadership. During this exciting and important time for Liberals, I
encourage you to play an active part in the Party’s renewal and
Excuuuuse me. Is that what you thought all those years you were with the NDP? Or would you say it about any party that might provide you with a route to power?
I know, it’s not like a political party is a sports team that you support through thick and thin for no good reason whatsoever, even when they let their manager go to the competition and so waste next year’s chances of reaching the premiership, the idiots. I mean what were they thinking? It’s obvious that Billy Davies has a huge amount to do with the near triumphs of the last two years, and PNE lets him go without a murmur? Jokers.
Sorry – what was I saying? Oh yes. Changing your mind is OK, but either his political past counts for something or it doesn’t. Bob Rae seems to want the best of both worlds – he wants to disavow his NDP past ("I drifted" he says) and yet his only real qualification as a potential prime minister comes from his NDP background and all the work that those in the NDP did to put him in the premier’s office. As someone who knocked on a fair number of doors in that campaign, I resent his attitude – he wants to capitalize on the work that many volunteers did, and yet discredit it at the same time.
Thanks for the feedback! It is very interesting to hear reactions to Rae’s candidacy from fellow Ontarians.
Back in 1990 when Bob Rae won a majority provincial government, I had been knocking on doors for the NDP for 15 years, and it was the first time we’d won. I’ll never forget sitting on my couch with the TV on and my phone in my lap talking to everyone I knew, all of us shouting with excitement about the victory. In retrospect you might say that no party should ever go from last place to majority government in one election because they don’t have the expertise to run a province… but it was an incredible victory, was great for the party and the province, and was largely due to Bob Rae’s leadership and campaigning abilities (plus a lot of dumb luck). I don’t think anyone who participated in the win should feel snookered because Bob Rae changed parties 16 years later. He did a great thing for us.
It was clear that Bob Rae’s “third way” leanings (essentially his fiscal responsibility) were not appreciated by the Ontario NDP, and so he left the party. That was also the start of my split from the party, and for exactly the same reasons. Having been a member of both the NDP and more recently the Liberals, I can see that the values and priorities of the two parties are very similar, with the dividing line being fiscal responsibility. I feel right at home in the Liberal party. I guess that’s why I don’t see any big leap in Rae switching.
Everyone in the Liberal party sees a need for renewal. A prominent Liberal, talking about Kyoto, recently referred to the environmental efforts from 1993-2003 as “the lost decade.” The party was falling down on providing the social, environmental and foreign aid programs that Liberals (and Canadians) were calling for. (To be fair, Paul Martin tried to rectify that but he was too late.) Bob Rae’s values and experience are a perfect fit for the direction the grassroots wants to take the Liberal party.
As to switching at the top, Bob Rae is, I believe, *the* most qualified person to be Canadian prime minister. He has spent the last 10 years taking leadership roles in all the areas he needed to to be fully prepared to take the helm. (I list some of these in my endorsement, which you kindly provided a link to.) I wonder why he didn’t become a Liberal MP or even just a Liberal sooner. He’s been talking about it for a long time. Part of the reason may be that he couldn’t belong to a party while he was on the Canadian Security Review Committee. Part might have something to do with Paul Martin’s fear of rivals. Maybe he hoped to be an agent of change in the NDP and continue with them. Who knows? I wavered between the NDP and the Liberals for a decade myself.
At last, a Liberal candidate who calls a Harper spade a Harper spade …
In his speech to the Economic Club of Toronto on June 6 (available at http://www.bobrae.ca), Bob Rae sets his sights very clearly on Harper and his governance as Prime Minister, and draws very clear lines showing how different Canada would be if Rae was PM instead of Harper.
The only way to fight a politician like Harper is to call him on things he says and does. And given the vacuum created by the Liberal leadership campaign, it is refreshing to see at least one of the candidates taking on Harper and his cabinet.
A few quotes which show clearly what Bob Rae thinks of Harper’s course:
• About Harper’s budget’s shortcomings with regard to promoting the economy:
“And yet, for the first time in nearly a decade, this year’s federal budget was bereft of anything for the “excellence agenda.” This is a serious omission. Again, it speaks to the short sighted, politically motivated agenda of Harper.”
• About Harper’s attitude to child care, Kelowna and Kyoto:
“Stephen Harper’s decision to cancel the national plan on child-care, to tear up the Kelowna Accord, and to walk away from Kyoto are all examples of an outmoded vision, driven by small minded politics and rigid ideology”
• About Harper’s policies with respect to children:
“Small cash giveaways for kids are no substitute for leadership on early childhood learning and support for families. If governments had done the same a hundred years ago, we would have no libraries today.”
• About Harper’s attitude to the First Nations:
“Stephen Harper’s cancellation of the Kelowna Accord, the first major federal-provincial initiative in decades aimed at improving the social and economic condition of First Nations Canadians, is a national disgrace.”
• About Harper and Kyoto:
“The idea that the only way to meet the targets set by Kyoto is by shutting down the Canadian economy lock stock and barrel is empty fear-mongering.”
• About Harper’s budget and its aims:
“The Harper/Flaherty inaugural budget also presented a grab bag of targeted tax incentives designed to curry favour with specific groups, to try and help push them over the top to a majority in the next election. This was an abuse.”
Way to go, Bob. Tell it like it is.
This is the kind of leader the Liberals need.
What I find so interesting is how Michael Ignatieff is always left off the list when anyone bitches about candidates who are viewed as basically jumping ahead in line, or coming from another party. At least they have some kind of parliamentary experience to speak of. Bob Rae may have baggage but that includes wicked political swiss army knife in his carry-on bag that he can use to make swiss cheese out of the Tories. I’m not even a BR advocate but heck, he makes a lot of the others look like rank amateurs. Maybe he can give them lessons.