Thursday, December 10, 2009

It is Now Time For the Liberals to Shine

Excellent Op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail with some sound advice for Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party. We need to continue doing what we're doing to present an option to Harper's tyranny.

I've been pleased to see policy issues being brought forward on a regular basis now, and if the Party would let Mr. Ignatieff be himself, I think he will resonate with Canadian voters.

Move on from intrigue
Globe and Mail
Dec. 10, 2009

They know it's bad for them, but some federal Liberals can't help but throw the dice and gamble away more capital on misbegotten leadership shenanigans. They should trust their better angels and give Michael Ignatieff the time to grow into the thankless but necessary job of Leader of the Opposition and prime minister-in-waiting.

All the protagonists in the latest story of intrigue, who supposedly coalesced around Toronto MP Bob Rae in an Ottawa hotel bar last week, have denied anything untoward.

But this doesn't suppress continuing talk of dissatisfaction with Mr. Ignatieff. There are plenty of reasons to be unhappy: Recent polls that take the party into Stéphane Dion territory; the replacement of Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre and most of Mr. Ignatieff's senior staff; freelancing by some MPs on major issues such as the Harmonized Sales Tax; an abortive attempt to bring down the government; and, above all, the failure to articulate a coherent alternative to the Conservatives all illustrate the difficulties Mr. Ignatieff has faced in his first year.

His problems are not unlike those faced by predecessors of all political stripes. With the possible exception of Brian Mulroney, every leader who became prime minister in recent years has spent a considerable amount of time in his own caucus's doghouse. An opposition leader has an inherently difficult job, with none of the resources of government and few opportunities to set the agenda, but with all the expectations to perform flawlessly in public.

Liberals need to remember why they gravitated to Mr. Ignatieff, and were moved to install him as leader without a proper convention, in the first place. He is a highly intelligent man of depth, principle and nuance, capable of rallying people to greater causes. He, and Liberals generally, erred most in the past year when they ran away from his qualities and tried to turn him into a conventional politician.

With no public appetite for an election, Mr. Ignatieff has the time to build his team and his public profile. He is moving in the right direction. A new chief of staff is creating a more streamlined structure in his office. His front bench has done good work holding the federal government to account on stimulus spending and its untruths over Afghan detainees, while Mr. Ignatieff himself travels the country, rolling out sensible, bread-and-butter policy proposals on matters such as clean energy and retirement security.

Barring catastrophe, Mr. Ignatieff will lead the Liberals into the next election. Knowing that, Liberals used to making a sport of leadership politics need to absorb the inevitable short-term political hits and form a united front.

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