Looking for leadership

Bob Rae made the right decision not to run for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. His announcement yesterday that he would continue as interim leader until the convention next April means he can then return to being an elder statesman who does helpful things for society in general.

All eyes are now on Justin Trudeau who, so far, has been saying ‘no’ to running for leader. Now that there is an actual race, he will have to make up his mind. Media reports say that, boxing prowess aside, he is not a substantive politician. I hear differently. He certainly has been busy of late out speaking in venues as diverse as schools and party gatherings. Those who have heard him recently were impressed with his style and his delivery. His speeches are both passionate and pithy. He delivers them faultlessly without a note – no mean feat. Moreover, he has respect for his elders in the party, a good way to build bridges to the future from the glory days of the past.

Trudeau is one of the few men his age who wears his hair long and tangled, which is part of his charm or something he should attend to, depending on who’s talking. He looks like his mother, Margaret, so is handsome in the way Prince William resembles Lady Di. Justin’s biggest political problem is that his wife, Sophie Gregoire, does not want him to run. When the question is put to him about that conundrum, he says, “There’s time.” Does that mean he thinks he can convince her in time for this leadership convention, or that he’ll wait another four or more years until the next one? On such matters, he is like his father, Pierre: enigmatic.

My preferred candidate for leader hasn’t changed since I last wrote about these matters on April 17: Dominic LeBlanc, the New Brunswick MP. Liberals who are in their 40s like him, too, and that’s who should be making the choice. Whoever becomes leader has a rebuilding job as tough as the Progressive Conservatives after 1993 when they were reduced to a paltry two seats. The way back for the Liberals might include merging with the NDP just as Stephen Harper and Peter Mackay brought together the right. Bob Rae, as a former NDP leader, could not have pulled that off.

If there is a merger, and we end up with two main parties instead of too many, that will help the cause of democracy in Canada. Voters will have a clear choice between two parties, either of which can form a majority government, rather than repeat the years of “pizza parliaments” when we suffered because too many parties siphoned off enough seats to deny any one party a majority. Pizza’s fine once in a while but not as a regular diet.

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