Liberal Leadership Wednesdays: Coyne4Leader

Future CPC attack ad: “Deborah Coyne climbed Mount Kilimanjaro – were the Rockies not good enough for her?”

It’s worth noting that at this stage in the Liberal Leadership Race, the line between a “declared” and “undeclared” candidate is a thin one. Until the rules and entry fees are set, there’s no way of knowing how many of the lesser known contenders will actually follow through and run. I remember there were 16 candidates on stage for a Liberal Leadership Debate at the LPCA convention in 2006 – this included Roby Dhalla, Joe Fontana, Paul Zed, John McCallum, and the man, the myth, the legend himself, Clifford Blais.

So although Deborah Coyne has “declared” and David Merner is “exploring a bid”, it remains to be seen if their candidacies will make it past the BBQ circuit stage. However, unlike the Lloyd Hendersons of the world who do little more than suck up oxygen from the serious candidates, these two have the potential to mount viable campaigns and could serve a valuable role in this race.

Most of the media attention around Deborah Coyne will centre on her Trudeau connection, but Coyne’s real contribution to this contest will be on the policy front. Her website already features 23 policy discussions, and Coyne pulls no punches, talking about eliminating tax credits, ending supply management, implementing a carbon tax, and increasing the role of private delivery in the Health Care system. I think the race and the other leadership hopefuls would benefit from having a “call it like it is” candidate pushing the debate towards contentious policy issues, so I do hope Coyne follows through and runs.

David Merner makes a convincing case on why he should be this race’s “Tim Hortons candidate”

Also exploring a bid is David Merner, who resigned yesterday as President of the Liberal Party’s BC wing. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to Merner, but the race desperately needs a strong western candidate, so that the “west of Etobicoke” perspective isn’t ignored. Impolitical speaks highly of Merner on her blog ; I’ll reserve judgment until I meet the man, but Merner does meet three of the requirements on the official “Liberal leadership BINGO card” – he was born in Alberta, used to play hockey, and is fluently bilingual. If we find out he’s Pierre Trudeau’s long lost nephew, the media will be head-over-heels in love with this man.

I won’t pretend that these are star candidates, capable of captivating the imagination of Canadians. However, Coyne’s unwavering push for policy and principle and Merner’s western perspective will be valuable additions to the contest.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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26 Responses to Liberal Leadership Wednesdays: Coyne4Leader

  1. Jordan

    There’s a lot of ridings in Alberta and BC, if Merner becomes a serious candidate he could become the frontrunner in many of those ridings.

  2. Jeff

    Depends on what he has to say, Jordan. People from the west aren’t going to vote for someone just because they’re from the region. If that was the case, Hedy Fry would have done a lot better in 2006…

    • Jim R

      As someone from BC, and especially with Hedy “crosses are being burned on lawns as we speak” Fry, all I can add is: thank goodness for that.

  3. Nuna D. Above

    Why is it that Liberal women like Coyne and Martha HF are putting out serious policy and the Liberal men are all gushing and swooning over Justin Trudeau?

    • CalgaryGrit

      In fairness to Justin, he’s still considering a run so it would be premature of him to put out a detailed policy platform.

      But yes, kudos to MHF and Coyne for kick-starting the policy debate.

    • Finnegan

      As a septuagenarian male, it’s hard to argue against the concept that males like to turn everything into a pissing match, whereas females are the voice of light and reason. Nevertheless, avoiding labels and the putting of candidates into compartments, based on sex, geography etc. is desirable. If by some miracle, the Liberal leadership selection process focuses on policy, the one that is chosen, among the many expected to put their names forward, would stand out head and shoulders above the present CPC and NDP leaders!

  4. Jason Holborn

    Being the only party which has never been bothered to elect a female leader, the Liberals are certainly (and hypocritically) long overdue in choosing one. A capable woman with vision and courage holding the Liberal’s reins could certainly draw my attention and vote.

    Between equally capable candidates, I’d certainly choose and cast my vote for a woman over a man. It’s long past time for capable, courageous female (executive) leadership to have a say in the future.

    • Jordan

      Nobody should vote for someone based solely on gender.

      • Jason Holborn

        Especially the Liberals, who only vote for the male gender!

        More than any other federal party.

      • ajb

        Using gender to choose between two equally capable candidates is obviously not the same thing as voting for someone based solely on gender.

  5. Finnegan

    Reading this post and the “Trudeau connection” link, is the best thing that’s happened to me this week! Finally someone – and perhaps MHF – has put the back-room strategists in their place: below/after policy. This is LEADERSHIP, which is desperately needed. With Mr. Harper, the poster boy for 24/365x”X” campaigning, the PM and Mr. Mulcair pitting regions against each other in hope of political gain, this is like a clear mountain stream flowing through the withered political landscape!

  6. Jim R

    Coyne does seem like an interesting candidate, and I look forward to hearing what she has to say. However, (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong), she has no elected government experience and no leadership experience (public or private sector). So that would would appear to make her a very long shot, no?

    • CalgaryGrit

      That’s my understanding. Coyne has worked in politics and run for office before, but to the best of my knowledge, she’s never held elected office.

      I’d be shocked if she actually won, but she can still make an impact on the race by getting her ideas out there (and possibly endorsing another candidate before the end).

  7. Jordan

    She proposed some great ideas that need debating, like more private health care and eliminating tax credits, and while it’s great for these ideas to be discussed I don’t know if the next leader should continue creating policy without grassroots input.

  8. Brian from Toronto

    Problem is she’s another dinosaur. A carbon tax? Seriously?

    • hosertohoosier

      Prior to the Summer of 2008, Canadians were receptive to the idea (incidentally, the NDP has called for cap and trade, which does the same thing – price carbon – less efficiently for a long time). However the Liberals blew the salesmanship, killed the clarity of the policy by proposing all sorts of offsets, and were blind-sided by the great recession.

      With the right packaging, a green shift II could work, but it need to be marketed the right way: as a policy with winners and losers that serves the greater good (I remember the Liberals put together a laughable website where you could see how much you would save under the policy – it was almost impossible to have net costs as a result of the tax).

      There are some powerful industries that would benefit from a green shift. Think about finance – they produce no C02, but would gain from the corporate tax cut. Likewise Canada’s high-tech sector (sure, producing a commuter jet does entail some C02 emissions, but not that much relative to the value of the jet, moreover, the bulk of the market is in other countries where the tax won’t impact demand for jets).

      And hey, winning 26% of the vote like Dion did would be a step up for the Liberals.

  9. Brian from Toronto

    You’re right of course that 26% would now be a step up, but frankly I’m amazed that Dion was able to get so many votes while campaigning on a promise to raise gas prices.

    You’ll recall this was at a time when we’d already seen gas prices in Toronto rise above $1 a liter and soar to as much as $1.30 in Montreal.

    This of course brings us to the 2nd objection to this idea: we’re already experiencing a rapid rise (and wild swings) in oil prices.

    The economic incentive to get off oil is already there. How much faster and higher can we push oil prices without an economic meltdown?

    Third objection of course is that Canada can do nothing to slow down global warming. If every Canadian ceased to exist and so reduce our carbon footprint to 0, the effect on world climate change would be too small to be measured.

    Do you believe China, India, Brazil, Russia (or any members of the old USSR) will reduce their carbon footprints? If you do, I’ve got a bridge I can sell you…

    Of course no politician is going to say straight out that climate change will happen whether we like it or not – after all, “concern for the planet” is a religious belief and votes aren’t won by insulting religions.

    But the smart money has always been on adopting to change while giving lip service to the superstition that we can control the change.

    And for the vast majority of Canadians, purely symbolic moves such as banning plastic bags (aka lip service) or easily manageable tasks such as recycling is what we really want.

    • hazzard


      Your third objection has always been one that bothers me when I see it presented and it is regularly by those opposed to the ‘green religion’ in Canada. It makes me think of the old motherly staple “if everyone jumped off a bridge would you too?” No, Canada alone will not solve climate change or global warming but that alone is no reason to not attempt to accomplish anything. Canada alone will never stop hunger, corruption, crime around the world either so should we not bother to attempt to do so here?

      Furthermore, I think opponents of the climate change/global warming issue need to realize that the average person does not see this issue as such an isolated one variable issue. When Joe Q Public thinks of hydrocarbon induced climate change I believe they not only think of hotter weather but also more local affects such as pollution/smog and general air quality. Those are things that can indeed be impacted on a more local scale and that Canada can change. It may not be fair or correct but that is irrelevant I’m afraid. The headlines are global warming but the subconscious of the public is intertwining that with air quality and health and the whole of the environment.

      So while you are correct in saying China will not join ‘us’ in preventing carbon footprints and therefor we shouldn’t bother, a good many people are looking out at their smog filled city centre thinking why the heck won’t we try to fix this?

    • Jordan

      Both BC and Alberta have a price on carbon and their governments were both re-elected with majorities despite the tax.

    • hosertohoosier

      1. Nobody wants high oil prices
      Wrong. The green shift did have a set of winners and losers. People who worked in zero or low-emission firms would have been net winners from the green shift. The effort to pretend everybody gained masked that.

      Are you telling me that say, the financial sector, would lose from a policy that raised taxes on carbon, while cutting corporate taxes? Banks produce no emissions, while making profits, hence, ka-ching.

      The losers of the policy are people in heavy industry and resource sectors (esp. oil), as well as rural folks. But the Liberals lost them a long time ago. Cobbling together a coalition of workers in services, finance and high tech industry could be sufficient to revitalize the Liberals, at least in the places where they desperately need to recover.

      2. Oil prices are already high
      Yeah and the response to high oil prices is to burn coal and explore for more oil – that hardly solves the problem. Plus, “high” is pretty relative – they are lower (inflation-adjusted) than they were in the late 70s, and in the early days of oil’s use as a fuel. We need policies that truly disincentivize oil consumption, not those that merely encourage worse fuels (eg. coal).

      3. The developing world will screw us over anyway
      The way we get Brazil and China to reduce their carbon footprint is indirect. The west needs to innovate technological solutions to C02 emissions that the developing world can cheaply adapt. We will do so more quickly in an environment where firms and consumers pay the full cost of gas (ie. they pay for the externalities of burning oil).

      When environmental solutions are cheap, and the ramifications of non-adoption are bad, countries will adopt them. Think about the Ozone layer. When the science became clear on the problem, most countries did ban CFCs, and today the Ozone is actually healing itself.

  10. Josh

    So Coyne supports extra-billing? Or something? She doesn’t say anything about increasing the role of private delivery in the health care system, apart from regulating what already exists. Which isn’t especially radical.

    More to the point, her plans are okay, but aren’t anything other than the usual talking points delivered by health policy types and journalists (with no first-hand knowledge of the system) like Andre Picard.

  11. Brian from Toronto

    You miss my point. If there were any effective global effort to slow climate change, I’d fully support Canada doing it’s part.

    But there is no such effort and never will be.

    The carbon tax is a proposal for us to harm our own economy to no purpose – except, as H2H points out, we can use the policy to make banks richer, though it’s beyond me why he thinks that should be a policy objective.

    • hosertohoosier

      Brian, you know that effective global action isn’t going to happen, but thankfully, the reality is that it doesn’t have to. If a sufficient number of countries develop policies that penalize carbon emissions, you will have an environment in which green technology can develop to a point at which it provide an economical replacement for oil & gas.

      Europe and Japan have already taken unilateral steps to that end. So you’re right that Canada’s implementation of green policies will not make a dent in global C02 emissions directly. But we can make a significant different in the speed at which green technology is developed, because we are good innovators.

      My point about banks (and high tech, and the services sector) gaining from a green shift was about politics, not policy goals. There is a politically influential base for a policy like this. The Tories have the oil patch and farmers, the NDP has unions and miners – who do the Liberals have?

  12. Brian from Toronto

    Hazzard, you write:
    “pollution/smog and general air quality. Those are things that can indeed be impacted on a more local scale and that Canada can change.”

    I agree, but in the context of the climate change argument, your seem to be saying that pointless efforts to slow climate change will have beneficial side effects, such as reducing smog.

    Actually, I think John Q Public distinguishes between a climate change crusade and efforts to reduce smog just fine.

    Reducing smog is a more important issue than climate change. Infants with asthma and old people with heart failure need our help much more urgently than does Mother Earth.

    And you’re right, smog is something we can do something about, because (in Ontario), about half the smog is produced locally.

    But as a problem, smog is attacked differently. As a local issue, it requires targeted policies.

    The most important step is to get rid of coal-fired power generation. Other important steps are getting people to retire old cars and old lawn-mowers and to get rid of other serious but easily replaceable sources of smog.

    A carbon tax has far more wide-reaching effects on the economy is much less effective at reducing smog.

  13. Brian from Toronto

    I knew your point about banks was about politics, not policy – just yanking your chain for fun.

    Seriously, though, I doubt a carbon tax is good politics: you’re too likely to be trading the people for the banks.

    Think of the environment as a luxury issue. People are concerned about it only when there’s nothing important to concern them. So it’s good policy for robust economic times, but only if people are sure that it’s not going to hurt the economy – which of course eliminates any carbon tax.

    Switching from politics to policy, I like your theory about the purpose of a carbon tax being to encourage innovation that will naturally displace oil. But I doubt it will work.

    What’s the time line to develop technology(ies) to replace oil and gas and then to re-tool the world to run on the new tech?

    Forty years? More? Assuming the climate scientists are right, by then we’ll all be taking spring break in Nunavat.

    I mean, think about this. China runs on coal power. It’s not like better technologies aren’t available. And it’s not like they’re that expensive.

    But they are a little bit more expensive, and new technologies will be a bit more expensive again, for a very long time – or the’ll have prohibitive capital costs.

    Within the next forty years, a reasonable goal might be to get China to adopt natural gas.

    For that matter, I believe Ontario still has one coal-fired plant and much of the U.S. – the richest country in the world – still runs on coal.

    It’s taken decades to wean Ontario off coal and it will take decades more to perform the same miracle in the States.

    And speaking of the U.S., the hope to convert the world to a post-oil economy depends on the U.S. getting seriously involved – after all, the U.S. is where the world’s research mostly gets done.

    But what are the chances of getting the U.S. to adopt a carbon tax? In the foreseeable future, none.

    Sorry, I’ve never heard carbon tax climate that seems rooted in the real world.

    (And I’m not even going to touch the problems with cap and trade systems. The Europeans seem to have already proved that the system mainly enriches fraud artists while doing nothing for the environment.)

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