Bob Rae’s fateful decision to sit out the Liberal Leadership Race was expected to sound the starting pistol for a busy summer of campaigning from a crowded field of candidates. I don’t want to discount the dozens of Liberals who have spent August feeling the effects of Merner-mania, but it’s fair to say the race has been rather low-key.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The convention isn’t until April 2013 – a date selected so that the party could rebuild itself before sending the candidates into the Thunderdome. A heated race now would just be inviting “Liberal Leadership Race Drags On” headlines once the media inevitably tires of a 9-month contest.
However, every indication is things will be heating up shortly. Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said he will make a leadership decision by “the end of summer” and, as the back-to-school commercials will attest, the end of summer is here. Most expect an announcement at the Liberal Caucus meeting in Montebello next week, though that might get pushed back so that it doesn’t get buried under Quebec election news.
Justin’s decision will force the dozen or so “maybes” to make up their minds. A lot of the higher profile candidates likely aren’t overly keen on serving as Justin Trudeau’s debate prep, so I’d expect Kennedy, Leblanc, Cauchon and others to bow out if Trudeau declares.
But don’t count on a coronation. There are plenty of Liberals hesitant to roll the dice on Trudeau and, even those who will back him agree he needs to be tested in the fires of a leadership campaign before he fights a general election as party leader.
Martha Hall Findlay‘s mailing list was sent an invitation to a “Red bus revival” campaign meeting on September 4th, so she’s definitely kicking the tires. Marc Garneau is at “stage 3” of the decision making process (stage 1: deny interest, stage 2: set up anonymous “draft” campaign, stage 3: mull a run, stage 4: drop out to spend time with your family) and appears ready for lift off. Denis Coderre will announce plans to run for Liberal leader or Mayor of Montreal on November 9th – however my money is on door number 3, “run for Quebec Liberal leader”.
The other obstacle preventing the race from taking form is the minor detail that there is no race. The rules have yet to be announced including, most importantly, the entry fee. The price to play will determine how many of the “lesser known” candidates actually follow through – right now, that list includes Deborah Coyne, David Bertschi, David Merner, George Takach, Jonathan Mousley, Shane Geschiere, and LiberalWho.
So although there was little movement on the leadership front this summer, expect things to heat up as the temperature cools this fall. We should have a good idea how the race is looking by the time
the NHL season starts NHL players hit the picket lines.