Getting Dumped

He may have baked you lasagna, but Glen has moved on and found someone new.

Today, Glen Murray bowed out of the Ontario Liberal leadership race and David Merner took a pass at the federal job. The reaction to both announcements has ranged from a shrug to an in-depth analysis on the impact this would have on the other candidates’ chances. Overlooked has been the human element.

It’s never easy for a politician to pull the plug on a leadership campaign. In most cases, it’s something they’ve dreamed about and worked towards for years. Imagine you’d devoted your entire life to a cause and were reaching for the pinnacle of your career…then imagine the realization slowly sinking in that it wasn’t going to happen. It’s not just a case of admitting failure – it’s giving up the dream.

Further below the surface is the impact a move like this has not just on a candidate, but on their supporters. Believe me, I’ve been there. Since getting into politics a decade ago, I’ve supported Allan Rock, John Manley, Sheila Copps, Gerard Kennedy, and Dominic Leblanc in five unsuccessful leadership bids. Three times, my candidate of choice dropped out before the convention, so I can sympathize with what David Merner and Glen Murray supporters are going through today.

No, it’s not the end of a lifelong dream, but you’ve still invested yourself behind an individual and a cause only to see it disappear in a blink. The candidates themselves come to the realization it wasn’t meant to be over time, but for their supporters the news is often a swift punch to the gut. I found out Dominic Leblanc wasn’t running when I got a call from a cheerful Bob Rae supporter asking me if I’d like to sign on. Surprise!

I don’t think David Merner’s supporters held out much hope of Merner-mania sweeping the nation, and they’ve been given plenty of time to mourn, move on, and find someone new.

The people I really feel bad for today are the nearly 500 Liberals who put their names forward last weekend to run as Glen Murray delegates at the OLP convention. They’ll now be forced to run as independents, effectively ending their chances of being elected. Had Murray dropped out one week earlier, they’d have been free to run for another candidate. One week later, they would have been wined and dined six times a day. Instead, they’re left twisting in the wind, with no real opportunity to go as a delegate to what might be Canada’s last great leadership convention.

On the surface, it’s hard to get too worked up when candidates with no real chance of victory speed up the inevitable. But hundreds of Liberals got dumped today, and that always hurts.

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

About CalgaryGrit

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

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13 Responses to Getting Dumped

  1. MississaugaLibPeter

    Dan,

    Even with a 0-5 record you are an asset any candidate would be an idiot to not want on his/her campaign.

    It’s time for you to get in the win column!

  2. Scott Ross

    Great post, but Glen Murray’s decision effectively disenfranchising hundreds of Liberals deserved a tad bit more opprobrium.

  3. Marc from soccer

    As someone who has to think back to high school council elections to recall voting for a winning election candidate, I definitely empathize with the human element that Dan brings up in his post; it is an aspect of public life that is all too often overlooked in political reporting.

    There are three reasons to run for leader – 1) because you have a chance to win, 2) to represent a segment of the party or interests that are not reflected by the top-level candidates, or 3) to gain name recognition and build a foundation for future political activity.

    In that respect, Murray running only to drop out now is very reflective of the thought process of someone that didn’t fit any of those three categories. Part of being a smart politician is finding ways to read the tea leaves before ordering tea.

  4. Brian from Toronto

    Great post, Dan!

  5. Brian from Toronto

    P.S. I hope you’re not in Kennedy’s corner this time out.

    I notice he’s said that if elected he’ll dump the teacher’s contract and re-open that bag of worms.

    This is a shot at his own party, taking sides with the teachers’ unions against the Liberals.

    Not to mention that what he’s doing is promising to buy peace with the teachers’ unions by giving them money or benefits the province can’t afford.

  6. MKS from durham

    Brian,
    Your wrong! GK is not promising teachers’ union more money and benefits. What I have hear him promising is collective bargainin (a constitutional right!) and respectful treatment, both of which have been completely lacking in the present government’s handing of the situation. The unions have promised to take a pay freeze, but want the things mentioned above. And we need the teachers back in our camp to help us get elected nest time. I don’t like the Liberal chances, next election, unless they sort out this ‘bag of worms’!

  7. Brian from Toronto

    MKS,
    I’ve got a bridge I can sell you cheap…

    If the elementary and high school teachers’ unions were willing to take the same deal as the Separate School and French teachers (or a deal that wouldn’t cost any more), they would have struck a bargain with the govt long, long ago.

    Sure, the union has used the issue of bargaining rights to rile up the teachers and to gain public support, but it’s about money and benefits – the same things labour disputes are always about.

    As for this constitutional right…could be. We’ll see what the courts say, shall we? And if the court rules with the govt, you’ll agree that this labour dispute doesn’t touch on rights at all … agreed?

    As for needing the teachers to win the next election, I think this comes with too high a price tag. If you want a govt bought and paid for by the big unions, why not just elect the NDP?

    • Marc from soccer

      The thing everyone ignores is the most obvious part of this whole issue.

      Every other union bargaining in this climate has come to agreements with the province (agreements that all include pay raises, by the way) – except the two unions that have been legislated that if they don’t agree to our terms, we’ll impose them (aka no bargaining). To ignore this is silly.

      Great play, McGuinty. That Bill-115-will-win-us-the-by-election plan worked so well that you had to resign, the leg is shut-down, your biggest supporters are radicalized, parents and kids are pissed, and Laurel Broten’s been the face of the government for three months. Ouch.

      It’s also dishonest to paint this as an issue of affordability. This is a government that for the best part of 9 years has been reducing taxes whilst increasing spending based on over-estimated projections of economic growth. And faced with the biggest absolute deficit number in provincial history, they found the money to spend $1 Billion to move power plants from industrial areas in Liberal ridings to rural areas in Conservative ridings. This is not an issue of being unable to afford the benefits/pay that teachers or anyone else already has.

      We can afford them, easily, but some are choosing not to. That’s a legitimate, but different discussion, and I’d suggest that if you want a government that makes decisions along those lines, why not just elect the PCs?

      Govewrnments shouldn’t be beholden to their supporters but makign an example of them is stupid. Governing parties this will show that they are tough, and that toughness will win them votes from blocs that previously did not support them.

      And they’re always always wrong. It just makes them look inconsistent, and makes non-supporters think if this is how these guys treat the guys that like them, how will they treat me?

      • Brian from Toronto

        Of course if the govt passed bill 115 to make an example of teachers and to win votes, it was a stupid move. But I’m less interested in motives than in effects.

        You write:
        “Every other union bargaining in this climate has come to agreements with the province (agreements that all include pay raises, by the way) – except the two unions that have been legislated that if they don’t agree to our terms, we’ll impose them (aka no bargaining).”

        Except that’s not true. The other two teachers’ unions negotiated contracts. The elementary and high school teachers’ unions just want better terms. And that’s fine. Demanding all they can get is what unions do.

        But the govt’s job is to look out for the public interest. Over the past few years, teacher salaries have gone up by 25%. Nobody else (with the possible exception of bank presidents) has done as well under the Liberals.

        The teachers can afford a two-year freeze.

        You say it’s not fair that the doctors (and others) got more money. Maybe so. But you’re not arguing that the doctors should have faced a freeze, too. You’re arguing that the govt should regard taxpayers’ wallets as a bottomless well,they can just keep dipping into.

        If that’s how you feel, why don’t you just vote NDP?

  8. Brian from Toronto

    Sorry: “doesn’t touch on rights” is too strong. Rather: If the court rules with the govt, you’ll concede that Bill 115 was a fair exercise of power for the public good and that the teachers haven’t had their rights unduly trampled … agreed?

  9. Paul O

    Great post, Dan. An important reminder that politics is about people, and involvement in our society.

    One week later, they would have been wined and dined six times a day.” The truth of this comment is undeniable, although there is an underlying question of legitimate spending. (Maybe less of a question provincially, where the Liberals have not followed the lead of the federal Conservatives or even the federal Liberals in improving the visibility of Money in politics.) But the larger question, and one to which I don’t have a solid opinion either way, is this: is it healthier for our political system for those delegates who were committed to one candidate to be wined and dined by others, or to not participate in this particular situation.

    I’m leaning towards the belief that it’s healthier overall for things to have worked exactly as they have in this situation, but it does (as you suggest) suck for those affected.

  10. Party of One

    I have a great deal of difficulty feeling sorry for those who backed the wrong horse and end up “abandoned” when their candidate decides not to run after all.

    As Paul O. points out, the motive for involvement (being “wined and dined”, or, potential preferential access to a successful candidate) may be suspect, in terms of legitimacy, or in terms of fostering a healthy democratic process.

    Reasons for getting involved in political parties are as varied as the individuals involved, but in the current political climate of extreme partisanship, I’m not seeing too many people involved purely as an expression of a sense of “civic duty” or “public service”. I wish I did, or more precisely, I wish I could believe those who say those ARE their motives.

    • Marc from soccer

      That’s not really a fair expectation though. People aren’t involved for those reasons because electing the next leader of the Liberals isn’t a contribution to larger society.

      If you’re looking for something to do out of “civic duty” or “public service” you’re not going to waste your time with the internal machinations of partisan politics.

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