You win some, you lose some. Or so I hear.
Regardless, win or lose, we can all take home valuable lessons from the OLP leadership race – and with no fewer than 5 other Liberal leadership races ongoing in Canada, these are rules all Liberals should heed.
1. Play Nice: It likely shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority of the defeated candidates and delegates went to Wynne over Pupatello, considering the latter had spent much of the race belittling them and, just days before the convention, proclaimed “When I stand back and look at the cast of candidates, even I would pick me.”
Nice almost always beats arrogant when it comes to delegated conventions.
2. Leadership races are more about values than policy: Glen Murray was probably the most substantive candidate in the race, and he didn’t make it to the convention. Harrinder Takhar and Charles Sousa had reams of economic plans, but few took notice. On the other side, I bet half the delegates at Maple Leaf Gardens couldn’t name a single concrete policy proposed by either of the frontrunners.
Again, this isn’t anything new. In the 2006 leadership race, Stephane Dion had green scarves, handed out tree seeds at events, and talked a lot about the environment, but it was Michael Ignatieff who actually proposed a carbon tax. Yet it was Dion who owned the issue and rode it to victory.
Even though she didn’t win, Pupatello’s “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” focus with few details to support it up was exactly the right card for her to play. Sometimes you need policy to define yourself, but it rarely proves to be the decisive factor.
3. You snooze you lose: Timing is everything in politics, and the stars seemed aligned for Gerard Kennedy. He offered the party its best opportunity to rebuild its relationship with teachers. His years away from Queen’s Park meant the OLP could move beyond recent set-backs and reboot. Every poll showed him to be the most electable candidate, at a time when the Liberals are in very real danger of losing the next election.
Yet Kennedy waited to get into the race, leaving him barely 10 days to put a team together and sell memberships. By the time his campaign was in gear, Pupatello and Wynne – who had been planning this for years – had already snatched up most of the key organizers and the “may the best woman win” narrative had already been framed.
Every contest is different, but I suspect Martin Cauchon’s last minute entry to the LPC leadership race will leave him facing many of the same challenges.
4. You can win by losing: If anyone ever wonders why candidates who clearly have no shot of winning enter leadership races, take a look at what Cabinet Portfolios Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins find themselves with next week.
5. …but not always: Conversely, the rise and fall of Harrinder Takhar shows there are no guarantees. After a strong showing at the delegate selection meetings, Takhar appeared poised to be the kingmaker and a power player in the party moving forward. After a week of bad press and a clumsy convention floor endorsement of the runner up, Takhar’s stock is now lower than it was before the race began.
6. Confront tough issues head on: Kathleen Wynne could have danced around the issue of her sexual orientation, even after the Toronto Star declined to endorse her because she was a lesbian. Instead, she met it head on in what was universally regarded as the best speech of the convention.