Gerard Kennedy

OLP Leadership Update

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2013 OLP Leadership Race, Ontario Politics | 3 Comments

While Federal Liberal leadership aspirants are free to subject their candidacy to a year-long striptease before declaring, Ontario Liberals do not have the luxury of time. With the membership cut-off in just four weeks, there’s little time to play coy.

Yasir Naqvi mulled it over for a few days before deciding to bide his time for a future bid. This week, Dwight Duncan and Chris Bentley both announced they would not be candidates for the leadership – or the next election. Both decisions are understandable given the amount of time these men have spent in politics, and the baggage they would carry into a leadership race.

On the other side, Sandra Pupatello has all but confirmed she will run, and all signs point to her being the frontrunner.


Declared

None


Likely

Sandra Pupatello


Call me Maybe

Kathleen Wynne
Michael Bryant
George Smitherman
Gerard Kennedy
Charles Sousa
Eric Hoskins
Glen Murray
Deb Matthews
David Caplan
Brad Duguid
John Wilkinson
David Orazietti


Taking a Pass

Yasir Naqvi
Dwight Duncan
Chris Bentley

After 16 Years of McGuinty, What’s Next for OLP?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2013 OLP Leadership Race, Ontario Politics | 9 Comments

Sixteen years ago, Dalton McGuinty won the Ontario Liberal leadership race at 4:30 am, after 5 rounds of voting. Always one to defy expectations, McGuinty worked his way up from 4th place over the course of 9 hours in what was truly one of the wildest leadership conventions in Canadian history.

Although it’s almost impossible to read a leadership race’s ultrasound just a few days after conception,the early snapshot points to another unpredictable contest.

While many high profile names have shied away from the federal Liberal race, the OLP offers a more attractive prize and a higher probability of success. Would you rather spend 6 months getting steamrolled by Justin Trudeau for the opportunity to lead the third place party in the House of Commons or take a chance in a short race for the Premier’s chair where anything can happen? It’s an easy choice.

The end result will likely be a crowded field, with several legitimate contenders. Given this, uncertainty over the rules, and the ability of long-shots to win at a delegated convention, the conditions are ripe for another early morning surprise.

Frontrunners – Past, Present, and Future

A year ago, Chris Bentley would have been the odds-on favourite to succeed McGuinty. Smart, well-spoken, competent – he has been a rising star since entering politics in 2003. The past few weeks have not been kind to Bentley, as the Oakville Power Plant fiasco has sent his stock into a Felix Bumgarner-esque free fall. The Power Plant cancellation wasn’t his fault, but you don’t want to kick off your leadership campaign with the word “embattled” in front of your name every time you see it in print. Still, Bentley might run, if only to have an excuse to give up the Energy portfolio.

That leaves Dwight Duncan as the de facto “frontrunner” – he is, after all, the highest profile minister in the government and the most experience prospective candidate. He’s been in politics his entire life, so it should not be at all surprising that he is considering a run. Duncan’s biggest problem is that he’s already been branded as the “status quo” candidate, at a time when most Liberals recognize the status quo won’t work. McGuinty’s resignation e-mail to party members was titled “Renewal“, and replacing Dalton with Dalton 2.0 doesn’t scream renewal.

So if you’re looking for who will be the favourite once the contest kicks off in earnest a month from now, I’d put my money on Kathleen Wynne or Sandra Pupatello. Although she didn’t run last year and her husband is eying the Newfoundland Liberal leadership, Pupatello is considering a run. And based on her comments that she’s “uncomfortable” with prorogation, I can only assume Wynne is too. Both are talented politicians and may be seen as the best bet to woo back disaffected Liberals who have wandered over to the NDP tent.

Old Friends

A few years ago, any list of potential McGuinty successors would have started with Michael Bryant and George Smitherman. Both are extremely talented politicians, weighted down by extremely heavy baggage. Still, Smitherman has kept the door open, and many read Bryant’s tell-all autobiography as the first chapter in his political comeback.

Another alumni of the first McGuinty Government is Gerard Kennedy. While he’s been away from the provincial game for 6 years, that could play in his favour, as the party tries to distance itself from recent controversies. Kennedy offers the Liberals their best opportunity to reboot their relationship with teachers and the education brand, potentially winning back votes from the NDP. It’s been pointed out that much of his organization is now with Team Trudeau, but most candidates will be building their teams from scratch and Kennedy at least has a following. Remember, this is a candidate who led for most of the night in 1996 and was neck-and-neck across Ontario with Michael Ignatieff in 2006.

New Blood

If you were drawing a police sketch of the “ideal” candidate, most Liberals would describe someone younger, with a bit of charisma, a bit of experience…but still somewhat of a fresh face. Laurel Broten is likely the closest fit to that wish list. As Minister of Education her profile has been raised, but that has also thrust her head on into the teacher’s labour dispute. Charles Sousa also deserves consideration, as he has proven himself to be a competent and likable Minister.

Another pair of fresher candidates getting a lot of buzz are Eric Hoskins and Glen Murray, who both entered the legislature via by-elections during McGuinty’s second term. Murray’s experience as Mayor of Winnipeg gives him added credibility if he can dodge the “Just Visiting” attacks, while Hoskins’ reputation as an international humanitarian might be the genuine face an older government under attack on the ethics file needs.

Party President Yasir Naqvi has recused himself from decisions related to the leadership campaign, as he considers a run. Naqvi has long been a rising star in the OLP, has a compelling personal story to tell, is well-liked by Liberals, and has the connections needed to quickly assemble a leadership team. I don’t doubt that Naqvi will one day run for leader – but he’s still under 40, so there’s no rush.

Anyone Else?

David Caplan and Deb Matthews have the profile, but much of that profile came because of controversies during their respective stints as Minister of Health. Brad Duguid has few flaws and has performed well in difficult portfolios, but there’s no obvious narrative for him to sell to Liberals or voters. Ditto for John Wilkinson, who lost his seat last fall.

An update on all the people MAYBE running for Liberal leadership

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The expectation is that rules for the Liberal leadership race will come down in June, setting the stage for a summer of getting to know the men and women wanting to lead Canada’s third party.

But while we won’t know the rules of the race for another month or two, that hasn’t limited speculation in the interim…or speculation about the interim leader, for that matter.

Back in January, I looked at the ten most commonly rumoured Liberal leadership candidates…and 18 fun longshots – the Naheed Nenshis and Amanda Langs of the world. Today, an update on the names that were most on the lips of delegates at the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) convention in Toronto this past weekend.

Don’t count on it

From that January list of ten “buzz” candidates, we can likely scratch off Scott Brison and Dominic Leblanc. While their names still get floated in most newspaper articles, the Liberals I know who would be first in line to support them aren’t expecting either Maritimer to toss their cap into the ring.

Which is a shame, because both represent the kind of generational change the party needs – and both are highly engaging and entertaining speakers, with pleasant demeanors that would contrast nicely with the gruff angry man personas of Harper and Mulcair.

The Big Names

While this is very much anybody’s race to win, in my mind there are three candidates who would instantly vault to frontrunner status if they ran.

Trudeau. McGuinty. Rae.

All three are political superstars with the name recognition and organizations that would make them very difficult to beat.

While Justin Trudeau has done his best Chris Christie impersonation by repeatedly denying he has any interest in running, there have been new rumblings about his potential candidacy in recent months – and they haven’t just been fueled by his TKO of Senator Brazeau, or idle media speculation.

The word on the street is that Justin is listening to the calls for him to run, though I’m still skeptical he’ll move beyond the listening stage. The man has shown remarkable restraint thus far in his political career, so the smart money is on him waiting until next time. That said, if the Liberals make the wrong choice there may not be a “next time”.

The reaction to Dalton McGuinty at January’s convention was electric, and he would enter the race with a formidable track record and political machine behind him. But given he’s fighting tooth and nail to tip the scales in Ontario to a majority, I seriously doubt he’d resign his own seat and plunge the OLP into a leadership race. There’s also the harsh reality that, for perhaps the first time since confederation, leading the Ontario Liberal Party is a more glamorous job than leading the federal Liberal Party.

Of course, if big brother isn’t interested, perhaps little brother will be. David McGuinty was one of the first candidates to openly muse about a leadership bid, but he’s never acted like someone coveting the top job. The man rarely leaves his own riding and was a no-show in Toronto this weekend.

So what about Bob? One year ago, Rae categorically ruled it out, solemnly swearing he would not seek the top job, saying it was time for “a new generation of leadership”. Now? He says a decision hasn’t been made, and he’s waiting on the rules. It’s a politician’s answer, and even his most ardent critics agree Rae may be one of the greatest politicians of his time. For this reason, many would follow him without hesitation if he runs – but others are so dead set against Rae they’d sooner back Alfonso Gagliano.

Seriously considering a run

Martha Hall Findlay sounds like the most serious of the “maybe” candidates. She’s been sending out newsletters, holding events, and getting herself in front of cameras – Findlay herself acknowledges it’s “not a secret” she’s thinking about it. While Martha was the plucky underdog the last time she ran for leader, she’s definitely in it to win it this go around.

Also from the class of 2006 is Gerard Kennedy, who has openly mused about running. Kennedy was ahead of his time with his “renewal” themed campaign, back when Liberals assumed everything could be fixed with a new leader. He has continued to beat that drum of late, holding renewal roundtables, renewal BBQs, and renewal pub nights. The real key for Kennedy will be how many renewal french lessons he’s taken in the past few years.

One of the guests at Gerard’s Political Renewal Fair a few weeks back was Kirsty Duncan. Duncan would be a great addition to the race, as an intelligent well spoken woman. If she runs, expect a strong focus on Health Care and the environment from her campaign, as she has written books on these topics.

Envisagent sérieusement de briguer le poste de chef

If you buy into the alternance theory of Liberal leadership, it’s time for a francophone leader, and there are certainly plenty of candidates from La Belle Province making noise.

The loudest has been Marc Garneau. Like Ken Dryden in 2006, Garneau has plenty of star power, but the question comes down to whether or not he has the right stuff to lead. I hope he runs, if only because I have a dozen out of this world astronaut puns that will go to waste if he takes a pass.

Even though Martin Cauchon and Denis Coderre have never run for Liberal Party leadership, they’ve each spent more than a decade thinking about it. I suspect Coderre’s future lies in provincial or municipal politics, though he will undoubtedly be a major asset for whichever campaign he winds up backing this go round.

Cauchon held a hospitality suite at the national convention and attended the LPCO convention this weekend – a clear signal he’d like to take on Thomas Mulcair not just in Outremont, but on the national stage. Believe it or not, he’ll only turn 50 this summer, but in some ways going with Cauchon would feel like a throwback to the Chretien era. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not sure that’s the mood of the membership.

It doesn’t take a lot to start a leadership rumour, so the fact that Mauril Belanger quit the official languages committee and then showed up in Toronto this weekend was enough to get people talking. Of course, being an Ontario MP, you’d expect him to be at an LPCO convention. And of all the things holding Mauril back from a run for Liberal leadership, I really don’t think his spot on the official languages committee was very high on the list. But such is life in politics, where a new pair of glasses is taken as a sign of leadership aspirations.

People you’ve never heard of

The candidates making the most noise about running at this point are the ones with no chance of winning. After all, given enough time, a politician can delude himself into thinking he has a chance at winning anything. Moreover, Martha Hall Findlay and Martin Singh’s longshot campaigns did wonders to raise their profiles, so it’s not even always about winning in the conventional sense.

The most credible of the “no names” appears to be defeated candidate David Bertschi, a persistent worker who ran a strong campaign in Ottawa Orleans last spring. Bertschi is assembling a team, has a website, and has launched a teaser video that tells us a lot about Canada’s potential as a country…but little about Bertschi’s potential as a candidate. Bertschi is a dynamic speaker one-on-one, and everyone who talked to him at the LPCO convention, myself include, left impressed.

Also making the rounds at the Sheraton this weekend was Toronto businessman George Takach. While he lacks elected experience, he’ll have no trouble raising money and, in the end, the amount of coin you bring in is the deciding factor in how long you can stay in the race.

Another name being floated is David Merner, the president of the BC wing of the federal Liberal Party. I’ve never met Merner, but this race needs a western voice or two, and to date Joyce Murray is the only MP west of Etobicoke making any noise about running.

The Race for Third

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

Back in February I asked readers of this blog who they thought would run for Liberal leader, and who they’d consider voting for. Admittedly, this is as far from a scientific poll as you’ll ever get, and I won’t pretend that the 500+ voters in this straw poll are all Liberals. But we’re not going to see anything resembling a credible Liberal leadership poll for close to a year, so let’s have a little fun with what we’ve got.

Before that, one other thing. It looks like a group of Borys Wrzesnewskyj supporters swarmed the poll late, so I’ve excluded Borys from my recap below. Mind you, the fact that he appears to be the only candidate with supporters dedicated enough to freep a web poll at this stage should likely tell you there are people out there who would like him to run. Which is more than can be said for a lot of the names I floated.

Likely to Run?
Bob Rae 52%
Dominic LeBlanc 42%
Marc Garneau 38%
David McGuinty 34%
Gerard Kennedy 24%
Martha Hall Findlay 24%
Martin Cauchon 21%
Denis Coderre 21%
Scott Brison 18%
Mark Holland 14%

Who Would Consider Supporting?
Bob Rae 31%
Dominic LeBlanc 26%
Justin Trudeau 19%
Gerard Kennedy 19%
Scott Brison 19%
Mark Carney 17%
Marc Garneau 17%
Martha Hall Findlay 16%
Dalton McGuinty 16%
Naheed Nenshi 15%

Rae is seen as the most likely to run and has the largest support base, which tells you all the talk about him being the frontrunner isn’t misplaced. My man from 2008, Dominic LeBlanc, is the only candidate within striking distance of Rae on the support poll, though 11 other names earned between 11% and 19% so there are plenty of viable candidates out there.

I’ve plotted the 16 candidates who scored at least 10% on either poll below. You can see that Trudeau, Carney, Dalton, Nenshi, Goodale, and Lang all have more people who like them than than expect them to run, leaving them as the most probable candidates for a genuine “Draft” movement.

The reverse is true for the other McGuinty, Cauchon, Garneau, and Coderre but, in fairness, I suspect that Quebecers are seriously under represented on this poll.

None of this means a heck of a lot when we don’t even have the rules yet. But it shows there’s nothing even remotely resembling a consensus on who will be running, never mind who will win.

Tomorrow, I’ll speculate a bit about who might be running, so if you’re hearing any rumours, by all means float names my way.

A moment of silence for our fallen comrades

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The hardest part of last night for me was watching so many quality MPs go down in defeat. All too often, the individual casualties of a blood bath like this are overlooked, and aren’t given a proper farewell. So let me take a minute to thank a few of my favourites for making a difference.

Gone is Gerard Kennedy, who I had the honour of supporting for leader five years ago. One of the reasons I backed Gerard was because he was one of the few people back then who recognized the need to renew and rebuild the Liberal Party. We all recognize that now, and I can only hope Gerard will be a part of that rebuilding, even if it’s not as an MP.

Gone is Ken Dryden, arguably the heart of the Liberal Party. Dryden is one of the most thoughtful politicians you’ll ever meet and he believed in politics for a purpose, not just politics for the sake of politics. Dryden’s vision of Canada will be missed at a time when the Liberal Party tries to come to grips with what it truly believes in.

Gone is Siobhan Coady, a rookie MP who appeared to have a bright future ahead of her. She is exactly the kind of accomplished woman we need more of in politics, and she was one of the few MPs who could ask a tough question with emotion, while still avoiding hyperbole.

Gone is Glen Pearson, one of the few MPs able to rise above the hyper partisanship that infects most who go to Ottawa. Pearson talks in sentences, not sound bytes. He was one of the few who genuinely wanted to make Parliament work, unlike the many who only talk about making Parliament work.

Gone is Ujjal Dosanjh, a quality MP. Gone is Mark Holland, a fierce fighter. Gone is Navdeep Bains, a great MP and a great person. Gone is Martha Hall Findlay, the spunky underdog of the 2006 leadership race.

There are others who I’ve forgotten or just didn’t know as well, but who are equally deserving of praise. I thank them all for their service to the Liberal Party and to their country.

Then there are those who never got a chance to go to Ottawa. Strong candidates, like Christine Innes, who I spent much of this election trying to keep up with as she sprinted door to door to meet voters. And let’s not forget all those who put their names forward to run, knowing it would take a miracle for them to win. Having volunteered on a lot of campaigns like that over the years, I fully appreciate the kind of commitment and idealism that takes.

Finally, there is the one MP who lost a lot more than his seat last night. Long time readers will know I’ve always had doubts about Michael Ignatieff’s ability to lead the Liberal Party, and I took issue with the way he commandeered the leadership of the party.

Still, I’ve warmed to the man greatly over the past year, and I always did like the concept of Michael Ignatieff. If I was writing a Canadian political drama a la West Wing, I’d probably create a protagonist a lot like Michael. He is, after all, exactly what voters say they’re looking for in a leader. He’s intelligent. He has seen the world. He’s not a career politician. It’s hard not to fall in love with the concept of Michael Ignatieff.

Yesterday, we found out just how easy it is to not fall in love with the reality of Michael Ignatieff. In the real world, politics is a job like any other, and we shouldn’t be surprised when the guys who have been doing it their whole lives prove to be better at it than the guy who picked it up in his late 50s. Michael Ignatieff simply was not able to connect with voters the same way Jack Layton could connect with voters.

I’ll write up a proper post-mortem on what went wrong for Michael Ignatieff the party leader in the coming days but for now, a moment of silence for Michael Ignatieff the MP, who didn’t deserve to lose his seat. We need accomplished individuals like him in politics, regardless of the party they run for.

A lot of good people lost their jobs last night, Michael Ignatieff among them.

Stampede Round-Up

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, LPC Leadership 2006, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | Leave a comment

It was a busy weekend for Calgary Liberals with a swarm of candidates descending upon the city for Stampede photo ops. Saturday morning was the annual Liberal breakfast, held this year at the Calgary Zoo. I was able to snap pictures of the seven candidates in attendance:

Gerard Kennedy likely won the cowboy competition of the Liberal leadership fashion pageant. He was the gutsiest when it came to “going western” and pulled it off the best (on both Saturday and Sunday). He seemed very relaxed when he spoke at the Liberal breakfast, keeping things light. (I have more GK pics posted on his OC)

Dion deserves full marks for effort. No one is going to ever confuse him for Clint Eastwood but, this being his fourth Stampede, he knows that you have to at least try (translation: the cowboy hat is a must). Stephane was proudly telling anyone who would listen that “I look better than Stephen Harper in my cowboy costume“. I did notice that one of the buttons on his shirt was undone when we had a sit down interview on Sunday, so my hope is he wasn’t walking around all morning like that. Of interest, on the pamphlet table his campaign included free cabbage seeds which was…odd.

Ignatieff stayed away from the cowboy hat, going with blue shirts both on Saturday and Sunday. I’m not sure how well he could have pulled off a complete Stampede wardrobe so maybe that was a wise move. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t mention the carbon tax at all in his Saturday morning speech…

Carolyn Bennett looked a lot better on Sunday than Saturday. The Sheriff badge on Saturday made her look more like an 8 year old at Halloween than a serious politician. But she bounced back well on Sunday and was probably the best dressed of the Liberals at the Hays breakfast.

Dryden got the biggest laugh of the morning when he talked about how he’s always worried about fitting into his jeans. Strange thing is, his outfit actually looked slimming. Like Iggy and Brison, he went with the jeans and open button shirt, avoiding the hat.

Scott Brison got a good response to his speech on Saturday and scored some points by talking about going to Cowboys when in Calgary. That might explain why he didn’t feel quite up to dressing up for Sunday. His jeans and golf shirt was probably the least “Stampedy” outfit of any of the politicians at the Hays breakfast.

Hedy Fry showed up late on Saturday and, along with Dryden, was a no-show on Sunday. Her speech was pretty much “I’m a Western Liberal. You’re Western Liberals. You should vote for me.” I found it quite odd that a Vancouver MP would say “I welcome the other candidates to Calgary and the Stampede”.

As always, every single candidate sucked up to the crowd with various variations on “Calgary Liberals are the best Liberals” and “we need to elect more Liberals in Alberta”. You can read Naylor’s Take on the Stampede Breakfast here.

Sunday was the Hays breakfast and Paul Wells has a good fashion review on his site. Among the highlights of his spy’s report:

Someone is dressing the Prime Minister. […] About a zillion times better than last year’s bizarre too-tight S&M gear.

Jim Prentice wore the same damn buckskin jacket he always wears, Stampede or not, but given his portfolio, it makes sense.

As for the Liberal pretenders, Carolyn Bennett looked great and stylish in denim and suede.

Stephane Dion looked like Stephane Dion in western wear, which is not as weird as it sounds.

Michael Ignatieff looked exactly as you would expect an academic who was told to dress western to look. […] No hat, though, which I’m told he claimed was because he has an enormous head and did not want to make it more enormous.

Most shocking outfit was on Scott Brison. Normally, our Scott pulls off the downtown-hipster-late-cowboy thing well, but he didn’t even try today.

The winner by far of the fashion sweepstakes was Gerard Kennedy. You can tell when someone is really a westerner, and this guy is to the ranch born.

Since I’d talked to the Liberal contenders the day before, my two main targets for the morning were Jim Dinning and Steve Harper. Unfortunately, I missed Harper completely. It sounds like he jumped out of his limo, did some media and left fairly quickly (with so many human beings around, Steve was no doubt uncomfortable).

I did manage to track down Jim Dinning. I went up to him and said “Hello Mr. Dinning, could I have my picture taken with the next Premier of Alberta“. Jim laughed and we had our picture taken. However, as soon as the click went, he turned and walked over to a nearby business exec without saying a word to me. Considering I could very well have been a potential supporter, that rubbed me a bit the wrong way; last year, Jim Prentice was willing to chat even after he knew I was a Liberal. On the fashion front, Jim wore a white top with his own name on it.

So, all in all, a fun weekend. I interviewed Stephane Dion after the Hays breakfast and will have a recap of that later this week.


Liberal MLAs Harry Chase and Dave Taylor [left] and the third amigo, Liberal MLA David Swann [right]

Rob Anders?

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