The media reaction to Marc Garneau’s exit from the Liberal leadership race has not been kind. The party is “not a happy place“, the race is a “fiasco“, this is the “worst-case scenario“, “is the Liberal Party serious?”. I haven’t checked out SunNews’ take, but I’d imagine they aren’t overly ebullient either.
None of this should be surprising. The media treats politics like a sporting event, and it’s hard to write a compelling story about the Dream Team rolling over Kazakhstan by 40 points. This has led to the return of the dreaded “c” word – coronation (I’ve even been guilty of using it in a few posts). With a Trudeau victory now innevitable, the term is being flung around derisively, with many drawing parallels to Ignatieff’s ascension in 2009.
However, that’s a completely unfair characterization of the race, and comparisons to the Ignatieff coronation are laughable. Just a month into that contest, the National Executive named Ignatieff leader, denying party members a say in the process and effectively forcing Leblanc and Rae to drop out. There were no debates and the final ballot had just a single name on it.
This time, we’ve been treated to one of the most open leadership races in the history of Canadian politics. There were few restrictions to enter, and 9 candidates declared, giving Liberals uneasy about the frontrunner plenty of choices. Unlike past leaderships which have been decided by a select group of delegates and party elites at convention, this contest has been open to any Canadian who supports the Liberal Party. No backroom deals to deliver delegates, no rules restricting membership forms. Hell, you don’t even have to pay $10 to participate.
Anyone who wanted to run could run, anyone who wanted to vote could vote, and Liberals got a chance to see the candidates in a range of settings. Voters have had 6 months to scrutinize Justin, and they’ve reached their verdict. Even if the convention becomes a mere formality, much like those that follow US primaries, that doesn’t mean other candidates weren’t given a chance.
Now, it’s perfectly fair to say the Liberal Party is making the wrong choice. That they’ve been swept up in nostalgia and blinded by wavy hair. I can understand how many are frustrated at the lack of concrete policies coming from the frontrunner.
But when you run a fair and open leadership race with 9 candidates and one guy wins overwhelmingly, it’s not a coronation. It’s an election where the vast majority of voters came to the same conclusion.