I used to be a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. I served on the Executive of my campus club, went to many Liberal events, served the party to the best of my inexperienced ability. It was definitely a changing moment for me as an individual to be involved in Liberal politicking back in my student days; I saw the best and worst of politics in Canada and saw how strangely addictive (and insulating, it has to be said) the political game really is here in Canada. I learned a lot, especially some hard lessons about the lengths some people will go to achieve their goals (and making sure you remember what got them to the top in the first place).
Truth be told though, as a journalist, unless you cover a beat entirely divorced from your politics, it’s risky to openly declare your alliances. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
More to the point, though, as much as this convention is good political theatre and makes for amazing television (ergo, the blanket wall-to-wall coverage the event is getting on the major networks), I can’t say I’m really all that passionate over who wins this race.
Let me be clear (to quote a certain someone’s catch-phrase): I admire many aspects of the Liberal Party. I’m not fed up with the party’s guiding principles, the volunteers, the efforts to make for a strong, united Canada. The party’s got a lot of things going for it – in theory.
Still, as far as I’m concerned, the Liberals at the top of this most nasty game (not the grassroots folks, most of them are good, hard-working, decent people who at least give a damn, and I do mean that sincerely) have to prove they’re ready to get over the divisive, vicious, alienating Martin-Chretien wars of the past before a lot of people are willing to come back on board to support and work for them. It will take years, maybe even decades, before the party can truly say it has shed itself of the damage those disgusting, internecine battles did to the party.
Candidates-wise, I’m partial to Stephane Dion, mostly because he exemplifies what it means to be good in government: he did his job well and passionately, he was distinctly non-partisan and he was a good Liberal soldier from Day One. While I very much respect Michael Ignatieff’s intellectual abilities, the man makes me very nervous when it comes to his Ivory Tower-esque arguments in favour of torture or the war in Iraq. Bob Rae would be my second choice, mostly because he’s brilliant, has humility and is willing to concede his own mistakes for the NDP government back in the early 1990s (and because a lot of people, including many Ontarians, are starting to see that to blame Rae entirely for the economic horror of the early 1990s is lazy and unfair). Gerard Kennedy is a much, much-needed injection of fresh blood into the federal party, but he’s too green and not ready yet.
I do like Ken Dryden and Martha Hall Findlay a lot; while they’ve got no chance at this point, Dryden is a great Canadian and a proud Liberal. Findlay could be a great choice for leader in several years – first, she needs to get elected and build a national profile.
So, good luck to everyone. Hope it’s been fun so far (and Howard Dean’s speech was awesome, wasn’t it?) for the delegates and whomever wins on Sunday will immediately begin the process of healing the deep wounds the Liberals still obviously have.