Sunday, April 17, 2011

 

A QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP

A couple of provincial political parties have come to grips publicly this weekend with matters of leadership.

Out on the west coast, British Columbia's New Democrats are struggling with a decision whether to shift their traditionally left-wing party into the Centre to challenge head-on the Liberal Government of Premier Christy Clark in the next provincial election. - Or take the party to a more traditional hard(er) left; in a counter effort against the Right of Center burgeoning B.C. Progressive-Conservative party which is being championed by their own former NDP Premier, Bill Vander Zalm, and former Newfoundland P.C. Premier, Brian Peckford.

Whilst in Quebec, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois picked-up 94% support in a confidence motion at the party's annual conclave. As with British-Columbia, Quebec is gearing-up for a widely anticipated Provincial Election pitting 3-term scandal plagued Liberal Premier Jean Charest (scraping the bottom of the polling barrel) against all comers. Despite her astounding "vote o' confidence;" in Quebec's political backrooms, Mme Marois is disliked and not the PQ's first leadership choice to confront the Charest Liberals. Federal Bloc-Quebecois Leader, the charismatic Gilles Duceppe, is much more likely to lead (and win) the provincial Separatist movement in any upcoming Quebec Election. Duceppe you will recall threw-in his hat against Marois in the PQ's last leadership go-round to replace former Premier Bernard Landry; but in a move never adequately explained, he stepped-out just as fast as he'd stepped-in.

Be that as it may: Beyond Mr. Duceppe's anticipated transfer to the Quebec Provincial scene; the current May 2Nd Federal General Election will define the future political career of all 5 major Canadian Party leaders: From Stephen Harper on down to the Greens' Elizabeth May:

STEPHEN HARPER: Pundits, observers and pollsters share the opinion that Mr. Harper's Conservatives will be re-elected On May 2 once more with a "Minority" of seats in the House of Commons. Though the Conservative Party of Canada is said to be a one-man effort (Harper's), waiting in the wings for the right moment to swing into a leadership challenge is New Brunswick's former Premier Bernard Lord. The charismatic fluently bilingual young politician has been purposely staying-out of the current Federal tilt so as not to taint his own image with the Harper Brand. A 2011 version of a Harper Minority Government; the Prime Minister's 4Th attempt at a majority will sound the death knell of his leadership either with another eventual defeat in Parliament...or more likely with the call of a party leadership convention and Stephen Harper's retirement from active politics.

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: For the Federal Party dubbed the 20Th Century's "natural governing party," only a win will do. And, as an astute observer noted this week..."that win is squarely on the shoulders of 64 year-old Ignatieff." From Wilfred Laurier; on down through MacKenzie-King, Louis St. Laurent, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien: Liberals are expected to perform, and the performance criteria is winning elections. And; as even Nobel Laureat Lester B. Pearson learned after being elected in two historic Minority Parliaments, if a House majority doesn't materialize, there is no room at the party helm for that person anymore. Although the (very) young Justin Trudeau has aspirations to, and is clearly being groomed for an eventual leadership bid, party insiders know that he's not yet sufficiently seasoned to take over from Ignatieff when, - barring a "Coalition" of minority Parliamentarians of sorts later this spring, - he does not end-up Prime-Minister, and walks away. At that point; the Liberals may be looking for another short-term leader and Ignatieff's old college roommate and former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae may be among the very few choices.

JACK LAYTON: Far less is at stake when you are the perennial third or fourth place finisher. His party aside, polls suggest Mr. Layton is best liked and integrates the leadership qualities Canadians demand. Someone observed in conversation just yesterday that had Layton stepped-on over to the Liberals (as did Bob Rae), he'd most likely be elected Prime Minister on May Second. Except for a limited number of strong New Democrat ridings, Mr. Layton "is" the NDP. One of those growing areas of support is in metropolitan urban Quebec. Based on decades of work by Phil Edmonston, picked-up much more recently by former provincial (Liberal) Cabinet Minister, and current NDP Deputy-Leader and Outremont MP Thomas Mulchair, the party may record significant gains in May taking votes away from both the Liberals and the Conservatives. In light of Mr. Layton's health issues, any significant breakthrough in the large urban ridings of the province of Quebec would bode well for a Mulchair leadership takeover and (perhaps like the NDP in British-Columbia) a significant makeover of the party philosophy.

GILLES DUCEPPE: The charismatic Mr. Duceppe is a consummate politicians and like many previous Quebec based fringe parties with national aspirations; Real Caouette and the "Socreds" for instance; I think he knows that the Quebec destiny (whatever it is) will be shaped at home. It's over for the "Separatist" movement as we've known it for 40 years. The new "Independantistes" are pragmatic and urbane and Mr. Duceppe is itching to be Premier of Quebec. A 21St Century Rene Levesque in white armour ready to tackle both domestic issues and "les anglais" of Canada. In the aftermath of the May 2Nd election (with a secure lifelong Federal Parliamentary pension in hand) he's about to be handed his chance. Despite her overwhelming "vote of confidence" this weekend, the machinations are already well greased in the Provincial Parti Quebecois to secure Duceppe's leadership so that he's poised to slay the pesky Jean Charest before year's end.

ELIZABETH MAY: A week in politics is an eternity. Never mind 3 years! Stephane Dion's cornerstone Liberal Party platform in 2008 was an omnibus "Green Plan." - Sadly, and despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, in this second decade of the 21St Century, If at all, "The Environment" is an insignificant blip on the political radar screen. Though Mrs. May and the "Greens" polled about one-million votes in 2008, no one was elected. No positive results either at a handful of noteworthy Federal by-elections in the 3 years hence, including one or two attempts by Mrs. May herself. In eliminating Mrs. May from last week's debate, the "Leaders' Television Consortium" was anticipating realistically the Federal vote results. There's just nothing for Mrs. May to hang-on for.

As they say on Election Night: If the trends are maintained; though the standings in the House won't change much: 2011 may be a seminal election which leads to a wholesale shake-up in Canadian party politics. - In Monte Carlo they'd say: "Les jeux sont faits!"

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