In the midst of what has already been a historical two weeks in Canadian politics, the Liberal party has decided to set just a little more.
With Bob Rae and Dominic Leblanc both having dropped out of the Liberal leadership race, only one candidate currently remains -- Michael Ignatieff. The expectation now is that Ignatieff will be coronated as the leader of the Liberal party.
Never before in modern history has the Liberal party decided its leader by having all the other candidates simply fold their campaigns.
"I am not a candidate for the interim leadership, nor shall I pursue my candidacy for the party leadership at the Vancouver convention," Rae announced today. "I believe that the Liberal Party of Canada requires a new leader to be in place before Parliament returns at the end of January."
Rae's intent is clearly to keep the Coalition alive long enough to try and defeat the government on January 27th. The Liberals certainly do stand a better chance of doing this with a full-time leader in place rather than simply an interim leader.
But just as many Liberals are beginning to question whether or not the Coalition itself is a good idea, a great many Liberals should question if simply choosing a leader in such a clearly ad-hoc fashion is good for the party.
Many rank and file Liberals are undertaking an extensive process renewal process at the grassroots level. But in order for this renewal process to truly penetrate the upper echelons of the Liberal elite the selection of the new Liberal leader needs to be conducted in concert with that process of renewal. The leader selected needs to be one accepting the results of that renewal process.
Instead, the best they can now hope for is to conduct their renewal process around the selection of the new leader. Instead of choosing a leader who reflects the principles and values established by that renewal, they'll be attempting to adapt that renewal to a leader essentially chosen by default.
Perhaps that's the reason why Ignatieff himself should invite new candidates into the race and insist that it continue -- a leader chosen by default, at the head of a party that has already proven itself willing to sacrifice its principles vis a vis national unity, will find his credibility with the Canadian people to be very short.
Figures as near and dear to the Liberal elite as former President of the Liberal Party Stephen LeDrew have recognized the folly of an Ignatieff coronation.
Unsurprisingly, LeDrew blames Dion:
"Even in taking his leave, Stephane Dion can't get it straight. By stating that the party needs a leader before the Commons resumes at the end of January, he is effectively rejecting the benefits of a considered leadership debate, while robbing tens of thousands of Liberals of their voice in choosing their own leader."Hopefully, Ignatieff sees the folly in all of this as well.
For the Liberal party's own good they simply cannot afford to rush to coronate a leader, and certainly not under circumstances as dubious as these.
Other bloggers writing on this topic:
"The" Scott Ross - "Ignatieff and Arrogance"
My Politicophobia - "Screw You Bob Rae"
Dysfunctional Parrot - "Bob Rae Gets Out of Dodge City"
Pearce Richards - "Hey Liberals, Chill the Fuck Out. You Did This to Yourselves."