Denis Coderre firing up to take a shot at Liberal leadership?
For the past 20 years, the Liberal party's Quebec problem has tended to be external -- notably, the Bloc Quebecois.
But now it seems that the Liberal party may be sharing a general malaise with the Conservative party in Quebec -- internal organization problems.
The big story in Quebec right now is the brewing battle over which Liberal will run against NDP MP Thomas Mulcair in Outremont (Pierre Trudeau's old riding). A fierce conflict has emerged between Martin Cauchon, a Chretien-era Cabinet Minister and Denis Coderre, Ignatieff's appointed Quebec lieutenant.
Michael Ignatieff had previously announced that he would appoint the party's candidate for that riding, and that he would appoint a woman.
"Martin Cauchon was an excellent minister, an excellent MP, and a good Liberal. I spoke to him last night, and yes, I have made my decision," Ignateiff announced this week. "I told him that we have been soliciting female candidates and we not only intend to have women candidates, we want them where they can win."
Ignatieff has now apparently relented, allowing Cauchon to seek the party's Outremont nomination.
Despite his pledge to appoint a female candidate in Outremont, Ignatieff has caved to pressure applied, in part, by Bob Rae.
“Martin Cauchon was an outstanding minister of justice and has been a fighter for liberal values all his political life,” Rae publicly insisted. "If he wants to return to active political life, room must be found for him and his important beliefs and values."
Many -- including the National Post's Kelly McParland -- have suggested that the Cauchon decision was never really made by Ignatieff, but rather by Denis Coderre, who is looking ahead to the next Liberal leadership campaign and looking to flex some muscles now so he can improve his chances to be the next Grit leader.
Le Devoir reported that the original Cauchon decision came as everal Quebec MPs were pressured to leave politics.
Among them were Bernard Patry, Raymonde Folco, Lise Zarac and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion.
Dion, for his own part, has already announced his intention to run again in the next election.
For Coderre, nothing would say "I dominate this party" more than forcing a former party leader out of a party stronghold.
Perhaps the prospects of Coderre quietly organizing a leadership campaign behind his back is what really pushed Ignatieff to chance the Cauchon decision. (Some may recall that, in turn, Ignatieff himself was accused of planning a leadership campaign behind Dion's back.)
As McParland notes, Coderre may be looking toward the party's notion of "alternation", and thinking that it's simply his turn, as a Quebec Liberal, to take over the party should Ignatieff's leadership fail.
That could be a real problem for Ignatieff -- particularly if Coderre thinks whatever opportunity he may have to be Liberal leader is worth helping to engineer an electoral defeat.
The notion itself seems absuard -- as it should -- but far stranger things have been done by self-interested politicians.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Matt Guerin - "Iggy Should Let Democracy Do Its Thing in Outremont!"
Tattered Sleeve - "Outremont est Ouverte: Iggy, Coderre concede to Cauchon"
Peter L Whittle - "The Democratic Deficit in the Liberal Party"