Tag Archives: Susan Delacourt

The lesson the Liberal Party can’t seem to learn

Excellent column by Susan Delacourt

Or, to keep it in driving terms, the Liberals have been simply taking leaders out for a spin since Chrétien made his exit, and then trading them in for a newer model.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau, the MP for Papineau, seems to be looming in a lot of Liberals’ eyes as next year’s model — at least until something else comes along.

This disposable-leader culture may tell us something deeper about why the Liberals are mired in third place — a sign of their inability to commit, or to tolerate anything except victory. That may not be the ideal quality to transmit to voters.

Within other parties, including the one in power in Canada at the moment, leadership comes with second chances.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper failed to win the 2004 election, even after uniting the right-wing parties. He almost resigned and consigned himself to history’s dustbin, according to subsequent stories by insiders.

But Harper ultimately decided to hang in and landed the prime minister’s job in 2006, where he remains today.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t win on his first try as provincial Liberal leader in the 1999 election, but he endured and led his party to victory in 2003. Nor did Mike Harris do well in the 1990 election, but by 1995, he earned the job of Ontario premier.

Perhaps with those McGuinty or Harris examples in mind, the provincial Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are sticking with leader Tim Hudak, even though he didn’t deliver an expected victory last fall.

The federal New Democrats also endured with Jack Layton through four elections from 2003 to 2011, their eyes fixed on long-term growth. The investment paid off with the reward of official Opposition status after the last election.

Liberals, though, don’t seem to have cultivated that kind of patience.

Martin struggled for 13 years to become prime minister, got the job for two, and walked away the night of his election defeat in 2006.

Some Liberals have since wondered whether this was the right decision — whether Martin, with his record as a finance minister, would have been seen by Canadians as the right man to steer through the 2008 economic downtown and the election that year.

She ends with this.

If history is a guide, anyone running for the Liberal-leader job —including Trudeau — should have two career plans.

Plan A should be focused on winning power in the 2015 election.

Plan B should be something out of politics, because Liberals haven’t been in a second-chance kind of mood since Chrétien began his exit 10 years ago.

Media cuts on democracy

I follow Susan Delacourt on Twitter but I missed her excellent blog post on budget cuts in the media impacting democracy until Peter Mansbridge mentioned it tonight on CBC News.

Today, with a diminished journalistic workforce on Parliament Hill, handling multiple deadlines and shrinking news space, it’s harder to keep any  story in the frame of attention, let alone a dry, complicated fiscal debate.    Note the revolving controversies of the past few years. Remember the Afghan-documents issue? Prorogation? We’re also told that the public has no interest now in "process" stories — which pretty much describes most political stories. I’m old enough to remember a time when I covered a story for months at a time — years, in the case of the national-unity struggles of Meech and Charlottetown.  Now that prospect seems almost ridiculous.

The panel didn’t think very much of it but  think they missed the point.  They said that the financial crisis isn’t bad enough in people’s minds to require this kind of arrangement again.  In some ways they are correct as Canada has a very strong economy compared to the rest of the western world right now.  At the same time they missed the point in that with cuts to Parliament Hill, they aren’t sure what we stories they are missing.  Of course I didn’t expect Chantel Hebert or Andrew Coyne to admit that because of cuts in the media and a quicker, more intense news cycle that her and her colleagues are missing important stories but the truth is, they don’t really know what they are missing.