Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moving On

I am not someone who is easily dissuaded of his convictions. I do not bend readily with the political wind. Yesterday's events do not change one iota my opinion of Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Rae. It is true that the man I thought was best suited to lead my party backed Mr. Ignatieff and encouraged his supporters to do the same. It is also true that the man I supported two years ago today backed Mr. Rae and made a similar case for his candidate. While I respect Dominic LeBlanc and Gerard Kennedy immensely and generally trust their judgment, I do not feel that their endorsements today make either of our two remaining leadership candidates more palatable. Politics, at this level, is not a personal business for me. Who supports a given candidate has never been my determining factor. I do not hold a personal grudge against either man. Nor do I believe that either of them do not earnestly think that what they are trying to do what is in the best interest of this party and our beloved country. I simply cannot, in good faith, support either man to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. I have explained the roots of my antipathy in previous posts. I suggest you look through the archives if you want my thoughts at the beginning of this race. My feelings towards the two men have not changed.

Mr. Rae remains a man in my estimation who is trying to atone for past sins. The Prime Ministership should not be a vessel of personal redemption. I am sorry that Bob Rae was not more successful as Premier of Ontario. I am sorry that he chose to abandon the Liberal Party for the NDP all those years ago. However, no amount of action on his part today will obliterate those mistakes in his own mind, or more consequentially, in the minds of the voters. While I respect Mr. Rae's decision to keep this as a competitive and contested leadership, I simply cannot see a path to victory that would not do further damage to the Liberal Party. At this point, Mr. Rae has to hope for Ignatieff to make an error so agregious as to offend his supporters or that he lose an election as interim leader so badly that the Prime Minister receives a majority mandate. Both of these paths would further cripple the Liberal Party of Canada and I cannot support a candidate whose hopes rest on outcomes so disastrous to my party.

Mr. Ignatieff continues to show himself parodoxically politically deft and deaf. It is clear, in spite of the protestations of his supporters, that the abbreviation of this leadership race is Mr. Ignatieff or his lieutenants doing. There was and is no valid reason why the party couldn't have chosen a neutral interim leader, provided support for Mr. Harper on confidence matters from now until early May and at that point make a decision as to whether or not to inflict upon Canadians the indignity of a fourth election in five years. While Mr. Harper was reckless and arrogant in his so-called fiscal update, it was equally reckless and arrogant for M. Dion to presume that Mr. Harper's mistakes justified the overturning of an election result barely fully settled in some ridings. Mr. Ignatieff' has been somewhere between obtuse and invisible during this affair. First he pledged his support for the coalition while quietly questioning its underlying strategy. Now, he has taken a "wait and see" approach, which while not unjustified, does seem a stark contrast to the rhetoric Mr. Ignatieff endorsed mere days ago. Mr. Ignatieff has used this engineered crisis, irrespective of its engineer, to justify his ascension to leadership without the due process of a leadership race. I would have given Mr. Ignatieff good odds of winning that race had it been run to its proper conclusion. Now, he is a lock to win a further tarnished crown. In the midst of World War II, Democrats and Republicans in the United Staate held normal political conventions in order to choose their leadership for the elections. Democrats after much acrimony selected Harry Truman to be their Vice Presidential nominee 1944. Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey for President the same year. The crisis that the country faced did not curtail the democratic process. Our commitment to democracy is not tested when times are good and it is easy to allow for the slow gears of our system to turn; it is tested in times of crisis, times like these for the Liberal Party of Canada. We are dangerously close to failing that test. Mr. Ignatieff, by his inaction in his role as the frontrunner in this race if nothing else, bears an especial blame for that failure.

If, as is expected, the national caucus of the Liberal Party of Canada reccomends Michael Ignatieff for the position of interim leader on Wednesday, it will send a clear message to the Liberal party rank and file. A message louder and clearer than any words uttered Mr. Ignatieff or his surrogates. The message will be "This is our party, not yours." The members of the Liberal Party of Canada are not another consultative body available to its leaders. The membership is the Liberal Party. Mr. Ignatieff may believe that like a long-time occupying army gaining the trust of the native people, his leadership may eventually be welcomed by those that oppose him now. He is wrong. I do not intend to prove him wrong myself, but nothing in the history of the Liberal Party leads me to believe that people will forget this insult.

I will continue to support the Liberal Party of Canada. I joined the party in the run-up to the 2004 election not because I particularly liked the leader but because I believed that the party as a whole was best suited to govern this country in good times or bad. I worked tirelessly in the last election for the party under M. Dion not because I agreed with the central plank of his platform or because I believed him to be anything more than a competent manager but because I still believed in the essential pragmatism and common sense of the party. So moving forward, I can only hope that Mr. Ignatieff (or on the off-chance Mr. Rae) proves me wrong. Regardless, I will work for the election of a Liberal government because I believe in the promise of this party and its membership. I still believe the people of Toronto-Danforth deserve better than an absentee MP who has more respect for conspiracy theorists than employers. I still believe that Canada deserves better than a Prime Minister who does not believe in the federal government both because it is a government and because it is federal. In sum, I may not be inspired by my leader but I still have faith in the membership of the Liberal Party of Canada and I still support the party that they constitute. Therefore, I can do nothing else but wish Mr. Ignatieff luck and work dilligently for his success.

My membership in this party expires December 31st and, to be honest, there were times in the last 48 hours where I considered letting it lapse. For about 15 of those hours the only words I could say on the matter were "coup" and "P.U.M.A." I have calmed down enough to realize that no matter the errors, this is still my party. I watched with great sadness and profound gratitude the repatriation ceremony for Cpl. Mark McLaren, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros and Warrant Officer Robert Wilson. The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are heroes. That cannot be overstated. Watching the ceremony with its stark contrast of military discipline and formality and raw unfetered human emotion is profoundly moving no matter what your political philosophy. It is moments like these that remind me that for all the pettiness, for all the inanity, politics is more than a game. It is a matter, in many cases, of life and death. It is too important to simply back away from when something you don't like takes place. Thus, I will continue to contribute to our political process because I believe it is the duty of each and everyone of us as citizens of this great country. I wrote this post as much for myself as for anyone else and if it seems melodramatic or condescending, I apologize. I needed to vent and figured this was as good a forum as any.


Andy said...

I don't think you need to regret writing that. Just stand your ground.

partisanhobo said...

Great piece - very well I said. I think you're right when you say, "Mr. Ignatieff continues to show himself parodoxically politically deft and deaf." He clearly knows how to get ahead, but it will be interesting to see how the general public responds to him.

I didn't find your piece melodramatic at all ... In fact, I like it when you write about the political matters that you do believe in. We need more of this online. It's time to talk about the issues for a change. Thank you.

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