It’s funny how quickly these things happen. The federal Liberal Party, which was for decades was the default choice of Canadians to form government, finds itself in third place behind the ruling Conservatives and the NDP. It seems sudden but perhaps we can trace this back to when Paul Martin was briefly prime minister. They never did recover from the sponsorship scandal and nobody who has been chosen to replace Paul Martin has been able to muster anything near the support they once had.
The thing that bothers me about the Liberal Party is their insistence that a high-born son (and certainly never a daughter) of a establishment family will be the one to take them out of the wilderness. Pierre Trudeau was born into a rich family. Paul Martin is the son of Paul Martin, the owner of Canada Steamship Lines. Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff were sons of privilege who attended Upper Canada College. And now, two of the rumoured candidates for Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau and Dominic Leblanc, are, respectively, the sons of a prime minister and a governor-general. Missing from the equation is Jean Chrétien who led the party to three consecutive majorities. But, like Brian Mulroney before him, he was born to working class parents in a small Quebec town. And yet for a while he maintained a level of popularity across Canada.
But the Liberals often seem to fall back on this idea that, as long as you have roots in what Peter C. Newman called The Canadian Establishment, you’re their man. And they wonder why they can’t shake this idea that they’re elitist.
I have no real opinion of who would best lead the Liberals or even if they’ll ever return to their national prominence. Right now, the fight is really between the NDP and the Conservatives. I have no beef with Justin Trudeau, except when he asks himself questions in the third person and then answers them. He’s a little grandiose for my liking but, still, kudos to him for winning his seat in a riding that nobody expected him to win. Marc Garneau is interesting as a potential leader as well because, you know, astronaut.
As far possible other contenders, there is one MP named Ted Hsu from Kingston who has a Ph.D. in physics, worked in the banking industry, was a stay at home dad, is into alternative energy, and uses WordPress for his blog. Maybe the Liberals could go outside their usual bubble for their new leader. While I’m on record as a (literally) card-carrying member of the NDP, I think Canada do worse than to have a Prime Minister who knows science, finance, sustainable development, child care, and good blogging platforms.