Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An outsider's take on the Liberals' "super-weekend"

I don't have a dog in the Liberal leadership fight, but I am a big fat geek, so I've been hitting refresh on this page more times than I can count this weekend. And now that most of the results are in, tentative analyses can start. Here's mine:

The race has now separated into three categories: a frontrunner (Ignatieff), three others with a fine showing who could conceivably still win (Rae, Dion, and Kennedy), and four also-rans who have absolutely no chance. This is not a surprise. What makes things somewhat more exciting, though, are some of the details. Ignatieff is the clear front-runner, and the only one with a strong showing in every province--but he's well short of the 50% he needs to win, and he seems to have as many detractors as fans, which will not serve him well on second or third ballots. Rae has also done very well, even winning a few provinces--but his somewhat poorer showing in his home province of Ontario will lend credence to the naysayers who think his longago premiership there makes him poison. Dion is a strong second to Ignatieff in Quebec, which indicates a much clearer redemption for him there than for Rae in Ontario--but his results are lukewarm overall. Kennedy has strong support in several provinces, especially in the west--but his dismal (less than 2%!) numbers in Quebec must be a terrible shock to his team.

How this all plays out will depend on a number of factors. Ignatieff is in a tough position, and can only win at this point if he can manage to somehow convince a lot of delegates that he should be their second choice. This may not be doable. Kennedy is in the exact opposite position, but with a similar effect: he's well-liked across the board, but Quebec is a dealbreaker. Although he could theoretically come up with the numbers to win, Liberals are going to go into their second and third ballots well aware that making him the leader would mean conceding the next election, and they're feeling far too optimistic for that right now. Rae and Dion, on the other hand, are in far better overall positions, and at this point one of them seems far more likely to take it than either Ignatieff or Kennedy. But even this isn't simple, because a lot turns on what Kennedy decides to do next. Will he hang on until the bitter end, or will he throw his weight behind one of his rivals? If he does endorse someone else, then who? He could very well be in a position to choose the next leader all on his own if he's willing to concede defeat either just before the convention or early in the convention.

Mostly, though, I've come to the conclusion that I really need more elections in my life where I don't give two figs about the outcome. Because this has been fun.

[Update: Paul Wells thinks I'm wrong--it's going to be Ignatieff after all. He also doesn't sound terribly happy about that.]


Anonymous said...

Rae's dismal showing in Ontario should rule him out. The Liberals have to win Ontario - not just do well, but solidly win it if they have any hope in hell of forming a government. They also have to do much better in Quebec. The rest of the country doesn't matter quite as much (sad but true). But without Ontario in particular, the party is doomed.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I'd agree with you if it weren't for the fact that Rae's numbers in Ontario are disappointing, but not exactly dismal. Dismal is Kennedy's showing in Quebec. With 17% in Ontario (a couple of points less than his overall total), Rae should worry, but he's not disqualified.

M@ said...

Actually, as an Ontarian, Rae winning the Liberal leadership would probably push me to vote NDP. I have absolutely zero faith in the man. Though I think he might be good for the liberal party -- that just doesn't do anything for me personally.

Dion and Kennedy are the only ones I think I could vote for with confidence. Ignatieff... I liked some stuff from his books but I don't like the idea of him as PM somehow.

Interesting times.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


It's been interesting hearing from people saying that if x candidate wins the race, they'll vote for y party instead of the Liberals. As a counterpart to you, for example, there are those Blue Grits who say that if Rae wins, they'll vote Conservative. The electorate is so volatile here, it always fascinates me.

For me it's all moot, of course, even if I did have a favourite Liberal candidate. After all, even according to the Liberals' own strategic-voting logic, sane people wouldn't vote Liberal if they wanted to try and oust the sitting Tory in Edmonton-Strathcona.... *grin*

Anonymous said...

Ignatieff used the same ploy as Harper, and it worked like a charm.

Quebec's collective leaning is by far the furthest left of any province in the country. Witness the demonstrations in Montreal against Harper's stance on the Lebanon crisis compared to the muted response in the rest of the country. And support for Canada's role in Afghanistan is lowest in Quebec by a wide margin.

But time and again, Quebec has shown she won't hestitate selling out those ideals for a carte blanche on the issue of Quebec sovereignty.

Harper offered Quebec a greater voice on the international stage, and Quebec bestowed upon Canadians an ultra conservative right winged administration that they themselves would not touch with a ten foot pole for their own provincial affairs.

Ignatieff offers Quebec a nation within a nation status enshrined in the constitution, and he took a province that is a polar opposite to almost everything he's about and written.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

But time and again, Quebec has shown she won't hestitate selling out those ideals for a carte blanche on the issue of Quebec sovereignty.

As a Quebecker living in a district that elected a Conservative, I don't feel that to be true. The last election may have looked like that, but I think the result is better explained by a campaign on which no other candidate touched any subject that could have embarrassed the Conservatives in the eye of Quebeckers. The others were all too occupied at attacking the already doomed Liberals.

Other subjects debated, such as child care and health, are seen as provincial juridiction here and were totally uninteresting to see debated in a federal election. The Conservatives were the only one speaking about things that mattered to Quebeckers, and no one was there to ask them the embarrassing questions. And so they got the votes.

But I don't think Harper can be so lucky twice. That's even more true as he is very slow to fulfil his promises for Quebec in entirety. (Were they possible to achieve in the first place?) As for Michael Ignatieff, I'd be surprised to see him win many seats in Quebec the Harper way: the political climate in the next election will be different, as will be the expectations and the subjects to be debated.

I think many Quebeckers, with no good candidate in sight for the next election, will simply switch back to the empty chair... oops, I mean the Bloc.