And wandering through Cape Breton:
Rae, who took on the difficult job of interim leader following the Liberal’s devastating defeat in the May 2011 general election, will be replaced in April.
“I think it’s really important for the next leader to know you are not going to have some crazy uncle who is going to come down from the attic every once in a while and start screaming at everybody,” Rae told a meeting with the Cape Breton Post editorial board on Tuesday.
Hmmm. I take it that the Globe & Mail has stopped returning his calls.
In fairness, and we are occasionally fair to the second worst Premier in Ontario's history, the Bob has the most thankless job in Canadian politics. Worse even than the poor sucker who has to keep Rob Ford from tripping over his feet. The interim Liberal leader has to walk in the shadow of Justin Trudeau. Last week I explained Martha Hall Findlay's little outburst at Justin as a product of deep frustration.
Now Bob Rae is a professional pol down to his manicured finger tips. He would never have said anything so crass as suggesting that Justin is a spoiled brat. He is likely thinking it though. Being in politics is sort of like having dinner with the in-laws, after awhile you learn what not to say. Instead just smile, nod and say nice things about the gravy. The interim leader, therefore, has maintained absolute neutrality in public. If he's plotting something internally, we'll find out at the convention.
The Bob is now the political equivalent of the walking dead. The Zombie Leader of the Zombie Party. His career is over. If by some miracle the Liberals form a government in 2015 he'll be given a prestigious, though not very important, cabinet position. Something to assuage his ego without putting him too much in the way. But does the Bob want that? Not so long ago he was plotting to become Prime Minister. It was assumed he would be fighting to drop the interim from his job title. Then Justin appeared. If Justin's machine could spook Bob Rae, it should spook anyone.
It's unlikely that anyone as ambitious and shrewd as Rae is going to want to play glorified nanny to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Too much hassle and he's getting too old to change diapers. A nice send off and then a quiet though profitable retirement. That leaves Justin with one less experienced hand on his team, a team with a very weak bench strength. In losing Rae the next Liberal Leader will be losing one of the most effective scrappers in modern Canadian history.
So who does that leave Justin with? Scanning the House of Commons Grit caucus we meet a collection of never-heard-of and might-have-beens that would frighten a Socred meeting in the 1980s. There is Scott Brison, who used to be a PC, and knows something about economics. Unfortunately he is too Blue Liberal for the modern Liberal party. There is David McGuinty whose last name is radioactive in much of Ontario. The rest are Chretien-era hacks well past their best before date in politics.
While some opinion polls suggest that Justin might have traction in the country, they mean very little. We are two years from a general election. The Dauphin's support is concentrated in areas, mostly Central Canada, where he is in a three-way fight with the NDP and Tories. Most importantly of all the Son of Pierre has yet to face a real political fight. Tommy and Stephen are aching for the convention to be over so they can begin pounding the new Grit leader. They will seek to define Justin as a rich dilettante in way over his head. This is the moment both men have dreamed of for years, a witless Grit chieftain leading a forlorn crusade of the halt, lame and the politically crippled.
Weird things can still happen. A massive economic or political crisis could destroy the credibility of both Mulcair and Harper, leaving a desperate public looking for a Messiah. If Justin can control his latent shallowness for the length of the writ period, the boy might just have a chance. It's not likely, but it is possible. If in 1963 someone had said that in five years time a middle aged hippie with a million dollar inheritance would become Prime Minister, the suggestion would have been meet with derision. But then Diefenbaker imploded, Pearson failed to catch on and the grey men in the grey suits who surrounded both leaders got sideswiped by the pastel garishness of the decade.
You know what happened next.
Let us all pray, if that's the word, that the Tory war room is up to its usual tricks.
On a closing note, both for this post and his career, Bob Rae ended his talk with this observation about a possible NDP-Liberal Coalition:
“We don’t elect governments on that basis. You can’t run a country on that basis. You can’t run a country and be anti-business.”
It took you twenty-three years to figure that out, eh?