Ignatieff leadership gain of LeBlanc and the scuttling of the Liberal-NDP coalition?


News that is late-breaking tonight suggests that Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc will drop out of the Liberal leadership race and endorse Michael Ignatieff.  It is rumoured that Leblanc will provide Ignatieff with an additional nine members of the Liberal caucus in what is shaping up to be a backroom leadership election by caucus.  Leblanc’s move over to the Ignatieff camp should be smooth for Leblanc supporters as some senior east-coast Liberal organizers who were initially eyeing Frank McKenna for the top job of that party chose Leblanc instead.  New Brunswicker Steve McKinnon, who would have backed McKenna has charted the waters for martime Liberals to sail over to Ignatieff.

This late development means that Bob Rae, who is beating a path coast-to-coast promoting the coalition concept, finds himself further behind now that Ignatieff enjoys an even more comfortable lead among caucus colleagues.  Somewhat ironic is the fact that the coalition deal was struck out of a sense of urgency (or opportunity) to topple the Harper government and that this sense of urgency is also driving the Liberal party to select a leader via caucus selection.  Strategically, Rae should now advocate for a period of Liberal introspection, an abandonment of the push to a coalition with the Bloc and to have a real (yet delegated) full-blown leadership election.  As it stands, Rae would fare worse under the urgent scenario than that which allows the Prime Minister to stay in power for now.

And why not? Some time for the Liberal party to heal might do them some good.  Joining up with the NDP erodes the brand of both parties and upsets each ideological base.  True, those that seek power despite principle would rather see Stephen Harper evicted from 24 Sussex tomorrow.  However, for the longterm livelihood of the Liberal party they ought to take some time out to rebuild, to fundraise and to craft an original policy platform – one without the word “shift”.

If Michael Ignatieff does assume the helm of the Liberal Party via caucus selection, the January throne speech/budget combo should pass through Liberal abstention.  Poll numbers are showing poor support for a Liberal-NDP coalition and Ignatieff himself has never been warm to the idea.  Besides, don’t you get the sense that Iggy is the sort who plays the long game rather than leaps before he looks? A number of Liberals in caucus have privately expressed concerns over the coalition proposal and most scenarios of how a coalition would play out are unknown and therefore should be somewhat worrisome to most.

For Mr. Dion, the coalition concoction was to be his magical elixir which promised new life.  Realistically, his leadership prospects have been long dead.  For Mr. Rae to avoid a quick demise, he should insist upon a delegated leadership election as planned meaning that the coalition ought to be on hold for now or done like Dion.

Stephen Taylor is a conservative commentator and a fellow at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

Filed under:

Ignatieff leadership gain of LeBlanc and the scuttling of the Liberal-NDP coalition?

  1. This is a good post. “Done like Dion” is funny. Maybe this Stephen Taylor isn’t bad after all.

    Man, weeks in politics were never longer. This next one may see the Count wielding the Liberal knout. In that case, the Liberals would emerge with a new, popular leader way ahead of schedule; Harper’s image much tainted; and popular feeling against the NDP way up. So: Harper disaster yields to Harper triumph yields to Liberal victory. Who knew?

  2. I would like to thank Macleans.ca for the disclaimer they added at the end of this post.

  3. Stephen, first congrats on joining Blog Central at Macleans. I hope you blog here often.

    I agree that what is best for the Liberals and NDP is not joining in some kind of fly-by-night coalition. Ironically, what is best for the Conservatives is for the coalition to succeed, alienate vast swaths of Canadians, and roll back into power in 2010 or 2011 under a majority so strong it will reduce the opposition to an afterthought of an afterthought.

    Ignatieff will likely pull back from the abyss. But then again, it must be awfully tempting to jump into the PMO now.

  4. Bob Rae has been hoisted on his own petard. His position is that MP’s are good enough to select a prime minister. Why shouldn’t they be good enough to select the Liberal leader?

    The emergency which requires the first (the coalition seizing power) is the same emergency that requires the second (caucus selecting the Liberal leader). And if the second isn’t an emergency, well than the first then also isn’t.

    Rae can’t have it both ways.

  5. I dunno, Raphael, I get the feeling both Layton and the Count are serious Alpha Males and wouldn’t get along on the personal level; whereas Dion, in spite of hubris, will have benefited from Layton’s turbo style. I doubt the Igginator wants to sit down at the Cabinet table every week & sit quietly across from Layton’s ego. Plus he hasn’t been waiting his whole life for this — what, two years ago he was sitting around in Boston, he probably still can’t believe he’s come this far this fast. Finally, the economy is about to blow up, and Harper’s been set up to take the blame for “not doing enough.” Pretty good time to be Leader of the Opposition with nowhere to go but up.

  6. Besides, don’t you get the sense that Iggy is the sort who plays the long game rather than leaps before he looks?

    * * *


  7. Now Taylor is proposing the Liberals abstain on the Budget Vote.. after being one of those mocking that exact strategy they followed for the better part of 2 years?

    The last thing Liberals need to be doing is following the head of the Blogging Tories advice.. with all due respect to Stephen.

  8. Hmmm, an old male stag vs a young male buck…….yup, I say we take our chances!

  9. I suspect the coalition is kaput. Even assuming the best of intentions, Jack won’t have the patience for Ignatieff conducting interminable debates with his bathroom mirror every morning.

    The Liberals are lost. And Harper has horseshoes up his butt.

  10. “why should I sell your wheat” – It’s fine for MPs to select a Prime Minister because they represent the electorate of Canada under our system; a Prime Minister they select would have the confidence of the House. It’s not fine for the Liberals MPs to elect a liberal leader because they do not represent the entire liberal party, but simply the wishes of those who elected them in their electoral districts this time around; the remainder of the liberal party are not represented.

    Ignatieff and his supporters want to gain power outside the democratic process to select a leader. I support Bob Rae’s ideas of a more inclusive campaign where the liberal party actually gets to select a leader, rather than being forced to accept one.

  11. For any Liberals who are reading Mr. Taylor’s blog…

    All I can say is consider the source of this “friendly advice” to our party, and then do the OPPOSITE of what he suggests.

  12. It’s funny. Remember all the hullabaloo against Rae when he wanted to have that one debate opened up to the public? If Ignatieff hadn’t objected then, we might have actually got to have at least one debate between the contenders. Instead, backroom shenanigans and a closed election.

  13. In the medium-long term I think it’s better for Iggy to officially back out of the coalition. Simply allowing the budget to pass via 24-hour-flu outbreak still leaves the stain of association (with the NDP and Bloc) on the Liberal Party.

    Iggy could also gain a huge amount of public good will by apologizing to the country for this mess; something Harper could never bring himself to do. Iggy’s best shot at the next election is to make it about personalities – Iggy to centrist conciliator vs. Harper the divisive bully – since a generic Liberal vs. Conservative match-up is bound to favour the Conservatives for some time yet.

  14. Well said Stephen, I think that Rae’s very public endorsement of the coalition of idiots will be his downfall. I live in BC and I can guarantee that anyone who goes into an election and has publicly endorsed this coalition will have a very hard time retaining their seat. I predict the Fiberals will loose seats in BC next election, the NDP will loose their Alberta seat, and the Liberals /NDP will loose one to three seats in Manitoba.

  15. Yes, plenty of interesting developments now and ahead. Hopefully it won’t detract from a few inquiring journos and columnists (Taylor excluded) who’ll delve into Harper’s current pet project, mob rule. Like saying that if he doesn’t get what he wants from the elected house (in other words, Oct’s result was no result), and the Governor-General’s decision doesn’t mix with his own, he’ll go to the people.
    Since he hasn’t tried to reach across a minority parliament to work for the benefit of all, that would pretty much sum up the idea of who he’s reaching out to in the general public and who he has designs on.
    I guess if you can’t win a majority against weak-leader Dion fairly, the next obstacle is to take on the system itself.

  16. What the Libs are doing now reminds me of UK Tories after they were wiped out by New Labour in late ’90’s. Tories had a leader that was popular with base but not with caucus, they get rid of him and then had caucus nominate a leader, someone they liked, but base hated new leader and wasn’t impressed that their vote had been taken away either. It’s led to lots of internal strife and electorate kept on voting New Labour.

    If Iggy just takes over from Dion without a nomination process, convention, there will be lots of Lib supporters who won’t like Iggy and they will constantly be talking about how he’s isn’t legitimate, wasn’t voted on by delegates …. etc their complaints and whinging will be endless.

    Surely the Libs can organize an election, say one person one vote, and let their supporters be part of picking new leader by mid to late January. This would also give the new leader some legitimacy outside the Lib party. Iggy’s never been part of winning caucus or won a leadership race or been part of Cabinet or presented a platform. Who even knows what Iggy thinks about anything. I think there will be lots of questions about Iggy legitimacy if he’s crowned this week by caucus and then takes over as PM if Coalition holds together and GG doesn’t call election after Cons lose confidence vote on Budget.

  17. You Ottowa types really don’t get it, do you?

    For those of us out here in the rest of Canada, it’s not about power – it’s about policy. 62 percent of us voted for a progressive choice – either Liberal, NDP or Green. We’re tired of the left bickering over the fine points, and allowing the Tories – whose policies are anathema to us, and bad for Canada – to swim up the middle.

    We don’t care about Liberal branding getting confused with NDP branding. We care about Tories running roughshod over the country!

  18. (First of all thanks Stephen for appearing at the rally against the coaltion in Ottawa on Saturday. It was the largest one in Canada depite being held in our Liberal/NDP city – at least the urban part is).

    MSM once again failed to serve the Canadian people when they ignored the most important aspect of John Manley’s article this weekend – the rejection of the coalition, and the only prominent Liberal to have the spine to do so. Instead they rushed to carry the unofficial the Liberal Party bosses’ message that Dion had to go … duh.

    I might wish to think that Manley’s main message was obscured because of malice but I have to acknowledge the probability it was because of incompetence.

  19. Here’s today’s real story:

    A few days ago, the Liberal caucus signed a declaration that they unanimously supported Stephane Dion to take over in these troubled times for the good of Canada. They delivered it to the Governor General.

    Now the same Liberal caucus are telling us this morning that they lied to GG, Michaelle Jean, and in fact they don’t support Dion at all, not even as their own leader. Had the Canadian people not reacted immediately and rejected this constitutionally legitimate coup d’etat, this afternoon we would be in the process of a change in government – all as a result of the Liberal sedition.

    Is any more evidence required to show that this whole thing was a manufactured “crisis”, and a naked Liberal grab for power and had nothing to do with the interest of Canada? The Liberal caucus must be held accountable.

  20. If it was a power grab why would Dion have already planned his own exit? Harper simply forced Dion to act and form the coalition, as it was the only means to putting an end to Harper’s consistent divisive tactics.

    The coalition might not be the greatest thing, but it’s better than having a divisive leader like PM leading our country. That being said, I don’t expect the coalition to last longer than is necessary. How long it is necessary will depend on Harper and the Conservatives. If Harper tables a better plan, and Ignatieff is leader, one could expect the coalition to dissolve. If the Conservatives remove Harper, then the coalition could dissolve there too.

    The coalition is simply a necessary response to Harper and Harper alone. And contrary to many opinions out there, it is perfectly legal and entirely democratic.

  21. The coalition is not necessary. In fact, it is a colossally stupid idea. I don’t think that’s a partisan statement.

  22. So Steve, you would prefer that right now Harper be still governing this country with his divisive tactics? If the coalition wasn’t formed, Harper would still be going at it, poking the opposition again and again. Could someone please explain to Harper the difference between “minority” and “majority?”

  23. MSM completely missed or misrepresented three major stories in the past week.

    1. The inevitable reaction to the coalition in Western Canada. Instead MSM ran with the Liberal PR alleging a non-existent backlash in Quebec.

    2. The first eminent Liberal (Manley) to reject the coalition in the absence of any member of the LIberal caucus to do so. MSM instead focussed on his request for Dion to step down.

    3. This morning’s abandonment of Dion by the Liberal caucus after they signed a declaration to support him that was delivered to the Governor General. In another era, lying to the Crown was called sedition and the plotters were hanged.

    … but that was the good old days :-)

  24. “do the OPPOSITE of what he suggests”

    Actually he’s just catching up to the Liberal caucus’s current project. Rae rolled them when they picked a weak interim. By making Ignatieff the next interim they completely reverse Rae’s incentives. Under Dion, Rae needed the coalition. Under Ignatieff, Rae cannot afford the coalition.

  25. WTF. Why is Macleans hiring Conservative spin-doctors to write here? Stephen Taylor is the boss of the Blogging Tories aka Conservative Party official bloggers. For anyone who’s never read those “special” bloggers, I highly recommend you do so before putting any credibility in this guy. What the hell is Macleans trying to do. There are numerous examples of conservative bias news in print, television and radio. A rare place where I thought I could avoid these jerks was on Macleans. Now, I’ll have to stop browsing your site.

  26. Zoe. Another member of Canada’s tolerant, open-minded left.

  27. I’m sorry, but WTF is Stephen Taylor doing here?

  28. Oh, that “left wing media bias” rears its ugly head.

  29. Well, maybe he just wants to wear two hats; maybe he’s trying to come in from the cold. I’ve never read any of this “Blogging Tories” stuff (why would I read a nakedly partisan site?) but I don’t see how this post here is biased.

    Perhaps Mr. Taylor might capitalise the C in “Stephen Taylor is a conservative commentator”; last I heard, association with Harper was offensive to small-c conservatives.

  30. Zoé and Big Daddy: I’d like to know what parts of my article that you agree with and which parts you disagree with.

    Do you agree that a coalition government is less viable today than it was a few days ago? Is this because things are trending towards Ignatieff and the front-runner would rather rebuild the party instead of jump into an unpredictable partnership with parties that have their own interest?

  31. Why oh why would any one with an opinion be allowed to post here.

  32. @Jack: Here’s the definition I adhere to. A big C Conservative represents the brand/party because “Conservative” is a proper noun. A small c conservative is one that represents the movement because “conservative” is an adjective.

    In my opinion, all Conservatives should be conservative but all conservatives need not be Conservative.

  33. Zoe: “Perhaps I am not tolerant of intolerant people, “. There you have it. Zoe will not tolerate intolerance.

  34. Well, that’s fair enough, and since I’m reading your stuff for the first time I’ll suspend judgment as to whether you’re a conservative Conservative (if, indeed, you are a Conservative — I’m tabula rasa here) or a Jacobin Conservative. En garde, M. Taylor!

  35. @Jack: The conservative movement will always survive. There have been many iterations of “Conservative” parties in the past.

  36. In my opinion, all Conservatives should be conservative but all conservatives need not be Conservative.

    Under Harper, this is clearly not the case.

    So all you guys (i.e. conservatives) are left with is an illusion of disastrous proportions…


  37. @Mr. Taylor: Ah, now you’re hinting you’re a Jacobin. In what does “the conservative movement” consist? A peaceful, orderly, and hierarchical society? That’s the way we used to be in Canada. By contrast, if “the conservative movement” is in favour of the status quo, i.e. they want to “conserve” what we have, then presumably they’re in favour of the welfare state, redistribution, and the Charter. But if it’s grassroots populism that wants to radically reorganise our public institutions and values, the one thing it isn’t is “conservative.”

  38. @Austin So: Can you think of what it means to be a Liberal partisan vs. an adherent to the liberal movement?

    The NDP is undergirded by a socialist/labour democratic movement.

    The conservative movement sustains the Conservative Party.

    The greens also have a large movement behind the Green Party.

    But the Liberals?

    What moves people to be Liberal?

  39. Stephen Taylor: “What moves people to be Liberal?”

    I believe it’s their exasperating (to me) conservativism.

  40. With luck, nothing. Hopefully, Liberal is what people are when they haven’t subscribed to any “movement” at all, but when they are simply concerned with being decent people with a decent government.

    Ideally, a Liberal is someone without any specific ideology that dictates their decisions, but instead is someone who looks at the actual situation and determines their decision based on the facts available.

  41. @Jack: This has always been a fun game… to sort out the terms muddled by history and er, um “coalescing” of various party elements.

    I would define myself as a “classical liberal”

    I believe we find our home within the modern conservative movement in Canada.

  42. @T. Thwim: a pragmatist!

    Fair enough… but short on inspiring for people looking for new ideas.

  43. Yes, I’d agree (from my scanty information) that’s what you are; so the only problem is that “the conservative movement” is misnamed. May I suggest “the vile Whigs”?

  44. “Ideally, a Liberal is someone without any specific ideology that dictates their decisions, but instead is someone who looks at the actual situation and determines their decision based on the facts available.”

    Exactly. Or more simply, a centrist.

    Sometimes you go right, sometimes you go left. When you make decisions based solely on how you’ve been raised, sometimes you make blind judgments. No movement in the history of the world has been proven to be perfect, so why would anyone throw their support behind one? Is there something wrong with admittedly not always knowing the correct course to take? Most movements seem to think that their methods will lead to a utopia of some kind, if only the damned opponents would accept it!

  45. Just thought I’d update everyone: Ignatieff just sent out an email stating that he will stand for confirmation at a convention in May if the Liberal executive and caucus select him sooner than that.

  46. Aha, the game’s afoot!

  47. Confirmation?

  48. Leblanc’s press conference on now continues the current Liberal game plan to switch channels from the Liberal manufactured crisis to Stephen Harper.

    As the polls show, there’s no national crisis or dissatisfaction with Harper. There is a self-inflicted Liberal Party crisis. Public denial won’t change this. Canadians have already seen through it.

  49. Actually, Jeff, Harper’s personal numbers are way down.

  50. Yeah, are you sure about that Jeff? Sounded to me like a lot of Conservatives were furious with Harper’s actions while also being anti-Coalition.

  51. @Stephen Taylor
    Can you think of what it means to be a Liberal partisan vs. an adherent to the liberal movement?
    What moves people to be Liberal?

    Claims of “partisan” aside, seems that people have more or less given my answer to these questions.

    Did you appreciate the distinction made between “Conservatives” and “Conservatives under Harper”?

    According to you:
    1. all Conservatives should be conservative
    2. all conservatives need not be Conservative.

    Can you tell me in what way a small-c conservative (as currently defined) could identify with the fiscal actions of the Conservative party under Harper (posit #1…which I assume is the basis for your self-identification as a “classical liberal”)?

    I frankly do not see it, so I’d be interested in your take.


  52. Mr. Taylor:

    Perhaps as a Conservative blogger you can fill us in on what’s going on inside your party. The mainstream press seems to have abdicated its responsibility to keep us informed about both sides of the story.

  53. Bob Fife to Leblanc,

    … you cooked up one backroom deal (the Coalition) that has offended Canadians and now aren’t you proposing another one by asking Ignatieff to be appointed by the Liberal Party National Council? Aren’t you out of touch with Canadians?

    Leblanc switches channels back to Stephen Harper.

  54. These knuckleheads are too stupid to see the answer is to dump the coalition and allow the Vancouver leader selection to go ahead as scheduled. Harper’s going to be in power for at least 18 months anyway.

    Rae’s on now claiming the Ignatieff way is undemocratic and digging the hole deeper.

    The last few days have been fun, and the Liberal circus continues.

  55. True, those that seek power despite principle would rather see Stephen Harper evicted from 24 Sussex tomorrow.

    It isn’t just people who want power who want to see Harper gone. Some of us just want Harper gone.

  56. Open warfare has now broken out in public.

    Leblanc as a proxy for Ignatieff. Now Rae it’s lobbing grenades with help from Kennedy.

    It’s laughable that Rae is pleading for democracy within the Liberal Party after being the chief Liberal cheerleader for the most undemocratic attempt to seize power in Canadian history.

    Will Ignatieff going to continue to remain silent?

  57. @ Jeff.J: I’m by no means a supporter of the coalition, but calling it ‘undemocratic’ belies an ignorance of how our democracy works.

  58. I agree with Ryan (he’s not me). I am tired of the Conservatives and their supporters repeating the line that this isn’t “democratic.” Either they’re all idiots, or just willfully ignorant. Or I suppose they believe that if you just keep repeating a lie over and over it’ll make it true.

    Regardless, it’s shameless. The coalition is purely democratic.

  59. I can’t fathom the objection to someone who belongs to a partisan aggregate of bloggers sharing his opinions on Macleans. Stephen Taylor is well connected to the Conservative Party and offers insights that few others are availed.

    I also object to the characterization of the Blogging Tories. I’ve blogged there for a year and a half with numerous critical articles about the Conservative party and I’ve never been asked to leave or change my writing. There’s plenty of anti-Harper bias out there, and anti-conservative bias, and diversity of opinion merely levels the playing field.

  60. Zoe, how open-minded and tolerant you are! Stepen is writing for Macleans because he is popular and has wide spread appeal. If Macleans should can anybody it is the nakedly partisan Aaron Wherry and Scott Feschuk (former Liberal strategist).

  61. Why does Macleans allow Taylor to post here? Why not just post the Tories daily talking points? His opinion is not his own, he is a tool of the PMO and CPC comms team.

  62. Fair enough… but short on inspiring for people looking for new ideas.

    I’m trying to figure what new ideas have sprung from “movement conservatism” these days that aren’t simply old ideas that were rejected as unpopular in the past..

    The one I can think of is the thrill of being part of a “movement” for people who don’t have much else going on in their lives that is truly inspiring.

    The whole notion of “movements” is probably want Liberals are find unappealing.

  63. Yeesh…that last sentence was badly mangled.

    s.b. “The whole notion of “movements” is probably what Liberals find unappealing.”

  64. As long as the disclaimer is kept up and Mr. Taylor is paid by the Conservative Party rather than the government or MacLeans, I think it is an excellent idea to run it here. Welcome Mr. Taylor.

  65. For the record, I most strenuously object to Macleans parachuting Stephen Taylor into this mix, especially in light of Taylor’s most obvious hyper partisan bias, demonstrated prior to his joining Macleans.

  66. Okay Dennis. Meanwhile I just clicked on the “get 4 issues free alongside this swell bonus gift” thereby monetizing the efforts of management to bring Stephen on board.


  67. Perhaps this conversation would be aided by you, making clear exactly what your relationship with the CPC, and all its tentacles and affiliates (e.g., the Manning Centre). BTW, I would say the key issue is not pay. There are much greater ways that influence can be achieved beyond strictly direct monetary inducements.

    Regardless, It makes no apparent sense to me why Macleans as a reputable journalistic organization is providing a forum for the musings of an unabashed government partisan, especially when it is not extending that same platform to any other party.

  68. it has nothing to do with the article – why are YOU, HERE? Journalists dont organize rallies.

    If Macleans is opening the journalism door to political hacks, it should just say so.

    You are not paid by the Conservative Party. You are paid to promote and help them.

Sign in to comment.