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Liberals: the natural grumbling party

BY PAUL WELLS


 

Bob Rae

From the Inkless emailbox (although actually it was solicited, because I got tipped off by supporters of another candidate and sent notes around to all the main Liberal leadership camps’ supporters tonight):

PRESS RELEASE

Rae Won’t Appear in Media-Lockout “Debate”

Nov. 15, 2008

Toronto — Liberal Leadership hopeful Bob Rae will not participate in the leadership candidate’s forum of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) on Sunday, November 16, 2008 unless the campaign of Michael Ignatieff agrees to withdraw its objection to opening the debate to the media, and its suggestion the debate be cancelled if a closed encounter cannot be agreed upon.

“It sends an awful signal to have a debate that is closed to the media, closed to Canadians”, said Rae, noting that the Conservatives have made closed no-media sessions a hallmark of their conventions under Stephen Harper.

The Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) is hosting a leadership candidates’ forum with Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Dominic Leblanc on Sunday afternoon. The party has indicated the debate will be closed to the media, but is prepared to open the debate to media if all campaigns agree. The Leblanc campaign agreed, but the Ignatieff campaign, as of 8:00 pm Saturday, refused to open the session to media.

“This isn’t a good note on which to start this race, and I think Liberals will be disappointed,” said Rae. The Rae campaign has called for a series of many open debates, starting immediately, across the country.

“I am calling for open debates, and I think we have to start right now, this weekend,” Rae said.

Rae has indicated he will run for the Liberal leadership, and will launch his campaign formally next week.

So that’s the Rae camp’s take.

I reached an Ignatieff supporter but, this late on a Saturday night, he wasn’t in the loop. My assumption is that if he were he’d say something like, this is a very preliminary, informal meeting, en famille, and two of the candidates haven’t even formally launched, so could we please have a chat among friends without inviting the cameras in just yet? Also probably the Ignatiefferati would probably point out that, as the Rae release itself acknowledges, the original decision was no-cameras, and it’s the others, not Ignatieff, who want to change horse in midstream. Or whatever the more apt metaphor would be.

Dominic LeBlanc supporters are saying this kind of instant ex nihilo Rae-Ig bickering is precisely why the party needs to look past them to…well, you know.

Inkless has no opinion, nor any real sense of surprise. It was so encouraging to see the period of mutual respect and accommodation among Liberal leadership contenders last fully one-third of the way through the announcements of the major candidacies. Sunday should be fun.


 

Liberals: the natural grumbling party

  1. And no, I have no idea why the text after the quote is tiny.

  2. I feel like we’re all caught in some endless Vedic hymn.

  3. That would be a programming error in the style sheets developed by wordpress for macleans.

    Let Bob Rae join the Greens if he doesn’t like the Liberals. The reds should kick him out.

  4. He’s always struck me as more of an NDP-type guy.

  5. Will someone else please, please join the race?
    I r e a l l y do not want to have to vote Bloc or NDP.

  6. What about Gilles Duceppe?

  7. If we can ignore the whole independant-Québec bit, he’d be a great Liberal Leader. How about.. Danny Williams?
    If I have to confine myself to living Liberals… Todd Russel would be great. Or Glen Pearson.
    It’s not that the party doesn’t have great MPs, its that they’d all really rather not be leader.

  8. I see Stompin’ Tom hasn’t yet picked up on our idea yet, though there’s still time . . .

    I like the idea of using a non-living Liberal. Maybe St-Laurent? Everybody likes St-Laurent.

    Seriously, what about Glen Pearson? If only it weren’t for this dang $90 000 entry fee . . . Or do you think he’d decline even if unanimously acclaimed?

  9. i think the problem with Stompin’ Tom is we’re suggesting Prime Minister. Thats a scary thought. Maybe we need to specify ‘Liberal Leader”.
    If we’re going to do non-living, hell, let’s go whole hog and use Laurier or Pearson.
    Speaking of Pearson, can you make someone become Liberal Leader… because something tells me he’d just decline.

  10. A bloggers’ call to arms if there ever was one.

    Since the Party, in its infinite wisdom , will ban media from the event, it’s up to you to get footage and smuggle it out. Post it online, link to it from here, or whatever.

  11. How is it possible that we are really this bankrupt for leadership in this country? Not just the Liberals but the Tories & NDP too: no obvious successors to Harper or Layton. (Well, Olivia Chow would do but I can’t quite see her giving Jack Layton the old heave-ho.) It says a lot about the party system we have, I think. It attacts only those willing to pay their dues for 20 years, glad-handing and arm-twisting, while they feign loyalty and wait for The Day. Problem is, that’s just the personality type that can’t inspire, can’t think up new ideas, can’t reform a Party or a nation. As the party with the least raison d’être, the Liberals are most conspicuously the victims of this phenomenon, but all are afflicted. What’s to blame? FPTP?

  12. You see the same thing happening in the UK, and you did see the same happening in the US. We can’t blame FPTP. The problem is, the people who would be good at running our country, don’t want to. Maybe the tone of our politics is to blame. I mean, after the last debacle, who really wants to put themselves through months and months of character defamation?

  13. What is Ignatieff afraid of saying “on the record”?

  14. I live in northern BC and I want to know where the candidates stand. I don’t know if they are ever going to come out this way, but even if they do, I want to know that the debate is open.

  15. So, they’ve been talking ALL week about this being closed door – and then Rae pulls a last minute tactic of I don’t want to play and I want Michael to look bad.

    I assume this was agreed to when planning – so why has Rae pulled this stunt? Last minute – uh, huh. Why didn’t he say so in the beginning and why a press release.

    I’m getting a headache already from this race.

  16. Media not allowed into a Liberal function? …And here I thought it was only those dastardly Conservatives that ‘hid’ from the press. Yet I have yet to hear a single criticizm of the Liberals from the media over this. I wonder why….?

  17. Savant’s complaint that the media aren’t criticizing the Liberals for this comes in a comment thread on a media blog in which the Liberals are criticized for this.

    Fun bonus fact: “Savant” comes from a French word meaning “smart.”

  18. Iggy – not a leader?

  19. With Iggy possibly immytating Harper’s closed-door campaign style, why don’t we just have TV studio based campaigns with party supporters chromakeyed in the background?

  20. If you all remember, it was a clip from the last leadership race that haunted and taunted Liberals ever since — Dion saying ” do you think it’s easy to make priorities?” and Iggy saying “We didn’t get it done.”

    My guess is once bitten, twice burned so Iggy is trying to keep the cameras away. He probably feels the cannot debate each other clearly if they have to worry about looking splintered later to the public.

    I’d like to read some more commentary on Leblanc — does anyone know much about him yet? He seems like a likeable enough guy, but does he have the e-factor (electability)?

  21. Let’s see Paul, first if Bob Rae had never brought this up would have even heard a peep? Secondly, has this story made it into the newspapers & newscasts nationwide? The Tory story made it into the MSM. Hate to break it you, but your blog is not the Toronto Star or The National.

    Fun bonus fact: A ‘well’ is physics is a region of minimum potential.

    Let’s all play this fun game when making fun of other comments!

  22. Well (having felt a strange compulsion to start with that word) the story is in The Star and on CTV. But your point remains, I don’t believe that the New York Times has picked it up yet.

  23. In other fun news, I’m about to go to Tim Horton’s! Why the media blackout? What are they hiding about my caffeine consumption? Cui bono?

  24. The story broke on a Saturday night, Ken. So it wasn’t in the papers until Sunday morning, You’re right, it’s a conspiracy.

  25. The point still remains: The debate was CLOSED to the media, no problem at all, no news, no nothing… Then Bob wants his name in the media and poof! the media obliges.

    Most people that read look for words like “first” to indicate multiple points, which is the real question as to the double standards that exist. I will concede my second point, as I had yet to go anywhere save a few blogs with my morning coffee.

  26. Isn’t this event scheduled to start in a few hours? Is it on or is it off? I suspect Bob really wanted to go to the Santa Claus parade.

  27. I’m a little fuzzy on the timeline. At what point was the debate among three candidates who haven’t yet paid their deposits going to turn into a national policy convention?

  28. Talk about negative advertising and attack mode — Can any Liberal anywhere say anything without throwing a gratuitus slam against Conservatives? Aside from that, this is a self-serving story line by journalists – Party members should be allowed to have discussions and debates amoung themselves without the press sticking their noses everywhere. Canadians don’ t have the right to know every thought, opinion, or view of the average party member. Besides, the media don’t really care what these discussions are about, they simply want some comment they can jump on, spin for dramatic effect and turn it into a headline.

  29. Actually Ken. Media has been requesting access for nearly a week now.The ED of LPCO had to issue a statement stating there would be no access. But, the media has been asking. Finally, one of the leadership candidates came forward and answered the media’s question as to why they wouldn’t be allowed.

    Yes I will be there and yes I will be bloggin about this.

  30. Ron – It seems to be two of the three not-yet-official candidates who want to open the debate to the media; as far as I know, it wasn’t an issue for us until we found out about it through a press release by Bob Rae. By coincidence, however, the question of the “closed-door debate” actually did come up on Friday, courtesy of a Conservative-supporting commenter who demanded to know why we weren’t reporting *that* instead of focusing on the lockdown in Winnipeg. I’m starting to wonder whether this whole controversy didn’t spring, fully formed, from the head of a clearly-too-smart-for-the-War-Room Tory strategist (I’d say ‘operative’ but that has a pejorative slant, and it really would be very clever) who found out about the LPCO meeting and realized that this could be used to blunt criticism of the convention protocol.

  31. I think the mysterious MSM should run for leader.

    Anyone despised that much by the Conservatives is a shoo-in…

  32. No media?

    Wohoo! Blogger monopoly on coverage!

  33. Well, it has garnered some media attention to an event which otherwise (and likely still will be) a sparsely attended event in a Mississauga hotel room, with some unofficial candidates competing with Santa Claus.

  34. I wonder if Rae’s decision to not participate today is as ironclad as McCain’s announcement that he would not appear at first presidential debate. To me, this comes across as Rae taking his ball and going home because the others won’t play by his rules. I look forward to seeing/hearing what happens later today.

  35. Kady

    Not sure how this fits in to your point about Con operatives but on Duffy’s Friday journo segment Taber/Oliver mentioned this Lib get together at the end of their discussion and said the hotel’s name, and time of the meeting, and suggested others crash the party.

  36. “suggested others crash the party” I thought the LPC was selling tickets. Are they suggesting people not pay?

  37. jwl’s right. Duffy mentioned it then and earlier on the show with Dominic LeBlanc. Duffy called it a ‘secret’ meeting. LeBlanc attempted to set the record straight. From there, it’s taken on a life of it’s own…or rather the life that everyone with a vested interest cares to breathe into it.

  38. Actually, how was it ever supposed to be “closed”? It seems anyone willing to spend $20 can attend. Would a $20 ticket fee stop the media?

  39. JWL – Actually, that fits perfectly. It was on Friday that the controversy over the closed-door meetings was dominating the coverage of the Conservative convention, so that would have been exactly the right time to put out the “Liberals do it too” message to all and sundry.

  40. From one of the liblogs: As part of the LPC(O) executive meeting type thing this weekend in Mississauga, there will be a leadership forum on Sunday that is open to all, for the low lost of $20. Or $10, if you’re a member of The Victory Fund.

    so is anyone from Macleans going? either as a Duffy-inspired crasher (will the Liberals use the RCMP too) or as a ticket-buyer (you could take up a donation).

  41. Kady

    Interesting. Curious to know if Taber/Oliver take their talking points from Con war room now or did they get the idea to create some controversy from someone else. You could knock me over with a feather if it turns out Con war room started this and Taber/Oliver decided to run with it.

  42. Catherine – Sadly, Mississauga is too far Outside The Queensway for this liveblogger, but I’m hoping that someone will be there. I’d love to get a copy of the original invitation/announcement of the event to see how, exactly, it was billed to members before it officially became The First Leadership Debate.

  43. JWL – Well, all the parties have someone (or a few someones) whose job it is to email helpful suggestions, tips and tidbits to reporters — sometimes all of us, sometimes a more select group — but in this case, if it had gone out far and wide, I’d have expected more media pickup before the Rae release. (Actually, what would have made even more sense would be to have sent it out to the reporters covering the convention, who were the ones grumbling, privately and publicly, about the lack of access, and hope that it found its way into Saturday’s coverage — you know, something like: “… Meanwhile, in Mississauga, the Liberal Party is holding a closed-door leadership debate on Sunday afternoon.”)

  44. Kady, here’s the blog I got that from:

    http://bcinto.blogspot.com/2008/11/leadership-forum-on-sunday.html

    but I don’t see anything up on the candidate’s (Lang) website, which is who BCinTO said sent it.

    I got the impression that this forum was stuck in earlier than they expected to be having all-candidate events, simply to take advantage of the Ontario executive meeting. However, perhaps there is a tiny bit of content (I wouldn’t give it more than that, though) in how the different candidates reacted once the accessibility became a media topic. Rae is a seasoned politician, no question.

  45. Kady

    Thanks for explanation. As far as I can tell, Duffy was the only one to bring up this issue until Rae sent out his press release last night and now there are a few stories in the msm this morning. I have no idea who started this meme but it’s nice to see the Libs get the ‘secret agenda’ treatment for once, even if it’s one Lib accusing another Lib.

    I have been looking around a bit but can’t find any story that says what Iggy is saying about this. All the articles say is, as of last night, Iggy is lone holdout to changing rules for today’s get together.

  46. Oh, I agree with you – it’s definitely worth noting how the various campaigns have reacted. I just like to keep track of how political parties and other groups can use bloggers and commenters to move a story forward, or keep one alive long enough to push it into the headlines. It’s a harmless hobby, I swear.

  47. JWL – I don’t think he’s commented yet, which is — probably not the best tactic. At this point, he’s in the same position as Harper found himself when Elizabeth May was temporarily barred from the debates: no matter how valid his reasons may be for not wanting to open the meeting up to the press, at this point, he has little choice but to back down. Otherwise, he risks being seen as the lone spoiler.

  48. I think a little perspective is required here. The event in question is an executive board meeting. This is not a policy convention. This is not a public meeting. Nobody expected cameras or media inside the Party’s national executive meeting, so I can’t see why they’d necessarily be expected in this meeting. Comparing this to the Conservatives’ running of their recent national caucus meetings, their national convention, or the fact that they refuse to tell Canadians when the cabinet meets is a bit of an extreme comparison. Tories are secretive, manipulative and evil. Liberals in this instance are just bumbling.

    The LPC (Ontario) then made a decision, given the approaching leadership race, to add an item to the agenda to accommodate a discussion with leadership aspirants.

    Here’s where it goes downhill. How do you call an event a “Town Hall” and send invitations to non-Executive Board members to attend for $20 and not create an expectation that such an event is going to be an open forum?

    Ignatieff’s right – the invitation to the aspiring candidates said it was a closed forum. But in its neverending mission to squeeze another 20 bucks out of every liberal in a 50 km radius, the party has created a different expectation, one of a public forum – or, heaven forbid – a “debate”. If Mr. Ignatieff wants to lead the Liberal Party, or become Prime Minister, he’s going to have to be better prepared to deal with an occasional change of plan. It happens. Learn to deal with it. This is really not a good outing for him already. As for Mr. Rae, his threat to take his bat and ball and go home serves only to remind every Liberal in Ontario why they sported “no whining” buttons all those years ago…

  49. I just asked Doug Ferguson “Who is driving the Bus” Doug?

  50. Sometime – you will have to blog about all your OTHER harmless hobbies – Kady!
    Probably get a 300 comment response!
    Snicker!

  51. I haven’t seen anything from Ignatieff either, but here is a spokesperson (from Canwest):

    Ignatieff’s spokeswoman Jill Fairbrother said the plan was for “an open and frank discussion” with grassroots Liberals and Ignatieff would be available to the media before and after the session.
    “Our hope is that the other candidates will continue to honour the terms for today’s meeting, which were set by the LPCO Executive more than two weeks ago,” she said.

    I agree that Ignatieff has not made the right moves on this. However, on CTV this morning, Rae seemed to be trying to turn this into a constitutional crisis (with him as our saviour). Like we have the choice between leader of the free world (Rae) or a communist dictator (Ignatieff) — at least I think that is what Rae was suggesting in bringing up the former Soviet Union. Or was that simply a jab at Ignatieff’s heritage?

  52. Perhaps not relevant, but the Conservatives did invite the media to their caucus meeting, then shut the doors on them when they got there.

    So far as I’m aware, nobody had invited the media to the Executive meeting until Rae intimated he would not participate unless they were let in.

  53. I guess the bottom line here is simply…does Bob Rae’s word mean anything. He agreed to this closed debate in advance…and now for political reasons (it appears the delegates are not aligning with him) he feels he can use this as an opportunity to slander his opponent. If he really agreed with what he is now saying, why did he not show the leadership, foresight and integrity to just say no….
    Your word is your word..an agreement is an agreement….and Mr. Rae has chosed to honor neither…

  54. Thanks for the overview. Dominic LeBlanc has now become the most mature leadership candidate by default.

    On fantasy Liberal leadership choices that will never materialize, I’ve always rather liked Marlene Jennings.

    Maybe next time.

    Sigh.

  55. I’m tired of this leadership race already. That can’t be good.

  56. in the end it’s not going to matter who said what. The key message coming from the Liberal camp appears to be one of a “private meeting”…….which sends a bad taste pretty much everywhere. No one candidate will wear it….the whole party will wear it.

    So much for respecting the grass root Liberal supporters.

    I’m pretty sure Mr. Kinsella’s got a chapter on this in one of his books?

    Like it or not it does make Dominic Leblanc appear the more mature of the three.

  57. What exactly is Ignatieff afraid of? That the public will see him as the power-hungry wannabe leader who stayed away from Canada for most of his adult life and didn’t pay the criminally insane taxes in this country, because Canada was “beneath” him?

  58. It’s you, Werner. He’s afraid of you! Go get ’em, boy!

  59. He should not fear me or any common-sensical Canadian who can see through his BS. Instead, he should withdraw from the race and politics, because he is so clearly not competent to be in active politics.

  60. Speaking of criminally insane taxes….wasn’t Ignatieff based in the UK in the late 70’s? I think their marginal income tax rate hit 98% during that time.

  61. Ah, the humourless Mr Patels…

    You take yourself much too seriously, sir. As do many here.

  62. Me. He should fear me. I have the radioactive debris of his home planet. A few pebbles of Iggonite and he’s powerless! Ah-HAHAHAHA!!!!!

  63. I think that’s part of the problem. Ignatieff doesn’t seem to fear anything.

  64. The LCPO is enough to drive me to the LCBO for relief.

    Here I have been thinking all along that only my evil, scary party and its control freak leader was capable of such a thing.

  65. Increasing support and controlled media exposure to Iggy is a bad combination. If Iggy continues to pick up overwhelming support without stating a single policy out of his mouth in the presence of media, what does this say about his candidacy?
    Perhaps, the larger question is, what has Iggy done to earn the Leadership?? So far, it looks like he has cracked a smile, spoken clear English and reaped the rewards of some fans in the media. Wow, the job qualifications to be Liberal Leader are at an all time low.

  66. Don
    Nov 16, 2008 2:07
    Report Abuse

    What is Ignatieff afraid of saying “on the record”?

    * * *

    “We didn’t get it done”

  67. “We didn’t get it done”

    I hope the Liberals, in the meantime, blanket the electorate with 10 percenters (I know…such an abuse of the franking privilege…*tsk tsk*) featuring images of Harper and John Howard captured while reciting the “Let’s invade Iraq” speech, in unison.

    Somethings do in fact, never get old…as long as you repeat them, endlessly.

  68. I hope the Liberals, in the meantime, blanket the electorate with 10 percenters (I know…such an abuse of the franking privilege…*tsk tsk*) featuring images of Harper and John Howard captured while reciting the “Let’s invade Iraq” speech, in unison

    Why stop there , Iggy in a trio …… priceless .

  69. Why stop there , Iggy in a trio …… priceless .

    …and they can get the Conserva-tards wittering on about that to boot.

  70. This guy has been liveblogging the leadership forum (in a series of posts):

    http://whatdoiknowgrit.blogspot.com/

    No one seems to have rapped his knuckles yet. Lots of Q&A and seems to be still going almost 2.5 hours later. Not sure why they kept the media out, but I think Rae made a bad call by boycotting it. That has to tick off the Ontario execs who organized this thing. Dominic played it best by saying he preferred it to be open, but agreeing either way to come and answer questions.

  71. Natural grumbling party? I thought the Liberals were the natural grovelling party.

  72. Grovelling? Like when Peter MacKay giggled and told Condi Rice he was her “number one fan!”

    Wait. That’s not grovelling. That’s just pathetic.

  73. I saw Jack Mitchell shaking Ignatieff’s hand in the CTV clip….

  74. Rap my knuckles? I’d love to see that. That would be a hoot.

  75. PW: “I saw Jack Mitchell shaking Ignatieff’s hand in the CTV clip….”

    That wasn’t me, that was Maher Arar . . .

  76. This is a great photo, incidentally. Check out the Sikh dude to the left of Rae’s head! Is that a knot or what? Stylin’!

  77. On a side note….

    Does anyone think that Harper’s recent foray into “economic stimulus packages” kinda blunt criticisms against Rae’s economic policies during the Ontario recession?

    Ironic, that.

    Austin

  78. Where’s Garth Turner when we need him?? Garth, put your hat in the ring!

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