Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McKenna won't run

I got more and more indications that this was going to happen over the weekend so, as sad as it is, it is not really a surprise at this point. Especially when Leblanc announced his ambitions.

I would say we just missed out on someone who could have repaired the party and won the next election, but if his heart was not in it then the reality is that he would not have been as successful as we hoped.

I suspect he saw that the field was already getting crowded too: Leblanc has announced, Rae will announce later this week, Iggy will announce, David McGuinty's website is "down" right now and so is John Manley's website apparently.

Frank McKenna won't run for Liberal leadership
Updated Tue. Oct. 28 2008 5:20 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Frank McKenna, the popular former New Brunswick premier and U.S. ambassador, announced Monday that he will not run for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party of Canada.

"Although I have been deeply moved by expressions of support for me from across the country, I have not been persuaded to change my long-standing resolve to exit public life for good," the 60-year-old McKenna said in a news release.

" My only regret is that I cannot honour the expectations of friends and supporters who have shown enormous loyalty to me."

McKenna served as New Brunswick's premier for 10 years, coming to power in 1987, winning all 58 seats in the legislature.

McKenna has repeated many times he has no desire to re-enter politics, especially at the federal level.

He said in Monday's news release that the challenge of winning a leadership race, restoring the health of the party and returning a Liberal majority government requires a longer time commitment than he is prepared to make.

"There will be an ample number of well-qualified candidates to do this important work," he said.

Despite considerable urging from politicians to run, there were those in the party that feared his decade-long absence from politics would be a liability.

"We remember what happened to John Turner. He was away for a while, he came back, the expectations were very high and he didn't meet them," said Smith. "Some people thought that could happen to McKenna as well."

Turned resigned from politics in 1976 and was convinced to return after Pierre Trudeau retired almost a decade later. In 1984, Turner took a gamble, calling an early election and suffered an overwhelming defeat.

McKenna's struggle with the French language is also seen by some as a liability.

"Certainly after the language difficulties of Mr. Dion, I'm sure the Liberal Party will be looking for someone as fluently bilingual as possible," said Smith.

McKenna was appointed deputy chairman of T-D Bank Financial Group in May 2006. He has also served on the boards of many national companies and also as Canada's ambassador to the U.S. He resigned that position after Stephen Harper's Conservatives came to power in 2006.

Liberal MPs Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were frontrunners in the 2006 Liberal leadership race that Dion eventually won. Both will likely play the same role this time around, although neither has officially declared they are running this time around.

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, the son of former governor general Romeo LeBlanc, indicated to the Globe and Mail on Monday that he would run, although he has not official announced his candidacy. Because LeBlanc is also from New Brunswick, many Liberals took this as a sign that McKenna would not be running.

A leadership convention would likely take place next May in Vancouver, where the party already has convention space booked for what was scheduled to be its biennial policy conference.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Other candidates worried about a McKenna bid

The other Liberal leadership candidates are clearly taking the possibility of a Frank McKenna leadership bid very seriously and it has them quite worried.

How else do explain the raft of attacks and criticisms over the weekend for a candidate who has not once spoken publicly about a Liberal leadership run since turning down the idea in 2006.

The Ottawa Citizen is concerned that the former New Brunswick Premier's wealth, his experience in business and industry, his success in growing businesses including his own businesses (both before politics and since) and his enormous list of contacts in the Canadian and international business and political world will be a negative for him. TD Bank, where he is Vice-Chair, is a Canadian bank punching way above its weight right now in the US with more branches in the US than even in Canada.

When did Canadians start preferring untested and unexperienced leaders to run? Harper had little to no experience in governing and certainly no successes. Last leadership round came down to a brilliant leader and public intellectual with a great vision for the country but let's face it no experience whatsoever in governing, a brilliant leader and one of the most natural born and gifted politicians ever but let's face it he'd be better off without the experience he actually had for another party and he's come from a major Bay Street law firm, and another brilliant leader and form cabinet minister who bridged a gap within the party but let's face it also had no governing experience and, well, we don't need to say any more about Dion.

Then there was David McGuinty trying to single out McKenna (and throwing in Ruby Dhalla for cover) and, as the Globe notes, "dissing" his bilingualism. Why don't we wait and see on that one shall we? Rather than cut a potential leadership candidate off at the knees before he even starts to run, let's hear his French. Certainly, it was good enough for the 40% of New Brunswickers who are Francophone. Quebecers started to embrace Stephen Harper even though he has barely passable French and had to confess he didn't even understand one of the French questions in one of the French language debates a while back, for a while at least until he showed how trully disconnected he is with Quebec culture.

No doubt McKenna's French will be a little rustier than some others for lack of use. But we haven't had a leader yet who works as hard as McKenna and will succeed in every challenge.

Add to this the push behind closed doors for a very very short and early leadership contest. Certainly, has some merits but clearly is at least partly designed to ensure a two-man race from the leading two candidates of 2006, the ones who recently announced a pact of some sort.

Unfortunately, we will see more of this effort to cut off all other pretenders to the crown. Try to cut off other leadership candidates at the knees before they even get going. In the very near future, you'll see Rae announce his leadership bid (later this week), the "supporter lists" start flying around (i.e. as Jim points out astutely here) to convince others they are already too far behind, and then a little later we will have leaks in the press about how much money Rae and Iggy have already raised (no one will wonder how they could have raised so much when the leadership race supposedly only just started or look at the dates of some of those cheques, but the point is only to emphasize that it will be a tough fight).

Frank is someone who can rise about all of that. He clearly has a lot of support from deep within the party and from across the country. He will not have any problem raising funds and would not need to borrow money like every other candidate in the last race (the two frontrunners borrowed very heavily, Rae the most).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

T&T: Will Frank McKenna run for federal Liberals?

We are gathering steam.
Will Frank McKenna run for federal Liberals?

Premier, Metro MP, commentators weigh in

By Jesse Robichaud
Times & Transcript Staff
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

FREDERICTON - A movement to draft former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna as a federal Liberal leadership candidate appears to be gaining steam just hours after Stéphane Dion announced his plans for the future.

Indeed, the push by many insiders to encourage the former ambassador to the United States, and native of Apohaqui, to seek the party's top job began well before Dion announced he will step down once federal Liberals select a new leader next May.

It is now playing out in media reports, on online blogs and social networking groups, and in political backrooms.

In addition, due to the TD Bank deputy chairman's his financial network and acumen, many have suggested that a push is also being felt from board rooms in office towers in many parts of the country.

Yesterday, Liberal Premier Shawn Graham said McKenna would be a strong candidate who understands New Brunswick, and the needs of his government.

"If he does make a decision to run he would have a strong possibility of winning, which would only mean great news for New Brunswick because we could form a partnership that would benefit all citizens here immensely."

Graham said McKenna, whose name has been linked to the federal party's leadership many times before, has the all the political tools needed to be successful.

"Former ambassador and premier Frank McKenna is an individual who not only brings name recognition across the country, but he also has a proven track record."

Graham was at an event to honour former Liberal Prime Minister John Turner on Monday night, where many potential candidates were present.

"There were a number of leadership contenders in the room last night but none of them approached me to ask for support because yesterday was a day to honour Stéphane Dion and John Turner."

Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Brian Murphy says he has heard from many Liberals about "how wonderful it would be to have Frank McKenna in these times."

Murphy said McKenna would lend instant credibility to the party at a time when the economy is weighing heavily on the mind of voters.

"Many Liberals feel we lost the election on the impression that Mr. Harper would be a better steward of the economy," said Murphy.

"Of course I feel that is false on all grounds, but McKenna would bring a certain element to that." [...]

Murphy said candidates who can set up an organization on the ground very quickly will be at an advantage.

"If he had a strong ground game immediately, I think other candidates would be concerned," said Murphy.

"On the other hand if he is still wondering, and frankly many other candidates have a ground game, that might be a fact Mr. McKenna is currently weighing."

However, Murphy said McKenna's willingness to do battle with opponents can't be underestimated.

"I think every race is gong to be hard fought. Mr. McKenna is a fighter as well. He is an Irish guy, he is going to fight."

Université de Moncton political scientist Donald Savoie thinks McKenna's candidacy would be great for New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada.

He believes there is about a 50 per cent chance that McKenna will make the jump to federal politics.

"I think Frank would do every well. I think Frank is a great politician, there is a dynamic side to him, he has a sense of the country," said Savoie.

"I think Frank brings a dynamic perspective to Canadian politics. I think people relate to his sense of economic development, his sense of promoting the Canadian economy.

Savoie said McKenna's well-documented positions on the Meech Lake Accord would not hinder his ability to rebuild the party's fortunes in Quebec.

"I think it is a generation ago. I think a lot of water flowed under that bridge, and I think it has lost a lot of its resonance," said Savoie.

"There is a whole generation of voters who weren't affected by Meech Lake."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Globe: McKenna mulling leadership bid

According to the Globe and Mail today, the race for the new leader of the Liberal Party has already started to intensify as pressure builds on former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna to run for the leadership.

Although some close to Mr. McKenna were saying just a few days ago that his candidacy was unlikely, he is mulling it over more seriously as several senior Liberals have mounted a draft campaign, they said.

“Frank has just been bombarded with missives from people all across the country trying to persuade him to run, and he's in the throes of reflecting on all of that,” said former Ontario premier David Peterson, a long-time friend of Mr. McKenna.

Mr. McKenna's entry into the race would probably make a big splash, and make a contest that so far is shaping up with two front-runners – Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae – into a three-way fight.

But Mr. McKenna has repeatedly turned down efforts to draw him into federal politics, including a refusal to run for the Liberal leadership in 2006 in which he virtually ruled out a return to politics.

Mr. Peterson, who was Ontario co-chair of Mr. Ignatieff's last leadership campaign, is one of several senior Liberals pushing him to run this time.

Several others, who spoke on condition they not be named, said Mr. McKenna is showing an increased level of interest in running, asking hard questions about the feasibility of mounting a successful bid.

Mr. McKenna, 60, now vice-chairman of the TD Bank, also has to decide if he wants to make the personal and family sacrifices required for a high-profile leadership bid.

But there are no indications he has started to organize, and at least one MP who would expect an early stage call seeking his support said he has not been contacted.

“Yes, there are people around him and around me that have told me that he's increasingly interested,” said Moncton MP Brian Murphy, who supported Mr. Rae in the last race, but hasn't backed anyone for the coming contest.

If Mr. McKenna did enter the race, his support among key players in the business community would probably mean he could raise money more easily than most.
What does that mean? We need to ramp up efforts to encourage him to run. Please join the Facebook Group, send Frank a letter or email, encourage others to do so.

Miramichi Leader: Is time right for McKenna?

From the Miramichi Leader, just like a lot of small local publications across the country:

[...] And the call for a replacement has already been made and it is no surprise that Frank McKenna's name is on the list.

The former premier of New Brunswick and Ambassador to the United States has been courted to take the job before but he refused.

We wonder if he will take on the challenge now. Is the time right?

Many feel McKenna has the right stuff to bring to the job. He's charismatic, he has proven leadership qualities and he's a very popular guy. He is not only a star on the national stage but on the international one as well. [...]

It would be nice to see a NB person in the role as leader whether it be McKenna or LeBlanc.

It's not to say that Dion did not have good ideas to help the country but it was his delivery of the ideas that seemed to be his downfall. He just couldn't get the message out to the people.

We say the Liberals need to get back on track. We need a strong Opposition party in the House of Commons. Someone has to be there to challenge the government on issues.

It is now time for rebuilding. We say bring on a leadership convention and get the federal Liberal party back on track now.

Telegraph: Come Back Frank

They certainly seem to love him back home:

Come back, Frank

Published Monday October 20th, 2008

The campaign to draft Frank McKenna as federal Liberal leader began even before Tuesday's votes were counted.

New Brunswickers have heard these rumours before. This time, we expect the former premier to respond in earnest - no demure smile, no coy denials.

The political fire that burns in Frank McKenna's belly has never been extinguished - and Parliament needs it.

The consolidation of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives into one party has brought new vigour to national politics. Federal Liberals must bring the same calibre of leadership to the political centre.

Liberals need a leader who is universally respected, politically adept, above the factionalism that has undermined the party, and able to unite the country.

Frank McKenna is that candidate - and he should end his political retirement, for the sake of the nation.

Canadians are looking for a voice from the centre-left as persuasive as the voice from centre-right, so that this country can once again engage in productive political debate. These are challenging times, and Canadians want leaders who can rise to the challenge, confident of achieving Canada's potential for prosperity.

The House of Commons needs to ring with a clash of ideas that will raise public policy to a higher level. Frank McKenna can provide it.

Mr. McKenna's politics straddle the centre, appealing to small-'c' conservatives and small-'l' liberals. His experience bridges Canada's regions and its political heartland, the worlds of business and politics, and the concerns of rural Canadians with those of cities. He is the unity candidate - fluently bilingual, and admired as thoroughly in Quebec as he is in Fredericton, Calgary or on Toronto's Bay Street.

He has ample foreign policy experience, from his efforts to raise New Brunswick's stature to his years as Canada's U.S. ambassador. He has worked alongside Hollywood celebrities, attended the prestigious Bilderberg conference for international leaders, and is helping former U.S. President Bill Clinton with a Canadian tour. He is respected internationally in a way few Canadian leaders have been.

There's a reason for that.

As New Brunswick's newspaper of record, we've covered Frank McKenna's rise from lawyer to statesman. We watched him sweep every seat in the province, and marvelled at what he was able to accomplish.

Frank McKenna didn't just appeal to people, he inspired them - instilling a tremendous sense of pride and belief in this province's ability to punch above its weight. What New Brunswick didn't have, he proved New Brunswickers could make up for with leadership and chutzpah. Under his visionary direction, New Brunswick became a global contender and the envy of other provinces.

Canada is well positioned to succeed despite these difficult times. It has a secure financial system and an enormous capacity for intelligence and innovation. If Frank McKenna were given the chance to inspire Canadians as he has inspired New Brunswickers, who knows what this nation could achieve?

Mr. McKenna tends to act coy when new political opportunities arise, employing a banker's professional reserve. We're surely not alone when we say, we'd like to see him hang up the banker's suspenders and put on the mantle of leadership.

Come back, Frank! Don't play footsie this time. Get into the leadership race. Please?

You know you'd be good at it - and you know this country needs a renewed sense of what Canadians can accomplish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CBC: N.B. Grits pushing McKenna to replace Dion

Trust me, it's not just New Brunswickers.

N.B. Grits pushing McKenna to replace Dion

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Brunswick Liberals are already trying to draft former premier Frank McKenna to seek the federal Liberal leadership now that Stéphane Dion has announced he will step down.

Ever since the Liberals posted the party's near historic low in popular support in last Tuesday's election, pressure has mounted on Dion to resign as leader. McKenna's name is swirling as a possible leadership candidate for the convention expected next May.

Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne was with McKenna at a conference just two weeks ago and says even then, the former premier was being approached by many people who encouraged him to run.

Byrne said McKenna's strengths are clear to everyone if he chose to run for the leadership.

"He's very dynamic, very charismatic, he understands the issues facing the country, and I'm sure he's getting numerous phone calls," Byrne said.

McKenna is the deputy chairman of TD Bank Financial Group and keeps an active agenda that has recently included delivering humanitarian aid with actor Matt Damon to storm-ravaged Haitians. Next month, he will host an event in Moncton with former U.S. president Bill Clinton on the global economy. [...]

But Fundy-Royal Conservative MP Rob Moore, whose riding includes McKenna's hometown of Apohaqui, disagrees with the assessment that the former premier is a conservative.

"I don't know who's ever made that assertion but McKenna was anything but conservative in New Brunswick," Moore said.

Moore says McKenna centralized decision-making on education, health and municipal mergers — and that means he's no conservative. And he says he's ready to tell the country that if McKenna becomes Liberal leader.

McKenna isn't the only New Brunswicker being touted as a potential successor to Dion. Beauséjour MP Dominic LeBlanc's name has been bandied about in recent weeks and he has said he will be active in rebuilding the party.

Other potential leadership aspirants include Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy, who all represent Toronto ridings.

Ottawa Sun: McKenna's move?

McKenna's move?

Would you give up all this for a shot at 24 Sussex Dr.?

October 21, 2008

Now that Stephane Dion has mercifully agreed to get lost, prominent Liberals and influential Canadians of all stripe are burning up the phone lines to Frank McKenna, practically begging the former New Brunswick premier to jump into the Liberal leadership race.

"He is being utterly flooded with calls from all over the place," says one of McKenna's closest confidants.

But is he even thinking about running?

"He is certainly not oblivious to all the people who are calling on him -- I would put his odds (of running) at 49-51."

If that's true, Dion's demise could soon lead to a dramatic change in the political landscape unimagined even a week ago.

Realistically, if McKenna decided to run, odds are the Liberal leadership race would quickly become a coronation.

And if he won the Liberal leadership, he would be a formidable foe against Stephen Harper in the next election.

Intelligent, affable, accomplished, energetic and politically savvy, the former premier who once won every seat in his province has long been a perennial favourite of the chattering class to take over the reins of the Liberal party.

Critics say his command of French is short of fluency, but somehow he managed to rule a province that is 40% francophone and get re-elected in landslides.

Now 60, his political credentials for high office just seem to be getting better with age.

Last month, McKenna showed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon, delivering emergency supplies to a devastated village in hurricane-ravaged Haiti.

Now the vice-chairman of the giant TD Bank Financial, McKenna lives in the world of executive limos and Learjets, his counsel sought by world leaders and the giants of international business.

Yet, there he was a couple of weeks after slogging through muddy hell in Haiti, taking the darn subway to work on Bay Street (snapped on camera by a surprised Sun Media columnist Joe Warmington).

Later this month, McKenna is scheduled to co-host a conference with former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

And whoever moves into the White House after next month's presidential election, you can be sure an early invitation will go out to Canada's former ambassador to Washington, Frank McKenna.

What is driving McKenna to even consider running for the Liberal leadership is far more of a mystery than what's holding him back.

One of his friends says: "He cares passionately about the country, and he certainly knows the (political) business, including the tough side of it.

A friend says McKenna is being tugged between those who are saying the country needs him, and his experience in the grind of politics saying: Who needs it?

"Fact is, he is enjoying being a serious granddad, and he has a pretty nice life right now."

McKenna went through the same soul-searching not three years ago when he had to call a full-blown press conference to quell rumours he was considering running for the Grit crown after Paul Martin quit.

"Contrary to the belief of some, being prime minister of Canada has not been a burning ambition for me," he said at the time.

A friend said this week: "This is very much a personal decision about the last job of his life."

A lot of Liberals have their fingers crossed that job will be the leadership of their party.

I'll say! The Facebook Group keeps growing quickly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's official: Dion bows out

Dion steps aside.

It is not only the smart thing to do but the only thing to do at this point.

I think it is a good thing, though, that he stays on as interim leader rather than Rae's man or Iggy's man run the show until May. As long as he doesn't continue to favour Bob Rae, I think it is better to have him stay on. You can almost see the possibly of a 1980-style election: "vote for the Liberal Party and I promise I will step down because I know you don't like me", only to bring the Green Shift back from the dead. It could happen. We always did think that Dion could have been another Pearson: an incomperably poor and weak leader, but one who held the balance of power within the party, and with enough respect and vision that great things could have been accomplished.

But that was never going to be.

Kinsella thinks that, in a recession or near-recession, what the Liberals need is "someone who can, one, balance the books and talk credibly about the economy; two, inspire people, raise funds, and show a life-long commitment to Liberal values; and, three, have the look and sound of a winner."

We couldn't agree more.

Now let the campaigning begin.

Don't forget to sign up at the Frank McKenna for Prime Minister Facebook Page.

The Honourable Stéphane Dion

We like Stéphane Dion as a person and as a crusader for both the environment and for the unity of Canada. We have many times defended him by calling him Captain Canada fighting against Mr. Firewall Harper, or as Mr. Integrity vs Deceivin' Stephen. The Liberal Party chose him in 2006 and he has had my unquestioned loyalty since then.

But that doesn't mean we have been blind to certain problems with his leadership, deep problems.

Some of those problems are not his but endemic within the party itself, but others are his.

At the little website, we support and call for Frank McKenna for Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister of Canada, not because of the inadequacies and failings of Stéphane Dion, but because of the capabilities and successes of Frank McKenna.

Still, Stéphane Dion is the leader and before we can advocate for another, the onus is fully on those who would oust him to justify the potentially divisive and damaging move to remove him, and to justify it on grounds showing that a change would make a difference.

Stéphane Dion is not the man that we have allowed the Conservatives and NDP coalition to paint him as. Still, every myth has some element of truth to it. Stéphane Dion was a successful and hardworking cabinet minister with two difficult portfolios under two different and strongly opposing Liberal leaders. Unlike any of the other serious candidates last leadership race, he sat at the cabinet table, and did so with both Chrétien and with Martin. And yet, as I recall, not a single one of those cabinet ministers endorsed him in the lead-up to the convention. Dion also had a great deal of difficulty raising funds: only Bob Rae had a higher debt-to-funds raised ratio, if memory serves. His communication skills - not just a language issue, but his ability to communicate to voters and potential supporters - was always noted as an issue. There was a real reason that the Conservatives chose "leadership" as their attack point in trying to define Dion.

Leadership is not simply to have the grand vision or and to get people to do what you want. These are two pillars of leadership. Dion had one and Harper has the other. The third critical element to leadership, though, is judgement. A subset of good judgement in this arena is sound political judgement. Dion has demonstrated time and again a lack of good judgement and an acute lack of good political judgement.

From so many stories I have heard from Dion supporters and from others, he had a tin ear for politics, but he also made countless bad judgement calls on a daily basis. I think that is why the knives have come out so early after the election for him. It is not just a devastating, historic, record electoral loss, but those who work with him - or, rather, those who have tried to work with him - saw this coming a long long time ago.

What did we need in a new Liberal leader in 2006?
  • Primarily, someone who would not further divide the party after the self-inflicted wounds of Turner-Chrétien-Martin fights. We think Dion gets a B/B+ for his efforts in that regard.
  • Someone who could rebuild the internal infrastructure of the party. Dion gets an F here.
  • Someone who could re-invent the fundraising strategies of the party and right the listing fiscal ship. Is there something lower than F?
  • Someone who could re-connect with the voters through personality, policy and vision. I actually am less negative on this front than many, but can really only give him a D+/C-.

Just this summer we learned about the Green Shift and whatever you think about it as a policy, it is exactly the kind of thing we needed on policy and vision. But that could never be enough and there was such a crappy communications stategy around it and around all other policies that one wonders if there was any strategy behind their communications. To come out with the Green Shift as the chief electoral plank was risky enough but not have a clear and simple and consistent way to communicate and explain, necessarily meant that Harper would explain it for us. But what else was there? Every now and then over the last two years, the Liberals would seem to come out with some other plank - something here on poverty, something here on competitiveness - that showed some promise only to see it disappear from any talking points the very next week.

The communications problems were more than just communications problems. They were evidence of poor guidance and judgement from the leader. And there are countless examples of poor judgement. The timing and communication strategy around the Green Shift is arguably one of the biggest. The endorsing another candidate and party, the Green Party, and skipping out on campaiging in a riding to do so, after a convention when we all literally talked about and wanted a 308 riding strategy and fight. One week they'd be pummelling Harper over detainees and seeing the polls shift, the very next week they stop those gains cold by calling a Parliamentary hearing into what Shane Doan did or did not say on the ice after a skirmish... a couple of years ago.

Some will and certainly are claiming that all of Dion's problems are because he was constantly being undermined by Rae and Ignatieff. From my vantage point, this was more than half Dion's own fault. All the leadership candidates had debt from the race, but despite several attempts by most of the candidates, Dion refused to do anything collective about the debt. The debt was a party problem: it meant former candidates had to fend for themselves and raise funds or else face personal debt, instead of raising funds for the party. It also meant that the candidates had to keep their campaign teams together to organize. So that was an early very bad judgement call.

He compounded this by not reaching out. The inner circle around Dion was almost exclusively Dion campaign supporters. But they did not have the necessary experience to run the OLO or to give Dion good advice. Worse, they created a siege mentality where every comment, constructive criticism, individual act not approved by them was turned into a leadership challenge. A real leader and a real leadership team does not feel so insecure. So Bob Rae goes out and organizes a big fundraiser because the party isn't going to help him and he gets accused of trying to outshine and undermine the leader. Iggy and Kennedy the same.

We know of one specific example of an Ignatieff supporter in the communications team who provided draft Question Period questions to Dion's staff; they rejected them and told him to give the questions to the Deputy Leader. Surprise surprise, who is quoted on the news that night, but the well formed and understood Deputy Leader's question. Next day, Dion has a meeting and is screaming about "Why does Ignatieff get all the good questions? Why is no one writing good questions for me?" So what happens then? Our good friend gets blamed for trying to undermine Dion by giving good questions to Ignatieff and bad questions to Dion. There are countless examples just like this.

This is why the knives are out so quickly. Dion lost the support of caucus; they did not simply start trying to undermine him.

And why the rush? These problems are not the kind that can simply be fixed by better communications and media and language training, of the kind Dion finally started taking last year after a lot of pressure from caucus and resistance by him and his team. So we know the problems will not get fixed, but will continue to get worse.

The Liberals lost almost a million votes in this election. There is a financial cost to that at a time when the party is unable to compete with the Conservatives for funds. There is a potentially huge political cost too. If we continue to languish as a viable and strong opposition, then voters will find someone who will be that viable and strong opposition.

We have the greatest of respects for Stéphane Dion. He is a great Canadian and a great and loyal Liberal. But, like Joe Clark almost three decades ago, the Peter Principle unfortunately applies. I would love to see him stick around, as interim leader, and then beyond as the next Minister of the Environment or in some other portfolio. When given direction by a superior - Chrétien with unity, Martin with the environment - he not only succeeds, Dion thrives.

But timing is an issue. We have a convention lined up in May. Do we want to spend the millions of dollars to have a leadership review only to then have a leadership convention later the same year? Or do we want to get on with rebuilding the party and use that time to chose the next Prime Minister?

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