Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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.

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