#118 – In search of political giants.

In politics there are few giants.  Yet, in a land of Lilliputians, the average person stands tall.  Looking at the political spectrum in Ottawa today, it is hard to find even that average person. Examination of the political parties leaves a hollow feeling as you realize that all the parties come up short.

The safest incumbent on Parliament Hill is, of all people, Gilles Duceppe, the long-serving leader of the Bloc Quebecois.  While many in his separatist camp want him in Quebec City to take on the provincial Liberals, he does more for them in Ottawa than he could ever accomplish in the National Assembly.  He also does the rest of Canada the valuable service of keeping Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from a majority government.

The other side of the coin is the New Democrat’s Jack Layton.  A repository for parked votes, Layton is no leader.  In the party of giants such as Tommy Douglas and David Lewis, Layton is a careless caretaker.  Earlier this year, he was referred to by a Conservative cabinet minister as part of the Toronto elite.  Torontonians who know Jack and his wife, Olivia Chow, could not stop laughing.

What Layton cannot admit is that the future of the New Democrats is locked to building a relationship with the Liberals in the development of a new left-of-centre political party in Canada.  It means breaking ties with the unions that have held the New Democrats back from making progress as a party.  Unions are the antithesis of a progressive left-wing.  They are too often built on a hierarchy of ideological conservatism to protect their members from any and all reform.

Joining with the New Democrats also means the loss to the Liberals of the hard core right wing of that party.  What the new party loses to the far right, it wins back from socially conscious conservatives.  It will likely be the first party to elect a balance of women candidates.  It can be the first truly socially conscious party.  It might even be the first political party to keep its promises.  That will be a rare treat.

Where that leaves Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff—at average height—is a good question?  It depends on what kind of a party he wants to lead.  One of the keys to effective leadership is to know where your followers want to go.  He has to understand that liberals want a democratic party.  He has to stop appointing candidates.  He has to start hearing what people in the party really want.  He has to stop the phony consultations.  And then the party can make the hard decisions about leadership.

There is a new generation of taller politicians emerging in the Liberal Party and by the time the coming election is out of the way, they will be ready to make their moves.  If Michael Ignatieff can lead the party to at least a respectable minority, he will lead for the following three to four years.  The new generation will give him that time.  If Harper is still in power after this election, the Liberal Party will be awash in failed dreams.  Anything could happen.

If you noticed that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was left out, we can cover him in few words.  Like Prime Minister Brian Mulroney before him, Harper is too self-centred to allow any growth for his team members.  After Harper, the Conservative Party will head back into the political wilderness for a time of reconstruction.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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