By Jason Menard
Is it any shock that Belinda Stronach has decided not to run for the federal Liberal leadership? After all, to do so at this juncture would have been committing political suicide.
Regardless of Ms. Stronach’s qualifications – and one would think having been in a management role in the multi-billion dollar Magna International would lend itself well to the managing of a country – she’s been caught up in the groundswell of anger over David Emerson’s defection to the Conservative party for a cabinet seat.
The fact of the matter is that the only difference between Stronach and Emerson’s respective party flopping is in the degree of brazenness that both parties displayed. Stronach, at least, put in a solid tenure with the Conservatives and was known as a Red Tory before she made the jump. Emerson’s defection reeked of opportunism. And while Stronach’s decision was validated in the recent federal election by her constituency, it’s hard to even suggest that Emerson’s electorate would afford him the same vote of confidence.
But, overall, the two politicians made similar moves, which not only have been met with disapproval within their own ranks, but they’ve served to cast doubt on the candidates’ very integrity and loyalty. Essentially, they’re not home-grown candidates and for that reason Stronach would be a liability in a leadership role – despite her qualifications.
And it’s for that same reason that Bob Rae should be pulling his hat tighter around his head instead of considering throwing it into the ring. Rae will always be NDP. His legacy will be that of a promising Ontario leadership bid that quickly descended into the land of mockery.
One of the things that Canadians look for in their leaders is fidelity. We want to believe that our leaders have bled the party colours, that their ideals and beliefs are ingrained – not buffeted and shaped by the winds of popular opinion. That’s why Stephen Harper can come across as a credible Conservative, while Jean Charest continues to see his True Grit tainted by Tory Blue.
It’s somewhat ironic that we want our politicians to be flexible, understanding of the differing opinions of the Canadian populace, and willing to change with the times – yet we vilify those who switch parties simply because we look at them as traitors to the cause.
That’s what sets apart the Pat O’Briens of the country from the Emersons, the Stronachs, and – potentially – the Raes: the decision to switch affiliation based upon strongly held personal beliefs as opposed to simply peddling their fidelity for a Cabinet position or a shot at a premium job.
Rae will never been convincing as a Liberal – not when he spent so many years in the NDP camp taking shots at the opposition. In essence, are we to believe that the Liberal Party has undergone such a philosophical shift to the point where Rae has not had to compromise his ideals? Or, more likely, will we believe that this is just another indication that everyone has his or her own price – and for our politicians influence outweighs integrity.
That’s why Stronach can’t run – at least not for the next couple of elections. Until she’s been accepted as a long-standing Liberal and not just a recent convert, she’ll be tainted with the stain of opportunism. A few years of being the good soldier and adhering to the Grit cause should make that year in the Conservative camp just a distant memory.
And that’s why the current Liberals need to either find someone from within, such as Gerald Kennedy, or someone with no prior political affiliation, like Michael Ignatieff, to lead their ranks into the next federal battle. In a country where our confidence in the political system has been shaken, voters need to feel that their potential leaders are committed to the cause and faithful to their party.
After all, we need to know that our leaders will work with our own best interests — not their own personal goals – at heart.
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