Let the Liberal blood sport begin

Scott Feschuk on what it will take to win in a crowded field of would-be leaders

photo illustration by taylor shute

The Liberal leadership race is really heating up. First, David Bertschi tweeted, “I had a nice day in North Bay.” Then Martha Hall Findlay tweeted, “Just had a terrific meeting in Edmonton.” Truly, this contest is turning into a blood sport.

For those who’ve lost track, there are now 3,200 people running to be leader of the Liberal party: Justin Trudeau, Deborah Coyne, the three people sitting with you right now in the dentist’s waiting room, the Professor, Mary Ann—the list keeps growing. The field is so crowded that the party has pretty much no choice but to hold its policy debates on one of those conveyor belts they have in some sushi restaurants. Ms. Findlay, you have 20 seconds to answer this question before you disappear into the kitchen for half an hour.

The significant interest in the job of leader sounds a positive note for the future of the party. In news that doesn’t do that, interim leader Bob Rae sent out an email this week basically begging Liberal supporters to donate $5. That’s right—five whole dollars. Not interested? Bob is willing to sweeten the deal. Hand over the five-spot and in return you’ll get . . . a copy of his holiday card! Just contact the Liberal party and ask to contribute to Canada’s Saddest Fundraising Campaign.

But back to the leadership. In a crowded field, the challenge is finding a way to stand out. Karen McCrimmon has an interesting background—the first woman to command a Canadian air force squadron—and a unique take on why Canadians have traditionally resisted political extremism. “Maybe,” she said, “it is because we routinely face the extremes of weather, of distance and of geography.” I’m not sure I follow: we aren’t fascists because the meetings are far away and it’s cold out?

Also new on the scene is George Takach, a candidate that has been described by many Liberals as: “Who?” Turns out Takach is a lawyer and self-professed computer geek who views technology as the key to democratic reform.

“Imagine,” Takach said, “if on every [piece of legislation] you had a meaningful, Wikipedia kind of discussion going on . . . ” Okay, let’s imagine that. Let’s imagine thousands of the reasonable, well-informed people we find on the Internet taking the time to advance the kind of detailed, well-supported positions we often see on comment boards. Just imagine how House of Commons bills could be improved by the inclusion of clauses like, “Harper sux eggs!” and “Get Viagra here cheap!”

Like several other candidates for the leadership, Takach has never been elected to political office—but he insists that’s not a drawback. And hey, why would it be? People of Canada, I don’t understand “government.” I have no experience in any realm of elected public policy. I’m almost positive this “Governor General” I hear so much about is one of the characters from the board game Clue. But please vote for me to be your Premium Minister—or whatever it’s called.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau is still trying to recover from his 2010 remark about how powerful people from Alberta are ruining Canada with their general, all-round Albertaness. Justin’s strategy for making amends to Albertans apparently hinges on saying positive things about guns. He criticized the federal long-gun registry as a “failure”—even though he voted to save it. And he spoke about his fond memory of hiking through Greenland with a rifle as protection from polar bears. We’re at most a few days away from him holding a press conference to rate his favourite Rambo movies, one through four.

You probably read that Marc Garneau recently joined the race. But did you know that Garneau was, at one point in his career, an astronaut? I bring this up in case you hadn’t noticed him repeatedly mentioning that he was an astronaut. Or heard him make that “rocket science” joke he makes. Or discovered that the slogan for his campaign is: “Let’s take Canada to new heights.” Get it? Heights? Because: astronaut!

Competing with a candidate who was an astronaut (Marc Garneau—hadn’t you heard?) may sound overwhelming, but Vancouver MP Joyce Murray has him beat. In kicking off her campaign, Murray casually mentioned, “I am someone who sees the future and seizes it.” Got that? She doesn’t just predict the future. She doesn’t guesstimate it. She actually sees the future.

Your move, spaceman.

Follow Scott Feschuk on Twitter @scottfeschuk

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