Sunday, April 14, 2013

This is, perhaps, the end of the beginning

I hate to use World War Two-related references, as someone will always think I’m invoking Goodwin’s Law. So I hope you can accept that I intend no comparisons to the antagonists of that conflict when I say, as I ponder the end of the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership race, that I’m reminded of Sir Winston Churchill’s quote:


"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

This has been a very successful race for the Liberal Party of Canada. Over two hundred thousand signed up as supporters, and their information is now in the Liberal database. Over one hundred thousand votes were cast, surpassing the turnout in the last NDP and Conservative leadership contests. Six candidates made it to the end, and a number of others helped spread the Liberal message across the country. 

All this in a race the pundits had written off before it even began– no one would run, no one would join, no one would vote. 

We’re not dead yet. Far from it.

Team Coyne

I was honoured to be asked by Deborah Coyne to manage her campaign. It was a daunting responsibility, but an exhilarating one. We didn't have the largest team, or the most resources, but I’d argue we had the most substance.

We set out to run a campaign of ideas on a shoestring budget, to put policy on the table and spark a debate about Canada’s future, and the role the Liberal Party should play. Deborah traveled the country by car, visiting every province and territory but Nunavut. We may not have gotten the most first place votes, but I know Deborah’s vision of One Canada and bold national leadership resonated, with Liberals and with Canadians.

I look forward to supporting Deborah as she seeks election in a Toronto-area riding to the House of Commons in 2015. We need her voice, her perspective, and her conviction at the table, and I’m confident she has a bright future in the Liberal Party.

Le nouveau chef

If Marc Garneau had stayed in the race I’d have had a tough choice to make, but when he dropped out there was no doubt about where my second choice vote would go – Justin Trudeau.

Justin ran a very impressive campaign (remarkably for a front-runner, largely mistake-free) that brought thousands of new supporters to the party, many getting involved in politics for the first time. He has the potential to be a figure that can convince people to take another look, or a first look, at the Liberal Party, and about serving their country. If we can harness that, give those people something to stay for, convince them that party politics can make meaningful change, then the future for the party is interesting indeed.

We have a new, dynamic young leader, one who has shown that he can build a team, and build a coalition. Now that job gets bigger. Justin gets us into the conversation; now we need to win the debate.

The end of the beginning

That’s why I say this is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Because the real work, the blood, sweat and tears, are still to come. I read the other day a headline declaring that Bob Rae had saved the Liberal Party. Bob has done an outstanding job of interim leader, more than we could have asked for, and he deserves our heartfelt thanks. But I took issue with that headline.

Bob *helped* save the Liberal Party. So did you (assuming you’re a Liberal), so did I, and so did everyone else who signed up as a supporter, took out a membership, got involved in a campaign, joined a riding executive, or otherwise got involved and made the renewal of the Liberal Party of Canada their personal mission.

Historically, Liberals have had a messiah problem. When times are good, we credit all success to the leader. And when times are bad, we blame all failure on them. It allows us to avoid personal responsibility – it’s powers beyond our control. And it allows us to avoid needed introspection, and a hard look at just what went wrong, what can we do differently, what we need to change. Instead, we cycle through leaders hoping we’ll hit on the right one.

There have been some impressive polls lately. Ignore them. They’re meaningless. Two years is an eternity, and the Conservative attack ads have yet to come.

Justin gives us a tremendous advantage. It’s a new dynamic. What he gives us is an opportunity – one it’s up to all of us to seize. If the Liberal Party is going to be competitive again, if we’re going to surpass the NDP and even the Conservatives in 2015, then Justin can’t do it alone. 

We can’t sit back. It’s going to take every Liberal member and supporter making building the party on the ground, in their community, their personal responsibility.

No more messiahs. It’s up to all of us.

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1 comment:

greencanada said...

Hey, I thought Coyne was an extremely impressive candidate. I apologise, but not the best leadership candidate, she was too wooden, but as far as content goes, she rocks! She will have to win a contested nomination if she wants to `go`in the Toronto area, so she had better start organising. Etobicoke Lakeshore (where I live) will be open, and that CPC non-entity who beat Ignatieff here is ripe for punting to the curb. hint hint