Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On microcosms

CanWest reports that Francoise Boivin's jump to the NDP is all but concluded. With that in mind, let's take a look at what it likely means for the parties in Gatineau - and what it may reflect in the wider Canadian political scene.

Contrary to the concerns of one commenter to this post, there's little apparent reason for concern that Boivin's move will lead to a three-way race which gives an advantage to the Bloc. After all, every indication is that the Libs' leadership had refused to confirm Boivin's candidacy on their behalf only because they were pinning their hopes on luring a star candidate to contest the riding - and refused to give up even after failing utterly in that task for over two years.

Needless to say, the Libs don't figure to have an easier time recruiting that hoped-for star now that the NDP has a top candidate in the race as well. Which means that the contest should instead become a two-party tilt between the NDP and the Bloc. And with Bloc MP Richard Nadeau unable to campaign against the Libs' record as he did in 2006, the seat looks to have a strong chance of changing hands.

What's perhaps more interesting than the Gatineau race itself, though, is the mirror image between Dion's treatment of Boivin personally, and the Libs' treatment of left-wing voices generally within their ranks.

The past couple of days have seen a flurry of progressive Libs slamming their party for doing much the same thing on a national scale: dithering and delaying in hope that some external force will push them into a winning situation, while half-heartedly stringing along their supporters who want to get something done within the current political reality. And while none of them have yet joined Boivin in actually switching allegiances as a result, it wouldn't be much of a surprise for some to conclude that they're better off supporting a party whose ability to push the progressive cause isn't limited by "nervous nellies" and institutional inertia.

Of course, it could be that the Libs will offer just enough hope to keep their current members in the fold awhile longer. But it's equally possible that Boivin will be just the first of many to realize that the Libs aren't worth waiting for. And the sooner others start to lose patience as well, the better the chances that the NDP will be in a position to stop Harper once the Libs can't avoid a trip to the polls.

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