Sunday, July 30, 2006

On measuring sticks

While there seems to be much consternation among the Libs about the media's determination to compare the party's leadership candidates to Trudeau, can one really blame the press for following the party's cues?
It's as if the last 13 years of Liberal governance never happened. Everyone looks back to Trudeaumania with longing. I examine my notes from the June leaders' debate at the University of Manitoba and see my scrawled words, "Where's Martin? Chrétien? How strange."

Their names seemed verboten among the hopefuls on stage, as if they'd never existed. Did nothing happen after Trudeau stepped down in 1984, leading to the calamitous summer sojourn of John "Chick" Turner at 24 Sussex? It was clangingly obvious: nobody dared mention those lost years, and successive Liberal governments, from Jean Chrétien's 1993 electoral victory to Paul Martin's loss to Harper in 2006, simply evaporated. Candidate Hedy Fry, for one, a physician and MP for Vancouver Centre, talked about Canada's place in the world evolving from the dreams of Lester B. Pearson and Trudeau...

From the day acclaimed academic Ignatieff was coaxed back to Canada from the directorship of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, his supporters ("the party gentry," as they're dubbed) have likened him to a 21st-century Trudeau. It was very smart, calculated (though there are regrets among some who cringe at P.E.T.'s name), and kept appearing in the media.
Of course, as has already been pointed out, the problem with speaking constantly about a Trudeau or someone who could be a true modern equivalent is that the actual field is bound to look weak in comparison. And with the Libs now apparently engaged in an effort to reenact a convention which took place 40 years ago, the opportunity is all the more open for an alternative to the mediocre lot of Libs to emerge as Canada's leading voice to counteract Harper's conservatism.

Update: Of course, part of the problem may simply be a weak field to begin with, as suggested by the fact that even thoroughly mediocre alternatives are apparently getting some Libs excited compared to the current crop.

(Edit: typo.)

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