In my home and native land, Bob Rae announced he would not seek the leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party.
Rae had taken over the reins of the Liberal Party as its interim leader following its disastrous performance in the 2011 federal election when it was supplanted by the NDP as the Official Oppostion. The results forced the resignation of Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff the following day. Ironically, Rae and Ignatieff were once college roommates.
At the time, Rae pledged not to seek the leadership of the Liberal Party on a permanent basis. However, Rae’s performance has been an improvement over Ignatieff not to mention Stephane Dion. However, the Liberal Party’s National Executive was apparently prepared to give Rae their blessings to run. So his decision comes as a surprise to many.
However, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Rae’s biggest liability isn’t anything he’s done with the Liberals but what he did with the NDP. Specifically, the term Rae spent as Premier of Ontario between 1990 and 1995. When Rae surprisingly won the election in 1990, it was the Liberals he unseated from power. Aside from the fact that his term in office was a spectacular failure and that he would eventually have a falling out with the NDP, the Liberals have never fully embraced Rae. Here is what I wrote following last year’s election:
Nevertheless, Liberals will be asking themselves where they go from here. For starters they need a new leader. But whom will the Liberals embrace? Will they take a leap of faith and back Bob Rae, a former NDP Premier of Ontario? If Liberals are still leery of Rae after all these years, they could turn to a francophone with second generation lineage such as Dominic LeBlanc or Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau. Or will Liberals fold in their tents and join forces with the NDP?
Indeed, before Rae made his announcement, longtime Canadian political observer Chantal Hebert noted Rae’s less than stellar numbers as a prospective permanent leader of the Liberal Party. Hebert wrote, “His modest ratings suggest that many of the people who thought poorly of his performance as Ontario premier two decades ago have not changed their minds.”
While Rae’s decision not to run opens things up, as of right now the Liberal Party leadership is Justin Trudeau’s to lose – should he run. In the meantime, Rae will remain interim leader until the Liberals will choose their next leader in the spring of 2013.