Liberals choose Bob Rae as Interim Leader

Julian Wolfe
May 26th, 2011

Liberal MP Marc Garneau looks on as newly-appointed interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks to the media in Ottawa, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Liberal Party of Canada has chosen Bob Rae to set the framework for the future of the party that will be handed off to another leader in 18 to 22 months depending on when the next convention takes place. Rae will the the Liberals’ fifth leader since Paul Martin resigned in 2006 after he lost to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. With the task of rebuilding the Grits at hand, Rae as an extensive amount of political experience.

While Rae has a lot of experience, there are a number of holes that can be exploited by the NDP and Conservatives to further derail the once mighty party. For one, Rae was the premier of Ontario from October 1990 to June 1995. Rae’s provincial NDP party took power after the extensive damage that was done by Mike Harris’s Conservatives. He lost in 1995 to Mike Harris after alienating all sides, raising taxes and making unpopular cuts to healthcare and education in order to try to slay the problem. 

Ontario, under Rae went through a painful recession, and his failure to come to grip may be ammo for the Conservatives and NDP to come and say, how can the Liberal Party choose  a man who has such a terrible economic record to become their leader? Whether that tactic will work, is another thing, but Rae can’t hide the record, it is there, what he will have to do is make the case that he has learned and grew as a result.

However the quadrupling of deficit in one year, doubling of provincial debt in three, $5 billion in additional spending in the first year, the tax hike for the civil servants who supported him, won’t just go away. As an even bigger hit, as Rae repeatedly raised taxes to try to balance the books, the revenues as a share of GDP were higher under the tax-cutting Harris Tories.

However, putting his record aside, Rae realizes that this is an important time for the Liberal Party.

“The people of Canada gave the Liberal Party a very clear and tough message in the last election,” Rae told reporters. “We know that we have a lot of rebuilding to do.”

“I have no illusions at all. This is a job to help the party rebuild.” Liberals must “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.”

As for the Liberals’ stature at returning, Rae “can assure you that the Liberal Party has a future that is every bit as promising and great as our past achievements have been. And [he has] no hesitation in saying that the Liberal Party is here to stay.”

Bob Rae has been in it for the leadership position since 2006 where he lost to Ignatieff and Dion.

Whether Rae will be a disaster for the Liberal reputation or savior has yet to be seen in the coming months. As third party status, the Liberals will be fighting for attention while they try to rebuild their party.

In the end of the day, the Liberals will have to analyze whether a leader can pull them out of the rubble. Were Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff just wrong leaders, or have the Liberals changed too much from their roots to be taken seriously or be inspiring? Any leader can be inspiring, it all depends on what they are trying to sell. The new leader quick fix likely won’t work this time around, time to do some soul searching. What made the Liberals such a strong party in the first place?

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