Signs of Liberal life
Clearly, the Liberals seem to have decided to use this break week in Parliament to issue some forceful assurances of their continued existence.
First, there was the big teleconference call on Sunday night, which attracted as many as 10,000 participants, according to some reports. Then, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae did his big speech yesterday in Toronto. And this afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., Liberals are going to be handed some hefty reading material, in what's being called a "white paper" for renewal of the beleaguered political brand.
We'll be putting all of it online as soon as it's released and while I can't say much yet about what's in this material, here's what I can tell you:
* It's sweeping in scope and candid in tone. It's not just a "process" document.
* It's large, close to 100 pages.
* It is the product of a lot of work, and some considerable soul-searching into the historic defeat in May.
* Some of the details have been surfacing in recent weeks and days -- the idea of "primaries" for electing the next Liberal leader, for instance. Liberal strategist Rob Silver, on his blog over at the Globe, has sent out some broad hints about some of the nuts-and-bolts proposals. But there are lots of other ideas too, which should generate enough fodder for many more blog posts by Liberals (and their detractors.)
And that's the whole idea. The purpose of this paper is to whip up discussion leading to the January convention in Ottawa, Bob Rae said in an interview I did with him earlier this week. Here's a bit of what he said:
I think we have to engage Canadians in the party. And I don’t think the party can endure as a closed shop. I think that the openness of the party and its capacity for change has to be demonstrated and I think this is the time frame in which we have to do that...
The sense is that there’s still a disconnect between the work that people are doing in the ridings and what the national organization and others are doing. I think there’s a real need to reconnect those things and I think everybody understands that....
The white paper will be discussed for the next month, there’s going to be roundtables and meetings and online discussions and other ways of communicating and listening. The national board will take that into account and together with a number of other bodies will propose some items for discussion at the convention in January and that’s the convention that will decide on constitutional change....
I think things are pretty good. I’ve been pretty impressed with how resilient people are.
All of this, of course, flies in the face of some declarations of the party's demise,discussed last month in this space. Author Peter C. Newman will be weighing in to that effect later this month with his new book, which is already circulating in some Liberal circles, I'm told. I hear that Newman has used his access to Michael Ignatieff (the book was originally supposed to be a biography) to paint a quite unflattering picture, complete with psycho-analysis of the former leader's motives. That book lands on Nov. 22. Today's "white paper" may serve a bit as a pre-emptive reply.