Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Message from Jason Cherniak

Yes, Jason and I see eye to eye on this. It's one of the points I, and others, have been expressing and writing about for 3 weeks now. I'll take it a step further to include that the NEW LEADER'S legacy is one that includes the renewal of this now broken party and that the job does not fall onto an interim leader that will not lead us into the next election. Who should be in charge of the grassroots consultation? I would choose someone like an Axworthy.

The Interim Leader should not lead renewal
.by Jason Cherniak on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 12:08pm.

I don’t know that I’m going to win many friends with this note, but I’m writing it anyway. My hope is that maybe there are enough people out there who agree with me that I can stimulate a proper discussion. Before reading the rest of this, please note that I expressed this view (at least in private) before we knew who would be interested in the job.

In short, I don’t want the interim leader of the Liberal Party to lead renewal. In my view, the very notion of a caucus member leading renewal is the antitheses of the grassroots rejuvenation we need. This is why I never liked the Change Commission, despite my great personal regard for Carolyn Bennett. Similarly, I was infuriated during the 2006 convention when Bill Graham, Senator Graham (no relation) and other caucus members got on stage to endorse the new Constitution that currently governs the Liberal Party. The job of caucus is to represent Canadians in Ottawa – it is not to reorganize the organization that put them there in the first place.

Let’s imagine that the interim leader really does lead the renewal process. What would that look like? Would the Interim Leader be traveling from riding to riding consulting members? That wouldn’t do much to get us headlines and keep us in the news. Would the Interim Leader appoint people to lead various renewal projects? That doesn’t sound very grassroots to me. Would you have to be a favourite of the interim leader to play a prominent role in the renewal? Surely that is not how you let the cream rise to the top.

Yes, the interim leader should be strong in Parliament. It should be a person who can hold Harper and Layton to account and show Canadians that the Liberal Party has something to contribute to the national debate. I personally think the interim leader should be a non-controversial Herb Grey or Bill Graham type, but I’m not willing to campaign one way or the other on that point because I’m not certain that I’m right.

What I am certain about is that the important Parliamentary and media role for the Interim Leader is not about rebuilding the Liberal Party. It is about allowing the Liberal Party to rebuild itself.


Volkov said...

Sorry to say, but you two could not be more wrong.

James Curran said...

Sure we are. And the hundreds and hundreds with the same thoughts?

Scott in Montreal said...

I think James has valid points here, but little in the way of a prescription. I like what Justin Trudeau was saying in the days after the election about making a real effort to listen to new voices and ideas and to rebuild with a clean slate. It even spurred me to join. Let's get some fresh ideas out there and prepare a real practical progressive alternative for 2015.

What we have here is an opportunity to go at a careful, unpressured pace. The next four years will provide ample opportunity for the Cons and NDP to shoot themselves in the foot. The Liberals need an interim leader that won't rattle cages too much - except WITHIN the party. Not even necessarily someone within the caucus. Maybe Dryden, even?

Craig Chamberlain said...

Thank you for posting this note by Jason Cherniak. I agree with what he has to say on the interim leader. I like the thrust of what he is saying about the distinction between the membership and caucus and appreciated that he didn't necessarily have all the answers. I appreciated that his intention was to stimulate further discussion.

Not sure if he would entirely agree but I think the interim's role is to do the dirtiest work that needs to be done in advance of a new leader coming forward. To a certain extent and without being clumsy about it, the interim leader needs to go in with their axe swinging.

So, while the work of rebuilding should go to the new leader based on what is heard from the membership, the interim leader has to get their hands dirty and make the changes that I suspect must be made but are difficult to do for anyone with political ambitions.

Someone who can clean up the worst problems so that the new leader can actually make headway. Someone who is OK making the necessary changes that may not leave anyone entirely happy/unhappy with them.

Jason Cherniak said...

Wow... I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost...

If Tom Axworthy runs for president, he'll likely have my vote. However, he should gain votes if he wants to run anything. I think, and hope, our party is now past the notion of appointed committees to lead "renewal".

Craig Chamberlain said...

Without entirely knowing what I am talking about ;) having Tom Axworthy as President would be... highly encouraging.