Pretenders to the Throne

25 Sep

Remember him? Tall… blue eyes… prone to the occasional bout of hyperbole…

A year ago, Paul Martin was the Prime Minister of Canada. His minority government had recently survived a non-confidence vote, and it looked as if he might be able to hang on to the job for a while.

Now? By some accounts, he is still a busy guy. And former acquaintances still have things to say about him. But on Parliament Hill, he’s a little-seen, seldom-heard-from Opposition backbencher.

They say a week is a lifetime in politics. So a year would be… well… do the math.

Think back twelve months. Back before Bob Rae was a Liberal. Before David Emerson was a Conservative. Before Michael Ignatieff was living full-time in Canada.

One year ago, Stephen Harper looked as if he had blown his big chance. His attempt to bring down the government was thwarted by Belinda Stronach’s floor-crossing, press reviews said he was too angry to win power, and his party’s poll numbers brought little comfort.

Today, he surely looks back happily on what followed. Looking forward over the next year, though, may not be as comforting for Harper. Like Martin before him, he leads a minority government , a species whose life-cycle is more often measured in months than years.

Recent poll numbers offer no guarantee that his Conservative Party will win the majority government that every political party desires.

And have I mentioned that a year is a long time in politics? That anything can happen in that time? Like any minority government leader, Harper has no guarantee that he will even be in power in twelve months.

If Harper is no longer Prime Minister in a year’s time, then who will be? Most likely one of the current Liberal leadership candidates. Will it be Prime Minister Ignatieff? Prime Minister Rae? Prime Minister Dion? Prime Minister Kennedy? Prime Minister One-of-the-other-ones?

A year ago, what were all these Liberal leadership candidates doing? Different things, to be sure. But one thing none of them was doing was firing up the imaginations of Canadian voters as an obvious future leader of the Liberal Party. Speculation back then usually centred on names such as McKenna, Manley, Tobin and Rock.

Having trouble remembering those names? Well, you know what they say about a year in politics…

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