Last December, I covered the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership convention in Montreal as both a television producer and a blogger (my blog entries from that weekend are archived here, but unfortunately not in the most user-friendly way).
Here’s a telling moment I noted at the time:
Minutes after the announcement of the third ballot results – which knocked Bob Rae out of the race, confirmed Stéphane Dion’s momentum, and set up a surprise final-ballot showdown between Dion and Michael Ignatieff – I witnessed a female Ignatieff supporter in a white cowboy hat shaking her head in wonder, and saying to no one in particular:
“Who would have ever thought it – Dion?”
Almost 11 months after Dion won that convention and became the 11th leader of the Liberal Party, some Liberals still seem to be saying the same thing.
When Dion won, some thought it was a promising, youthful, green moment for the party, a time to put away the divisions and disunity of the Chrétien / Martin years.
Now? Not so much.
The Liberals are floundering in the polls, especially in Quebec, where last month’s by-election losses underlined their troubles in bold ink. They are far from united: Witness Deputy Leader Ignatieff’s very public show of disloyalty to Dion on the floor of the House of Commons last week.
Worst of all for Dion, he finds himself stuck in a classic damned-if-you-do / damned-if-you-don’t dilemma. Fear of disaster in a general election has prompted the Liberal caucus to pressure their leader into propping up the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
It’s a situation that the Prime Minister is only too happy to exploit.
If you are interested in further discussion of Liberal Party woes, and are near a television tonight, please have a look at this program, co-produced by myself and my colleague Judy Brake. It will also be available online at the same site early next week.