April 19, 2013

Bringing Liberal civil war to an end

Abraham Lincoln he is not. And he did not exactly say “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

However, when Justin Trudeau assumed the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada on Sunday, he vowed to put an end to the civil warfare that has divided the once almighty party for nearly 30 years — since his father, Pierre, left the job.

The 41-year-old Trudeau won the post with a whopping 80 percent of the more than 100,000 party supporters who voted online. This marks the largest vote ever to elect a political leader in Canada.

Trudeau inherits a party that little resembles the one his dad won back in 1968, when he was 49. (For the record, Pierre Trudeau won the Liberal crown with only 51 percent of the vote). When the elder Trudeau took power, the Liberals had ruled Canada since 1896, with a few interruptions.

When Pierre retired in 1984, the seeds were sown for what would turn out to be decades of party feuding and in-fighting. This has led to the party’s descent into what is now the lowest point ever, with a mere 34 seats in the House of Commons and relegated to third-party status behind the leftist New Democratic Party and the ruling Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

With Trudeau gone, the party split into two camps, with one backing the one-time heir apparent of the Liberals, John Turner, and the other Jean Chretien, Trudeau’s loyal go-to minister, once described as looking like the guy who drove the getaway car.

Turner beat Chretien and went on to serve briefly as prime minister before the Liberals were turfed from office.

Nine years later, Chretien, having beaten star recruit Paul Martin for the leadership, brought the Liberals back to power and won three consecutive majority governments. All the while, supporters of Martin, mostly Turner backers, were impatient for Chretien to relinquish the party leadership.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg The friendly Commonwealth Games

    The 20th Commonwealth Games are now underway in Glasgow, Scotland, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Quebec's proliferation of festivals

    Woodstock en Beauce celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Quebec City's English paper a survivor

    In a city stocked with beautiful, interesting and historic buildings, the five-story gem located at perhaps the busiest corner in Old Quebec doesn't attract much attention, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    June 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadian hockey Kings

    As of this writing, the Los Angeles Kings have either already quaffed from their second Stanley Cup or are on the verge of closing out the New York Rangers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    June 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Remembering the forgotten Empress

    The Titanic gets the most attention, what with the epic drama of the 1912 sinking of an incomparable luxury liner, stocked with celebrities, on its maiden voyage.

    May 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadians among TV conspirators

    Call me weird, paranoid, a child of Watergate and Contragate or just a connoisseur of tense political drama, but my current three favorite TV programs are about conspiracies in America, each in a different era of U.S. history, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Hurons gamble on Quebec

    When we were kids, our parents took us to visit Sainte Marie among the Hurons, the restoration of the settlement French missionaries built in 1639 in what is now central Ontario, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    May 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Trench warfare in Quebec elections

    I've seen many a Quebec election in my day (I'll skip the "by cracky"), writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo