July 15, 2011

'Bob the Rebuilder's' summer project

Nearly five years ago I wrote in this column: "If a member of Canada's Liberal Party awoke this week from a 20-year coma to find Bob Rae as a serious contender for the party's leadership, he or she probably would conclude the following: Rae has come to his political senses, or the party has lost its collective mind."

Well, here we are five years later and Bob Rae, the former New Democratic Party (NDP) premier of Ontario, is indeed leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and some observers would say those comatose Liberals might as well go lights out for another long spell before Rae, or any other Liberal, becomes prime minister.

Rae is the son of a respected Canadian diplomat, Rhodes scholar, labour lawyer, star MP in the NDP caucus in Ottawa, and, in a stunning surprise victory in 1990, head of the first government formed by a socialist party in Canada's most powerful province.

Now, thanks largely to the inability of his former college roommate Michael Ignatieff to win the hearts and votes of many Canadians in the May 2 election, the job of leader of the party that dominated the country for the 20th century falls to Rae. Unfortunately for Rae, his frat buddy has left him to clean up a party that can fairly be described as in a shambles, and, if you believe some commentators, on the verge of extinction. (Which reminds us, what ever happened to the American Whig party?)

The Liberals hold 34 seats in the 308-seat Parliament, making them the third party behind the NDP's 103 (59 of which are in Quebec), and the Conservatives majority contingent of 166.

Rae, who finished third in the leadership contest mentioned in the beginning, behind Ignatieff and winner Stephane Dion — who lasted one election that netted the Liberals 77 seats — offered himself as interim leader and agreed to two conditions: He would not run for the leadership (at a convention targeted for 2013), and he would not seek a merger with the NDP.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • 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

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Dr. Phil's election prescription Philippe Couillard is a brain surgeon, not a psychiatrist, so his expertise is not necessarily understanding the collective mind of Quebecers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Party's charter flight to majority

    It's not surprising the political maneuvering in recent weeks in Quebec City has been dubbed the "winter games," writes Canadian columnist Peter Black

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Joe Ryan's mountain vision

    Eventually someone surely would have taken the initiative to turn what the Algonquins called Manitonga Soutana and the locals called Mont Tremblant into a popular outdoor recreational destination, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Montreal's Genie on the courts

    In a land where raquettes de neige (snowshoes) are more popular than raquets (tennis), a young Canadian with classic California surfer girl looks is turning heads on the court.

    January 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Columnist's Canada in 1954

    I will depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian, writes columnist Peter Black.

    January 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Prime minister's hockey history

    By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Quebec City displays Holy Door

    It's the first and only such thing in North America: a Holy Door, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 13, 2013 1 Photo

Videos: Editor Picks