Liberals groping
in the dark for directions

di Joe Volpe del July 12, 2022

TORONTO – Partisan politics can be a brutal environment. Intra-party relationships, even at the best of times, rarely reflect friendship (although I am happy to say I can still refer to some former colleagues and staff as friends). Loyalty and trust are virtues found only in rarified circles. Adherence to national principles and goals… well, you can imagine.

The circumstances at the Provincial level are not much different. They breed the same type of cynicism and sense of purposelessness. For some it is just a game and a personal income. The competitive drive to win often seems to be the only thing that keeps people together. “Ideology” is a convenient tool or club to keep members “on message”, if they have one.

The Ontario Provincial Liberals are into “soul-searching mode” after their second consecutive electoral debacle. Once again, they do not have official party status in the Legislature. This second time around they have been hit with the realization that the electorate, especially their traditional base, moved away from them as the Liberal message became more stridently leftist and wokist.

Barely 43% of the eligible electorate took the trouble to vote and only 23% of that voted Liberal. The NDP did not fare much better, but they emerged as the woke party of choice for a confused and indifferent Toronto electorate. There does not seem to be an interest or mad rush to develop a message around which to recover and coalesce eventual support.

A Canadian Press (CP) article written by Holly McKenzie-Sutter, first published in the Toronto Star, July 8, 2022, appears to have come to the same conclusion. Some of the comments attributed to the interviewees in the article further suggest a bleak outlook for anyone attempting to fill the vacancy created by the departed leader. It is clear that the former Leader’s own people had no confidence in him. Who is “out there” who would even try”?

CP says John Fraser, the MPP from Ottawa South, may be interested in a leadership run but cautions that Liberals should “take time to breathe, figure out what we need to do going forward”. It’s like stating the obvious: should have stated four years ago after Kathleen Wynne’s policies virtually buried the Party.

Ted Hsu, a former federal MP who was elected provincially in Kingston and the Islands last month, said he and other Liberals need time to understand “what happened in this last election.” What’s to understand? Voters turned their back on the Liberals because they we not convinced Wynne’s influence had dissipated.

Genevieve Tomney, an adviser to former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne - arguably an integral component of first collapse in 2018 – laid the blame squarely on Del Duca. She offered that Liberals should focus on defining their vision and reconnecting with people. However, “We need somebody who has some sizzle, who can naturally attract people to them”, she said. The inference to be drawn is that Del Duca “didn’t have it”, or that neither did Wynne.

“If there was ever a time to take a big risk and to move things in a different direction, this is it”, she added. So, what is the next “flavour of the month”?

How about a prominent member of the Muslim community, entrepreneur and financier, Mohamad Fakih, reputedly a big backer of Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who is not herself interested in the challenge?

Or a “tell-it-like-it-is” type of Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman, who, according to CP, claims he would rebuild support for the party in regions outside Toronto and Ottawa and offer voters a “big tent” option in a polarized political landscape. I’m guessing he thinks the previous Leaders offered something else.

Apparently, he went on to describe himself “as socially progressive and fiscally responsible”, adding that the “party needs to show a vision for the province that demonstrates those values.” Is that because it conveyed the impression that it was regressive and irresponsible?

The readers can tell where this is headed. With “potential candidate expressing uncertainty of message, what hope is there for engaging public support? At least Federal Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who represents Toronto’s Beaches-East York riding, is honest about his reasons. He may try, he says, if the job will fit with his family life.

He’ll have time to think it through. The Party has not yet established a timetable for choosing a leader, dynamic or not.


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