Thursday, November 16, 2006

LIBERAL LEADERSHIP RACE IN LAST STAGES

BLOGGERS GOING TO MONTREAL

In only a couple more weeks the Liberals hold their big leadership convention and THE CAIRNS BLOG hopes to once again provide the usual saturation political convention coverage. No, I will not be at the convention, I will be at home watching the TV. I've kind of had enough of attending political conventions, at least for right now.

Some bigshot bloggers will be there, though. There was a story on Global the other day about how Stephen Taylor and Jason Cherniak are heading to the convention to cover it. The difference is that Taylor is going there as an accredited Conservative blogger with full press credentials; he doesn't have to pay a cent. Meanwhile Cherniak is going there not only as a blogger, but as a die-hard Liberal Stephane Dion supporter/delegate. Which means he will have to pay the ridiculous delegate fees. It costs a thousand dollars to go be a delegate for the Liberals!

Now, at past leadership races that I've been to, it did not cost me a thousand bucks to go. Then again, I only went to one federal and two provincial leadership conventions, and all of them were direct-vote-by-the-membership affairs. (There were two other federal leadership races in which I cast a vote directly, but I didn't attend the convention on those occasions.) The biggest ripoff I heard of was the 2002 Ontario PC vote which cost people $195 to get into, but I didn't have to pay my way into that thing as I recall. But even so, we all thought these fees they were asking for were ridiculous and a ripoff. The other two leadership conventions were much more reasonably priced and I paid my own way into those. The federal Tory leadership convention in 2004 cost about $70 to get into, after taxes. Keep in mind these were not delegated conventions; everyone in the party was able to vote for the leader directly. So any die-hard who worked hard on a leadership campaign and who wanted to be in Toronto could go to the convention if they wanted to and even cast their vote there. I gather the Conservative policy convention in Montreal cost quite a bit more money for delegates to go to, and I didn't go to that one.

But this is ridiculous, the Liberals setting a delegate fee of a thousand dollars. Granted, it has both a policy component as well as a leadership component, so it is bound to cost more money than if it were a direct leadership vote. But still!

Cherniak is trying to raise money from people so he can be able to go there and vote, and blog from the floor of the convention. I think this is a very big issue for a lot of campaigns, trying to find a way to get their people to the convention, given these ridiculous delegate fees. So I wouldn't put too much faith in the unofficial "delegate totals" that have been reported. They give a good idea what will happen on the first ballot, but not the whole story. Let's see who actually shows up in Montreal at the convention after paying the thousand dollars! Not too many, I can imagine.

KENNEDY-DION GANGUP RUMORS

Here's a story from The Hill Times on what is going down with the convention and the leadership race, and whether or not it will be an Ignatieff-Rae final runoff. The latest speculation is it may not. Apparently the big fear in the Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae camps is about the possibility of a gangup by Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion. The fear is that Kennedy and Dion will support one another at the convention, depending on who's ahead of who after the second ballot is finally over. Then the fourth-place finisher will move over to the other, who will then vault past Bob Rae and then face Ignatieff on the final ballot.

The other thing that we know about is that the Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae camps both absolutely hate one another. Rae keeps on bragging about his great growth potential, but it won't be so great if Kennedy and Dion do a deal at the convention. And keep in mind Rae's not too far ahead of either of them. He's got something like 20% while these two could have a combined 32-34% at the convention! If these two do a deal, Rae could be finished. What Rae really needs to do is get the lesser contenders Ken Dryden and Scott Brison onside after the first ballot, and it's really questionable whether that will happen. I wouldn't be surprised at all if these two guys go to Ignatieff or someone else. I'm sure Kennedy and Dion will want their votes, too, so they can knock each other out on the second ballot.

Anyway, I could see Rae dropping to third on the third ballot if this Kennedy-Dion alliance thing happens, and then Rae's people could move over to one of those two and make that man leader. I wouldn't be surprised. I think what we are seeing is the possibility of a big stop-Ignatieff effort starting up. There's a lot of anti-Ignatieff sentiment out there right now. There are a bunch of YouTube political videos floating around right now and they look like your typical American negative political ads. They are attacking Iggy's support of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and his various comments in the media, and are calling him a "Republican".

Anyway, there's bound to be a lot of movement at the convention. The thing is that Bob Rae could win this convention or lose completely. It all comes down to this Kennedy-Dion business and I wouldn't be surprised if backroom deals between these two candidates, or even a big deal that falls apart, decides this convention. I think Ignatieff's best hope is for all the opposition to be disorganized in their attempts to stop him. He may be ahead but he can be had, no question about it.

The thing to watch out for is that the first ballot will take place on Friday night during the speeches. People are speculating there will be a whole night of negotiating and smoke-filled rooms before the second ballot begins on Saturday. I wouldn't be surprised. One convention I went to, I walked into the hall on Saturday morning and discovered that the Toronto Star had a big front-page story, reporting that my candidate's backroom people had spent all night at a nearby hotel negotiating to support someone else. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw talks going on. I don't think people will bail out of the race immediately because of those talks. But I do think you'll definitely see stuff happening quickly on the floor of the convention hall as a result of them, and people being organized. This setup frankly helps the stop-Ignatieff people a lot, because they're the ones who really need the time to organize themselves and do deals with other people.

The other thing that is happening is that the Liberals are threatening to tear themselves apart over this whole "recognizing Quebec as a nation" resolution nonsense which will be going on during the policy portion of the convention. Ignatieff was apparently supporting this resolution and getting into hot water over that, not to mention all the other things he was getting into hot water on, whether it's inserting his foot in his mouth over Israel and all the rest of it. See, this is why the Americans settle disputes in committees ahead of time; they know the whole national media and all the bloggers will show up at the convention to make their entire party look like it is in chaos. It's bad for party PR.

That's why leadership conventions in Canada are on their way out, folks. There's a resolution on the table to turn Liberal leadership contests into directly-elected things in the future and it looks like it should pass. And no wonder. This convention is going to be a big PR headache for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Anyway, fun stuff for Canadian political junkheads in a couple of weeks--- and don't forget, there's a byelection in London North Centre and a leadership race with the Alberta PCs going on, too.

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