Who's who in Harper's Cabinet. Distinguishing the charlatans from the suck-ups
Let Ignatieff do his own thing
By: Dan Lett
Michael Ignatieff’s choices for his inner circle have come under fire.
If there is one thing Liberals simply cannot abide, it is a winner.
Consider the case of one Michael Ignatieff. Despite having recently assumed the leadership of the federal Liberal party at a critical time in the political history of this country, Ignatieff continues to spend too much time dodging the sniping from the very people he is supposed to be leading.
This week, national reports indicated Ignatieff was close to completing his inner circle. Not surprisingly, that circle is comprised of many Torontonians who played an instrumental role in luring Ignatieff into federal politics, getting him elected to the House of Commons and running his leadership campaign. Despite the inherently logical approach of dancing with the ladies that brung him, he has been criticized from within the party.
A Canadian Press report this week indicated "some Liberals" were unhappy Ignatieff was not recruiting from the ranks of those Grits who supported other leadership contenders. The report suggested Ignatieff might be ignoring good people from other camps, a strategy that contributed to former prime minister Paul Martin's destruction.
There is no doubt some Liberals are concerned about Ignatieff's actions. This is a familiar refrain when a new Grit leader takes over. But these naysayers are revealing more about themselves, and the damaged Liberal party brand, than Ignatieff.
Ignatieff is most definitely relying heavily on the people who helped him assume the leadership. These include Ian Davey (principal secretary), son of the great Liberal "rainmaker" Keith Davey; fundraiser extraordinaire Rocco Rossi (party national director); Don Guy (national campaign director), a former chief of staff to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty; and former Chrétien hit man Warren Kinsella (war room director). Respected former Liberal MP Paul Zed will serve as chief of staff on an interim basis.
In relying solely on those from within his camp, is Ignatieff merely repeating the mistakes of Martin and setting the stage for his own destruction? Hardly.
First and foremost, Martin's ignominious leadership campaign contributed little to the party's defeat in the 2006 federal election. There is no doubt the Martinites ignored the work of government to engage in leadership politics. But it was the stench of the Quebec sponsorship scandal, and the mid-campaign allegation Liberals had leaked policy on income trusts, that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in that election.
Ignatieff has not adopted any of the sheer ruthlessness of Martin's leadership bid; a prolonged, bloody ground war that separated Grits into two camps: pro-Martin or persona non grata. More importantly, that ruthlessness extended into the prime minister's office after he became leader. Pro-Martin MPs and supporters were rewarded; everyone else was relegated to the fringes of the party.
It wasn't so much that Martin only recruited from among his own supporters for his inner circle. Those who opposed him, and supported other leadership candidates, were dead to him.
Ignatieff has spent a lifetime studying governance and, during that prolonged education, he must have learned leadership is not a solitary task.
Leaders who recruit charlatans and suck-ups rarely succeed. The most successful political leaders are those who surround themselves with people of intellectual substance, who can stand up to their masters when necessary.
Taking all this into consideration, Liberals should be more concerned about whether the new advisers have the metal to stand up to the intellectually extravagant Ignatieff, and whether he is willing to listen to his advisers and govern his behaviour accordingly.
That is not to say there isn't value in bringing in the best people from other camps. In forging his cabinet, U.S. president-elect Barack Obama recruited his chief leadership contender, Hillary Clinton, to serve as secretary of state and retained George W. Bush's secretary of defence, Robert Gates. As his chief of staff, he picked Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic congressman who initially supported Clinton.
Looking at Obama's example, Ignatieff would be well-advised to make sure leadership contenders such as Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc have the leader's ear when it comes to determining the future direction of the party. In return, those former opponents should acknowledge the leadership race is over.
With Parliament in such a precarious situation, the Liberals should know by now that everything they do is part of an audition to return to government.
However, until the Liberals figure out they should be fighting Conservatives, instead of each other, they should not expect to govern the country.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 12:59 PM