In Depth: Liberal Party 2006 leadership race, Last Updated Dec. 1, 2006/CBC News/The Liberal Party of Canada selects its new leader on Dec. 2 as it rebuilds and prepares to face an election battle in the not-too-distant future. The search for a new leader has produced a race with many contenders and no clear favourite, unlike the past few leadership conventions. After coming under fire during the campaign leading up to the 2006 election for lacking focus and vision, the party now has time to do some soul searching. Here are the contenders.

The candidates: A synopsis

Michael Ignatieff
Resumé: Professor, author, MP since 2006
Campaign: “You want leadership that challenges, that inspires.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 29%

Bob Rae
Resumé: Ontario premier, Air India inquiry commissioner
Campaign: “Canada needs a party that embraces change.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 20%

Gerard Kennedy
Resumé: Food bank executive, Ontario education minister
Campaign: “We must grip this country with a sense of where it needs to go.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 17.5%

Stéphane Dion
Resumé: Cabinet minister, politics professor, MP since 1996
Campaign: “Canada is most successful when we are all working together.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 16%

Ken Dryden
Resumé: Goaltender, author, sports executive, MP since 2004
Campaign: “I want to lead a country that takes on big challenges.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 5%

Joe Volpe
Resumé: Educator, Immigration minister, MP since 1988
Campaign: “We need to take it back from the backroom players who hide behind new faces.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 5%

Scott Brison
Resumé: Corporate sales, Progressive Conservative, cabinet minister, MP since 1997
Campaign: “Youth, energy and experience” for a “new generation of leaders.”
Percentage of “super weekend” delegates: 4%

Martha Hall Findlay
Resumé: Lawyer, businesswoman
Campaign: “It’s time to renew our approach to politics and to policy.”

The leadership vote

Friday, Dec. 1
3 p.m. ET. First round voting begins
4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Candidate speeches
First round voting ends one hour after last speech
Results are expected by the end of the night

Saturday, Dec. 2
9 a.m. Second round voting begins
Subsequent rounds happen until one candidate has more than 50% of delegates
After winner is declared, new leader will give a speech.
The candidate with the fewest delegates is dropped off the next vote, but others can choose to drop out of the race (and throw their support behind other candidates.). Delegates are not required to stick to their candidate after the first round.

Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff is an oddity when it comes to a Liberal leadership hopeful. He is possibly better known outside our borders than within. Despite his short stint in federal politics, which he entered in January 2006, he has been considered the man to watch.

In September, he gathered 30 per cent of the delegates who will choose the next leader.

The Toronto-born academic and author, who left his post as director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University in August 2005 to teach at the University of Toronto, represents the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

He worked as a reporter for The Globe and Mail before going on to earn his PhD at Harvard. He is fluent in English, French and Russian (his grandfather was in the government of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II), and has written 16 books, with titles such as Blood and Belonging and The Rights Revolution, exploring themes of nationalism, modern warfare and human rights. Ignatieff won the non-fiction Governor General’s Award for The Russian Album, a family memoir he wrote in 1987, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and the Whitbread Novel Award for his 1993 novel Scar Tissue.

However, Ukrainian-Canadians in his riding have protested passages in 1995’s Blood and Belonging as being derogatory toward their culture, and opponents have accused him of condoning “soft” torture tactics used by U.S. forces dealing with prisoners suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda. Ignatieff was also called a “liberal hawk” for supporting U.S. President George W. Bush’s push to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on the grounds that Saddam was torturing and killing his own citizens.

But his decision to move back to Canada in the summer of 2005 was greeted with breathless profiles in national publications, with his future as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada taken for granted.

During the campaign, he has shown that he has a grasp of national issues, and he hasn’t shied away from the spotlight and controversial issues. For example, on Quebec, Ignatieff said he would consider reopening the Constitution to try to include Quebec, an idea that has been widely criticized by the other candidates.

Bob Rae

Bob Rae (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Bob Rae is a curious candidate, a man who has a lot of credentials and a political record that is both his strength and weakness.

Many in Ontario may not look fondly back at his five-year term as NDP premier. As a former New Democrat — federally and provincially — he is not always seen as a natural Liberal. In September, he got the third-most delegates in Ontario behind Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy. Nationwide, he captured 20 per cent of the elected delegates.

Unlike many of his competitors, notably Ignatieff, he has real experience in politics and frequently points to his tenure as premier as one of his assets.

Rae could be seen as the candidate who could help the Liberals crowd out the NDP and grab back votes lost to them in the Jan. 23, 2006, election. Rae’s brother John was a key member of Jean Chrétien’s election machine and could handle the logistics for a Bob Rae campaign.

Some early candidates for the 2006 leadership race have thrown their support behind Rae, including Carolyn Bennett, Maurizio Bevilacqua and Hedy Fry.

Rae has also acquired a reputation as a statesman, handling high-profile files for the Liberals such as an inquiry into the Air India bombing. He was considered one of the front-runners to succeed Adrienne Clarkson as governor general in 2005.

Gerard Kennedy

Gerard Kennedy (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Pollsters consider him to be the dark horse in the Liberal leadership race, but former Ontario minister of education has proven himself an able contender who belongs among the front-runners.

Unlike his rivals, Kennedy, 45, has a clean slate and none of their political baggage. By almost all accounts, he handled a tough portfolio as education minister deftly, gaining the trust of teachers’ unions after he cancelled a proposal that would have made it a requirement for teachers to pass re-certification tests. In return for labour peace, he also inked a four-year deal in 2005 to give teachers raises and increased prep time.

Kennedy is just as well known for founding the Edmonton Food Bank and serving as executive director of Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank for 10 years. His left-leaning positions have made him palatable to both NDP supporters and Liberals.

In announcing his candidacy, Kennedy said his vision for Canada is to become “the first international country in the world.”

“Canada should be the best place in the world to start and grow a business,” he said.

Kennedy grabbed about 17 per cent of the elected delegates in September and also has the most delegates in Alberta. However, his big challenge will be to amplify some very quiet support in Quebec, where it seems his questionable command of French eclipses his charisma.

Stéphane Dion

Stephane Dion

Stéphane Dion focused on his environmental track record as he declared his intention to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. But his role in dealing with Quebec may be what determines his chances at winning. In September, he was confirmed to be in the race, with 17 per cent of the delegates and a strong showing in Quebec.

Dion was recruited by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1996 and given the job of improving federalist fortunes in Quebec in the wake of the 1995 referendum. He authored the Clarity Act, which set strict terms for negotiating Quebec separation. He argued that claims by sovereigntists that separation could be painlessly achieved were a myth.

Dion held the post of minister for intergovernmental affairs for seven years but was dropped from cabinet in Dec. 2003, when Paul Martin was sworn in as prime minister. He was named environment minister after the Liberals won a minority government in the June 2004 election. He impressed in that post — and he chose that theme as he announced his candidacy.

“We cannot afford to miss out on the next industrial revolution: the sustainable economy,” Dion said when he announced his bid April 7.

“For that reason, we must weave together economic growth, social justice, the environment and public health. That is why I want to become leader of the Liberal party and then prime minister of Canada.” Another former Liberal cabinet minister — Don Boudria — is charing Dion’s leadership bid.

Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden (CP Photo)

Dryden is perhaps the best-known candidate — if not for his service as senior health critic in the Liberal caucus, then certainly for his legendary service as the Montreal Canadiens’ star Stanley Cup-winning goalie.

The Boston Bruins traded Dryden to Montreal and he made his NHL debut in 1971. He won six Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in the 1970s and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1983.

But Dryden always wanted to go into politics. He became a lawyer after his hockey career and a businessman. In 2004, Dryden, as a Liberal candidate, was elected to the House of Commons as the MP for York Centre. He was later named to the cabinet.

As a social development minister under Paul Martin, Dryden set up a national daycare program. He says his mission is to build a “learning society” based on a national early learning and child-care system and he wants to strengthen post-secondary education.

“Big in spirit, big in possibility, big in ambition, big in the world — a big Canada. That’s how we will win the next election,” he has been quoted as saying.

In his bid now for the Liberal leadership, Dryden’s wooden speech delivery and lackluster fundraising have kept him from being among the top tier of contenders. However, he is considered by many in the party as the next best choice.

Heading into the leadership convention, Dryden had about 194 elected delegates or about five per cent of the total.

Joe Volpe

Joe Volpe

Calling the Liberal party of the mid-1980s “pretty restrictive,” Italian-born Joe Volpe recruited legions of new party members from the ethnic communities he observed as in need of a more active role in government. His success as an organizer boosted his public profile, particularly with Toronto’s Italian neighbourhoods.

A former MP and minister with three university degrees, Volpe has earned a reputation for representing what immigrants in working-class neighbourhoods can achieve with some hard work and grit. As immigration minister in 2005, he demonstrated an affinity for the struggles of immigrants and supported an amnesty for some illegal workers, against the wishes of the cabinet.

So far, his campaign for the top Liberal job has been dogged by controversy. In the spring, it was revealed that $27,000 of his campaign donations had come from children, two of whom were only 11 years old. B.C. MP and organizer Sukh Dhaliwal defected from Volpe’s campaign following the “kiddie donations” scandal. (His national campaign manager, Jim Karygiannis, also left the campaign, although it was supposedly over Volpe’s pro-Israel views on the war in Lebanon.)

In September’s lead-in to the critical delegate-selection vote, Volpe also stood accused of signing up two bogus party members who were deceased. Although he did not quit the race, the Liberal party hit the candidate with a $20,000 fine for breaking rules in signing up delegates.

Volpe decried the allegations as part of a smear campaign against an “outsider” candidate, which is how he described himself.

Volpe has about five per cent of the elected delegates going into the convention.

Scott Brison

Scott Brison

Scott Brison could breathe new life into a party whose last two leaders were senior citizens. As an openly gay MP, he could also attract the party’s progressive wing.

This is not the first time that the politician, who is 39, has run for a party leadership. In 2003, while he was a Progressive Conservative, he ran for the party’s top post.

He joined the Liberals when the PC and Canadian Alliance parties merged and served as public works minister in the cabinet of Paul Martin. Brison won his riding in Nova Scotia just as handily as a Liberal as he did as a Tory.

He joined the race for the Liberal leadership on April 23, calling himself as a defender of the environment, business innovation and socially progressive values.

“I’m not a gay politician, I’m a politician who happens to be gay,” he told CBC Newsworld when he entered the PC leadership.

Traditionally, the party does not put forward more than one candidate from Atlantic Canada. While Brison was seen as a bright light in Martin’s cabinet, some elements in the party might prefer that he get a bit more seasoning before being considered as leadership material.

In the September super weekend vote, Brison got about four per cent of the elected delegates or about 170 delegates. His largest contingent of delegates is from Nova Scotia.

Martha Hall Findlay

Martha Hall Findlay (Jason Scott/Canadian Press)

Martha Hall Findlay, a former lawyer and businesswoman, has made up for her lack of star power with an ambitious grassroots campaign strategy to meet — and speak with — as many voters as she can. In the process, she’s emerged as a fresh face for the Liberal leadership bid and has impressed many, even as they wholly expect the underdog to lose.

The grassroots tour is all part of Findlay’s plan to rebuild and re-energize a scandal-plagued Liberal party from the ground up. She hails herself as the candidate who can bridge the gap between the Martin and Chrétien factions of the party and describes herself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

Findlay’s says the environment and health care are her two key issues. She wants honest discussion of health-care alternatives and believes the Kyoto climate change protocol is worth pursuing, but adds Canada needs to act tough if it’s going to talk tough. She wants private health care, but from a universal, single-tier and publicly funded system.

Findlay is best known for nearly beating heavily favoured Belinda Stronach in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora in the 2004 federal election. In the hard-fought battle, Findlay was defeated by just 689 votes.

Aside from a successful business career, she boasts extensive non-profit and volunteer experience and also recently served as vice president (policy) of the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission. Her work with Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization, has helped promote more women entering politics.

Findlay received the fewest delegates, about one per cent of the total.

New rules for race

There were new rules for the Liberal leadership race, which officially began on April 7, 2006:
Candidates had to pay an entry fee of $50,000, down from $75,000 in the last race.
Candidates could spend no more than $3.4 million on their campaigns, down from $4 million in the last race.


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