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Babbler # 6188

posted 21 June 2004 11:56 AM      Profile for Proaxiom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I was having a discussion with my wife's grandfather this week-end, a man who is not only a lifelong Liberal supporter but also part of a large Quebec social network that includes many of the Liberal power elite. He was quick to voice his disgust for Paul Martin, who he feels effectively accomplished a coup d'état in this country.

Reading here the thread about the 'Liberal implosion', I am prompted to offer some historical context to what is happening. I may not be entirely correct on every point I am making, and the story below is far from complete in every detail. But I hope I can offer some insight to clarify the situation a bit, nonetheless. If anyone disagrees with any part of my assessment, please post it.

It is plainly obvious to everyone that the Liberal Party of Canada is divided, and this division is hurting it immensely. What is less obvious is that this division has been around for decades. Fortunately for the Liberals, party members tend to be able to put aside differences in favour of party solidarity. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada lost the ability to do this, which is essentially why it imploded in 1993.

The Liberals are essentially split into two camps. Because people like labels, I will give the camps names that have historical significance but oversimplify a lot of the complex issues that divide them. The first camp I will call the Pearson Liberals, and the second camp, the Trudeau Liberals.

The Liberals are essentially split into two camps. Because people like labels, I will give the camps names that have historical significance but oversimplify a lot of the complex issues that divide them. The first camp I will call the Pearson Liberals, and the second camp, the Trudeau Liberals.

Let's step back in time a moment to 1968. (waves fingers -- diddleyoo diddleyoo diddleyoo diddleyoo...)

In this year, old Mike Pearson is retiring. One man has been waiting in the wings for years as his successor, a fellow by the name of Paul Martin, whose son would eventually become Prime Minister of Canada in 2004. But a shift is taking place. A young charismatic man by the name of Pierre Trudeau is energizing Liberals and getting them excited about a host of new ideas.

Members of the Liberal Party come to realize that Paul Martin is old, and while he represents all the ideas that Liberals traditionally stand for, the young Trudeau is, well, *exciting*. Trudeau-mania was in blossom. He wins the leadership, although many traditional Pearson Liberals are very uncertain about the changes he stands for. The nature of the difference between the two camps is another discussion.

Now jump ahead through 16 years of Liberal electoral success. Canada has changed quite a bit over that time. Trudeau, getting a bit older and with sagging popularity, takes his famous walk in the snow. The old Pearson Liberals seize the opportunity to bring their own man to the Liberal leadership, Trudeau's opponent within the party, John Turner.

Turner is stunningly defeated in the ensuing election, as Brian Mulroney wins the largest majority in Canadian history. This gives the Trudeau Liberals an opening to attempt to win back the leadership (their own man, Jean Chrétien, lost to Turner in '84). They attempt a 'coup' against Turner in 1986, but it fails. Chrétien retires from public life after that failure.

When Turner is defeated again in 1988, pressure again mounts against him. Unpopularity within the party forces him to resign. Jean Chrétien returns from retirement and is handily pushed into the leadership over the Pearson Liberals' new contender, Paul Martin Jr.

The Trudeau Liberals are back in charge. When the Mulroney coalition of red Tories, western populists, and Quebec nationalists shatters into three separate parties in 1993, the Prime Ministership is Chrétien's for the taking. But even then the Pearson Liberals are regrouping and working to position Martin as Chrétien's successor (it is presumed that Chrétien, not a young man, will be in power for two terms at most).

Now to present.

By the late 1990s it was clear that the Pearson Liberals had control of a very large part of the party organization, and Paul Martin would easily take the leadership. Chrétien, however, was in no hurry to leave. He understood the turbulence that was just below the surface within the party, and kept an
iron-fisted grip on power in order to prevent things from getting out of hand. He did not want to leave any time soon, and he did not want Paul Martin to replace him when he did.

The Trudeau Liberals, Jean Chrétien as their leader, desperately sought to position a candidate to defeat Paul Martin. For a while, this was to be Brian Tobin. It was futile, as Tobin would in time come to realize. In 2002 the long Pearson Liberal underground campaign for the leadership burst spectacularly into
open air. They were finally getting fed up with Chrétien's insistence on holding power indefinitely (forever hinting that retirement was just around the corner). The conflict escalated in a now famous confrontation, culminating in the firing of Paul Martin from federal cabinet.

This was not the end, of course. No longer a part of the cabinet, Martin could devote all his time to organizing the ouster of the sitting Prime Minister (also, he was free of certain disclosure requirements imposed on cabinet ministers). With control of the party's organization, it was within Martin's power to force a leadership vote. Chrétien fought this, but as the summer progressed the futility of his position became obvious. His last gambit was to announce a delayed retirement, averting a forced removal and giving him a year and a half to attempt to loosen Martin's grip on the party's power structures.

He failed. Time passed and Paul Martin ascended to the leadership of the Liberal Party in November 2003. After a campaign of nearly 14 years, the Pearson Liberals had regained the upper hand.

What happened next is difficult to say. For some years to come there will be epics written about exactly what has happened, and what is still happening. It is clear that after the long bitter struggle, the Pearson Liberals were overzealous in stamping out remaining Chrétien sympathies. They purged the Liberal Party instead of working to bridge the gap, perhaps in an attempt to prevent the Trudeau Liberals from egrouping in the same way they themselves did in 1990. There was a concerted effort to force any Trudeau Liberals from any position from which they might mount a challenge to Martin's leadership.

So you see, the collapse of Liberal support is part of the aftermath of the latest battle in a very long war. For the most part this struggle has been kept out of public view, a fact that has contributed to the tremendous electoral success of the party over the last four decades. But after two years of
infighting in open air, the Liberals are bleeding badly and in poor shape to face a discontented electorate.

Paul Martin's main hope may now rest in winning enough seats to pull together a coalition government with the NDP, or just maybe, the Bloc Quebecois. A Liberal-Conservative coalition, though actually the most sensible option from a neutral political standpoint, is likely too risky in optics for the leaders to
openly contemplate. A minority Liberal government would quiet the infighting because discipline would be crucial in such a situation. But the prospects for this are only bright if the Liberals and NDP can cumulatively win enough seats to control Parliament.

A Conservative government, however, would make things even more difficult than they are now. It would embolden the Trudeau Liberals to pick up the fight again, and convince the Pearson Liberals they have to be even more heavy-handed in dealing with party dissent. Unless Paul Martin is willing to become a
greater statesman and attempt to rebuild the bridges he just finished burning, a defeat could be truly disastrous for the Liberals, and possibly lead to several years of Conservative power.

From: East of the Sun, West of the Moon | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 6163

posted 21 June 2004 12:32 PM      Profile for gopi     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Soon to be a Major Motion Picture starring Mr. Potatohead as Paul Martin.
From: transient | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 5232

posted 21 June 2004 01:12 PM      Profile for leftcoastguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Proaxiom....thanks for the excellent background on the Liberals. And BTW your wife's grandfather is correct, PM Chretien was subject to a coup. I wonder if this was a first for a sitting prime minister.

Sign of the times for Martin

I had heard about Environment Minister David Anderson taking PM Martin's pictures off all his camapaign literature, but had no idea it was so widespread.

[ 21 June 2004: Message edited by: leftcoastguy ]

From: leftcoast | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 5232

posted 21 June 2004 01:26 PM      Profile for leftcoastguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Spinning out of control?

It couldn't happen to a more deservin' fellow.

From: leftcoast | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 4328

posted 21 June 2004 04:37 PM      Profile for Shane     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I've heard some rumblings on the rock (from my Grandma, however) that Brian Tobin has put together a team to explore the possibility of a leadership run after the election.

Things are getting interesting.

From: Ontario | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 560

posted 21 June 2004 05:03 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Why do we need a redux thread when this thread is still open and running?
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
audra trower williams
Babbler # 2

posted 21 June 2004 05:05 PM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
We totally don't.
From: And I'm a look you in the eye for every bar of the chorus | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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