Lawrence Martin -- who admits being inspired by MacKenzie King -- looks into his crystal ball this morning and predicts that Bob Rae will lead the Liberals in opposition and Mark Carney will lead them back to power. At the moment, both predictions are a bit of a stretch. However, Martin accurately notes that Rae is off to an "impressive start."
Those who believe that the centre has dropped out of Canadian politics will not be impressed. And, truth be told, rehabilitating the centre will not be easy:
Although Stephen Harper is brandishing his ideological stripes in some policy domains, in the area that counts most, the economy, he is showing himself to be adroitly capable of moderation. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s decision last week to put back his deficit-elimination target was an example.
Nor will it be easy for the Grits to make gains on the second-place New Democrats once that party has selected its new leader. It has a strong list of candidates to draw from.
Despite his pronouncements, however, Canadians know that Mr. Harper does not occupy the political centre. His present legislative agenda proves that. Moreover, the last three elections have proved that Mr. Harper, even with his majority, is not where most Canadians are. Regardless of the cheerleaders at The Globe and Mail and The National Post, the facts tell a different story. And whoever leads the NDP will be faced with the problem of holding a restless caucus together.
The Liberal Party of Canada has a long road ahead of it. And, at this stage, it is folly to predict who will eventually lead the party. But Martin is right on one other point: Bob Rae is "probably a big enough improvement on previous leaders to save the Liberal Party."