I CAN SUMMON with clarity the celebration of Fall 1990 that inducted the provincial NDP government of Bob Rae. I’d moved to Kingston a month earlier, at the end of August, and like everyone else was shocked to see that the NDP would not only form a government, but a majority government at that.
FEDERAL LIBERAL LEADER Bob Rae’s citation of William Shakespeare was an indirect invocation also of a commonplace political euphemism — the putting aside of personal ambition “to spend more time with the family.” Announcing his decision yesterday not to run for permanent leadership, he produced the closing lines of Sonnet 25:
LAST WEEK, Liberal leader Bob Rae warned that the federal political culture of Canada is ‘entering into a kind of Nixonian moment.’ This all-thumbs assertion lacks definite substance and grip — we’re in a kind of like, you know, moment thing — but has its use. For almost a year we’ve known of the Robocall mess, media reports having been issued since election day. Now the plot, and the rot, thicken. Here I refer to the top-shelf work of Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor of Postmedia News, under our present analogy the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of this vote suppression scandal. Reviewing the evidence they’ve patiently assembled, can you now doubt a wide and active campaign of fraud in the 2011 election?
A FEW DAYS to the weekend’s Liberal policy convention, I had a conversation with the former deputy prime minister of Canada at his Ottawa home. Most of it a trip down memory lane (Herb Gray, now 80, holds the record for longest-serving Canadian MP and has a long lane indeed), we covered topics ranging from Indian residential schools to the Polish city of Lublin, only at the end turning our attention to the future of the Liberal party of Canada.
There is a famous anecdote concerning two nineteenth-century British Prime Ministers and bitter rivals, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. The former may be credited with first articulating “Progressive Conservatism” — by way of his 1844 novel Coningsby, or The New Generation — and the latter with both establishing and dominating the British Liberal Party, having ended his affiliation to the High Tories. According to the standard account, Gladstone asserted (doubtless with approval) “I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease.” Disraeli’s response was characteristically immediate, biting, and witty: “That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.”