There is a large swath of the Liberal Party of Canada - many of Paul Martin's suicide squad, soft Quebec nationalists, some disgruntled supporters of the Michael Ignatieff leadership bid, some of the traditional Winters/Turner/Martin right wing of the party - who have never accepted the verdict of the Leadership convention that elected Stephane Dion as party leader in December 2006.
They also have severe learning disabilities when it comes to the subject of politics.
Many of them agitated, weasled and wheedled away at undermining the leadership of three-time majority winner Jean Chretien. When their success forced him to throw in the towel, their manipulative ways set up the dullest Grit leadership convention in the history of the party in December 2003 which saw the coronation of Mr. Martin. Only the brave Sheila Copps stood up to this fiasco by remaining on the ballot. The feint-of-heart John Manley bowed out of the contest early enough not to offend the incoming regime. Revenge was swiftly meted out to Copps however. The Martinites torpedoed her nomination in her own riding of Hamilton East, thus - at least temporarily - sidelining her from public life.
Not satisfied with the forced retirement of Chretien and the purging of Copps and literally hundreds of supporters of Chretien in the party across the country, Martin continued this insane internecine mayhem by ordering the Gomery Inquiry which set up the ancien Chretien regime to be the Liberal opponent in the forthcoming Federal Election. Think about it - the Martin Liberals set up the Chretien Liberals to run against - as though the Conservatives didn't exist!! The result of all of this stupidity was inevitable: the Martin Liberals lost the election thereby gifting the Canadian people with its main legacy: a Harper Government. Martin, mercifully, seems to have disappeared into history, where he will be a small footnote.
The obvious lesson to be learned from this gross foolishness is that in order for a party to succeed to power, it has to stay unified. To win, a party needs the support of every living breathing member and supporter it can lay its hands on. Most of us in the party knew this. The guts of the Martin party - including Martin himself - obviously did not.
Well, as they say, "They're baaaaaaaaaack."
Their target is of course Stephane Dion. Unlike them, Dion was never part of Martin's suicide squad, is not a soft Quebec nationalist, is not a disgruntled supporter of Michael Ignatieff, and has never been a member of the Winters/Turner/Martin right wing of the party. He is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, lawfully and fairly elected according to the rules in the last convention. He has yet to lead the party into a general election and according to the polls is running neck and neck in party support with Steve Harper's Conservatives. There is no doubt that he is having some problems. But all leaders - particularly opposition leaders - have problems as they approach their first general election.
First among the backstabbers to come out of the shadows this past week was Steven Pinkus, the Liberal Party of Canada's vice-president for the Quebec Anglophone community. He rants about the Liberals' recruiting, fundraising and communication efforts. Noone, he says, is "stepping up to the plate to put together an organization strategy." Pinkus said that he's complaining because Dion's "hand-picked people" hadn't learned any lessons from the Liberal by-election defeat in Outremont.
About Pinkus' warblings, firstly, it is to be noted that he worked for Michael Ignatieff in the leadership contest. Secondly, since he sits on the National Executive of the Liberal Party of Canada as a vice-president, what about the National Executive's and his responsibility in bringing about an effective party organization?
Martinite, former Martin Minister, high-profile media gadfly, supporter of Michael Ignatieff, and soft Quebec nationalist Liza Frulla was the next out of the cage. Dion, she said, "has no instinct. At a certain point, people feel it if there is something wrong, even if they don't know exactly what it is. But he, poor Stephane, doesn't feel it."
I would like to pose this question to Ms. Frulla. "What about your own instinct in having supported the departed Mr. Martin in his effort to dislodge and trash the Chretien Liberals? Why didn't you feel there was something wrong with that? After all, it cost the Liberals the election, Mr. Martin his leadership and you your seat!! You are a fine one to talk about "no instinct!"
Frulla went further in her comments. She trashes former Minister and firebrand politico Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, Dion's Quebec lieutenant, as being "abrasive" and narcissistic." Egads, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! But quite apart from that, I have known Ms. Hervieux-Payette for almost thirty years. She is a passionate and tough task master and a doer. She is also a great Canadian. When Liza Frulla was casting her ballot for the "yes" forces in the Quebec Referendum of 1980, Celine was still out on the hustings campaigning for the "no" side of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Claude Ryan.
For what its worth, my advice to Grits everywhere is to unite and get behind the leader. We have seen what happens when a party splits over leadership. Liberal unity was one of the important reasons why the Liberals ruled between 1963 and 1984. It was one of the reasons that we were successful during most of the Chretien years. Liberals were unified and the Tories - for much of that time - were divided. We also saw what party disunity did to us in 2004. It gave us Harper. Dion has earned the right to lead the party into the next election and so let's live with that.
As for Michael Ignatieff - who I happen to like very much - I say to him, get your people in line and watch what you say and how you say it. The press are always on the hunt for that raised eyebrow, the grimace, the frown, the out-of-context sentence or phrase or word, designed to promote conflict. Its a minefield, really. And you have to get through it. Just like the rest of us.