Hopefully, the next letter I will write to you will address you as Dear Mr. Prime Minister.
Alas, we are not there yet.
You’ve had a tough week. It could have been a helluva lot tougher had not the UN and G 20 meetings together with Obama, al-Gadaffi, and Ahmadinejad not squeezed almost everything else off the front pages. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to squeeze it all.
I am going to offer you some sound advice. Yes, I know I come from Alberta, and I know Liberals out here are protected by the game licensing laws, and yes, I know, we have our conventions in phone booths, yada, yada, yada. But out here in Alberta a Liberal has to fight for every vote he gets, and we’ve been doing it for years. Accordingly, we Alberta Liberals have learned a few things along the way that seem for the moment to be forgotten in the greener Liberal pastures of central Canada.
One of the things we have learned is that a political party has got to be united to fight an election campaign. Actually, I thought the Ottawa crowd might have picked up on that after the last three federal elections. Had it not been for the Martin-Chretien internecine warfare we would probably still have power. But it was not to be. Many in the party wanted to slug it out amongst ourselves and they did – often times using every mean trick in the book. And all it got us was one weak minority government and so far almost four years in opposition.
So my first piece of advice is to unite the party. This means giving due respect to tried and true warriors like Martin Cauchon and Stephane Dion. It means that we must honor our people who have contributed to our success and not stand in their way if they are obviously willing and able to contribute more. This also means not foisting an unknown candidate on ridings where there have long been strong and viable party organizations. In short, it means you must strive to keep all of the grass roots happy.
The second piece of advice I have for you is that you must listen and be guided by good advice. The events of this week show that there are lapses of sound advice within your organization. Get good advisors around you and listen to them. Beware of self-serving ward-heelers with their own private agendas and please watch out for power trippers. They can be spotted a mile away, so keep your eyes and ears open, and when you see them, don’t listen to them. They’re trouble.
The third piece of advice I offer you is that you must stop this infernal practice – launched by your predecessors, to be sure – of appointing riding candidates. By appointing candidates, you are losing the advantage of party renewal. If a nomination is contested, new members come into the organization. They are generally excited, energetic, and motivated because of the contest. By appointing candidates you are avoiding the contest and thereby lose its advantages. The other very negative aspect of appointing candidates is that it carries with it the stench of the laying on of hands. As such, it is anti-democratic and always invites harsh criticism and recrimination. Use the power only in very rare circumstances. Otherwise, let democracy take its course.
Finally, remember it is not any of your minions that are the boss. You are the boss. I suspect that one of the reasons for the unseemly battle over Outremont – which went on far too long – was an unwillingness to offend someone who was giving you bad advice. I couldn’t imagine your glorious predecessors like Trudeau or Chretien ever being that sensitive. You have got to put lesser people in their place when they attempt to lead you into a quagmire and if they persist, well, get rid of them.
So that’s it for now. Keep up the good fight and don’t listen to any of the nervous nellies. Just take my advice.