In this the first of three installments, Mr. Rae discusses the Next Face Manifesto and he rejects our two election strategy scenario. He also responds to a question sent to Next Face by Warren Kinsella on why he refused Jean Chretien's past invitation to join the Liberal Party.
Part 1 of 3.
NF. Mr. Rae how are you sir?
BR. Fine how are you?
NF. Are you familiar with our blog, Next Face?
BR. Yes, I have just read your Manifesto.
NF. Care to comment on it?
BR. I think its great. I agree with you.
NF. That’s nice to hear.
BR. I guess I disagree with the (use of the term) “inquisition”. That part of it…you know I don’t like inquisitions...
NF. Maybe to strong a choice of words?
BR. Yes, you know I would go slow on “inquisitions”…(Laughs)
NF. (Laughs) Can we jump right into the formal portion of this interview?
BR. That’s fine.
NF. Next Face has remained vigorously non committed as it relates to the Liberal leadership candidates, though we have stated that we believe there are 4 of you that are best suited to take on this job…Yourself, Mr. Dion, Mr. Dryden and Mr. Ignatieff….having said that I would like to start by declaring a conflict of interest as it relates to this interview – as I did with Mr Dryden - as you represent the only past non – liberal candidate that ever received my vote in your bid for Premier in Ontario...
NF. ...and while I am pleased that I backed your win , I am happier I guess that you have changed parties…I may require a little less therapy to deal with that decision, now that you are a Liberal.
NF. I have some philosophical questions that I need to deal with, so you have read the Next Face Manifesto, and you have commented on that. In our Manifesto we stated that the next leader of the Liberal party should be fighting for the kind of Liberalism that has been lost over the years, that the Liberal party at its core where they should be progressive and reformers really came to represent the status quo and the party must rediscover its idealism and energy…do believe this to be the case?
BR. Well I think we should recognize that a lot of good things were done in the last 13 years and that the Chretien Martin years were years of great achievement. When we talk about getting the countries fiscal house in order, focusing on education and learning, getting going on the innovation agenda, signing Kyoto and the Kelowna accord from Mr. Martin, there were a whole bunch of things that are worthy of respect and attention by Canadians but I do think that inevitably a leadership convention like this one - particularily following an election defeat - is a chance for the party to renew itself and to give the party membership a chance to really talk to the leadership candidates about the kind of party they want, the kind of country they want to have, and it is an opportunity for renewal and I think if you go back to the history of the party, to the turn of the century, the Liberal party was the kind of party that believed strongly in accountability, believed strongly in reform, believed strongly in policies for the public good, and taking on the Tory establishment and I think that is a very fine tradition from which to start.
NF. I think it is that turn of the century government for me is an ironic (comparison) given how accountability became one of the contributing factors to the recent Liberal defeat and here we are 100 years later struggling with that and (with the Liberals) on the other side of that fence.
What (in your opinion) does the Liberal party need to do to win this next election and do you not agree that a 2 election strategy is more likely given Mr. Harper’s focused and seemingly well organized government?
BR. No. Not at all. I don’t think that you can ever go into an election doing anything else but trying to win and trying every possible way of ensuring that we do win. The one big thing we know about public opinion is that it shifts, it is constantly changing and shifting and there are reasons for that it is because events are happening very quickly around the world and I think the Liberal party would be making a huge mistake if they felt that, well they would not win this time and maybe they can win the next time. In every campaign we focus on the possibility if winning and that is what we should do now.
NF. We invited guests to recommend questions and we have one from Warren Kinsella who asks : Jean Chretien has written that he offered you many opportunities to work for him, but you refused and remained a New Democrat. Why?
BR. Actually Mr. Chretien is right. He did offer me many opportunities to work with him and I did. I worked with him very closely on the Forum of Federations, I worked with him very closely on the Security Intellligence Review Committee where I was an appointee of Mr. Chretien. He offered me many chances to perform acts of public service for which I am very grateful. It is however only true that there was one election, only one opportunity where Mr. Chretien offered me a chance to run and that was in the year 2000 and at that point my kids had still not graduated from high school, they were still at home, and I felt that it was not a good time for me to get back into federal politics and I am sure that Mr. Kinsella and everyone else would understand that these are decisions that are a combination of personal reasons and other reasons and I don’t think I failed any test of public service in the last decade. I think I have done a great deal for my country and the fact that one of them was not running for political office (in 2000)...you know I have run many times for political office and I know what is entailed and I made a decision in 1996 that I was going to focus my life on my kids and it is what I wanted to do as a parent and I made that decision and I think it was the right decision for me and I am now ready to return to the challenges of public office.
There is a lot more to come. In Part 2, Rae discusses the NDP's failure to make the necessary changes to accept the "realities of the marketplace" and offers up his opinions on uniting the left. We try to get the Liberal leadership hopeful to comment on Brison's refering to Ignatieff as "Gaffe Prone", and we discuss the "shadow of Pierre Trudeau."