JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
It’s not an easy choice Liberals have to make in April when they select a new party leader.
The Grits, once considered the natural governing party in Canada, were first displaced by Stephen Harper’s Tories.
Then, last election, the New Democrats led by the late Jack Layton relegated the party of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Lester Pearson to third place in the House of Commons.
For a decade, the federal Liberals have languished while trying to find a solid replacement for that feisty street fighter, the Little Guy from Shawinigan, Jean Chretien.
With less than two month before the leadership vote, most political pundits believe the party will reach back in time as it looks forward by choosing Justin Trudeau, son of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
If they do, you can hardly blame the party faithful, nervous about the future, for opting for a name brand in an effort to recapture the profile the party once held.
But in the long run – and politics is always about the long run – what the Liberals really need is an experienced manager with the depth of knowledge, patience and quiet determination to rebuild the party brick by brick.
They need someone who knows how to connect with average people at their level, someone who young people can admire without feeling that person is inaccessible or beyond their reach.
That person is not the younger Trudeau, but Marc Garneau.
Speaking to a small group of Liberals in Niagara Falls last week, Garneau made no excuses for why the Liberals are in the predicament they are currently in.
He demonstrated he’s under no illusion about what it will take to regain the confidence of the electorate.
“There’s no magic bullet,” Garneau said when asked how he would improve Liberal party fortunes.
“There’s no living in the past… even though we did great things in the past, because time as moved on and we’ve got to be looking toward the future.
“There certainly is no entitlement for the Liberal party.”
Garneau, Canada’s first man in space and former head of the Canadian Space Agency, then offered up his own down-to-Earth approach to leadership.
“There is no short cut or easy solution, other than to work very, very hard, to work with humility. No arrogance, no mistakes allowed, to be united as a party and to be disciplined,” he said.
“If we do that and connect with Canadians… then slowly and gradually we will get back to where we used to be. We’re coming behind after seven years of losing our way, but I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Hard work, honesty, substance.
That’s what Marc Garneau is about; that’s what he offers the party.
Liberals would be wise to avoid the temptation of thinking there’s a quick fix for what ails the party.
Garneau’s approach will take time, but it’s much more likely to succeed.