Friday, April 07, 2006

Stronach Makes A Smart Decision

Consider the tale of Italian-born Ms Sonia Gandhi. In 2004, she stunned India and the world when she led her Congress party to election victory in a huge upset, when polls had consistently predicted another landslide victory for the ruling BJP. She then had every right to become the Prime Minister of India. This would be the first time since independence that a foreign born, naturalized citizen of India was eligible to be the PM. However, she declined the position and chose her friend Dr. Manmohan Singh to lead the party. Yet, all Congress party workers know where the real star, the real power lies. This is why when Mr Bush visits India, he also pays a visit to Sonia Gandhi's residence.

Yesterday Belinda Stronach, a star of the Liberal party, announced she would not be joining the race to lead her new party. She probably took what will be in hindsight another smart decision. Her weak French, weak links with her new party, old alliances and the stringent rules of the race would probably have condemned her to lose. Yet, by now resigning from the spotlight yet not fading into the background, she is in a position to weld considerable influence on the party. It would be hard for the next leader to not include her in a shadow cabinet, or in the government front benches once we are back in power.

For a start, Stronach stated that the old way of electing leaders by delegates would have to go. She is right.
"... contribute to that goal more effectively by working with the party's rank-and-file to take kingmaking out of the backrooms and put it squarely in the hands of the party membership ..."

She also mentioned she would like to make it easier for the public to acquire memberships. Right now the rules for membership into the party vary across the country. This is not right for a federal party.

Stronach had already had a huge impact in her short time in politics. She got the right to unite - a huge incentive for the Liberals to clean up their act. They could have grown complacent had there been no strong opposition. She got the Conservatives to lurch to the left - another huge factor in making sure Canada stays progressive. She put women's issues and Canada's complex make-up at the forefront of political debate when she left the Tories. She forced us to acknowledge sexism exists in politics, when the media decided to concentrate more on her dress than her words.

Stronach is a smart person. I have always admired her bravado in identifying a specific problem and stating about dealing with it right away. We also need more women like her in politics. She would probably be a good leader of the Liberal party. Just not now.


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