2. He has the best chance of winning the next federal election.
3. He has the vision, experience and intelligence to be a great Prime Minister.
Now I'll explain...
I spent this weekend as a delegate at the Annual General Meeting of the federal Liberal party of Ontario. On Friday there was a leadership debate. All ten leadership candidates were there; they started with a brief speech and then answered questions. All the candidates were good, but Bob Rae stood out. His passion and commitment are compelling. Like JFK or Martin Luther King, Rae has the power to draw us in and motivate us to create a better world.
I spent the weekend asking delegates what they thought about the debate and the candidates. There was wide agreement that Rae's performance was the best, but nearly everyone said, He's great but doesn't he carry too much baggage in Ontario? I have been thinking about that, and I think I have an answer.
In the first place, Rae does not have the enormous baggage of being a part of the Liberal party that created the sponsorship scandal. He doesn't have the baggage of letting C02 emissions rise by 30% after pledging to reduce them by 6%. He can articulate a vision for Canada without back-pedaling on why he didn't do anything about it while he had the chance. His record, in that respect, is clean.
Back in 1995, Ontario was pretty mad at Bob Rae. The anger was fuelled by the civil service unions, who were furious that he instituted unpaid days off. But the continent was in the worst recession since the Great Depression and Ontario's deficit was so high that it was driving down our bond rating, which in turn was increasing the cost of borrowing for the province. Rae, like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, is socially progressive and fiscally responsible. Recessions are pretty rough times to govern, and I don't think Rae made any decisions that he has to apologise for.
Despite the turbulence of his time as Premier of Ontario, Rae accomplished a great deal, including:
- 42% of his cabinet was female (that's by far the best ever in Canada)
- he created child care spaces and extended parental leave
- he enacted employment equity and pay equity
- he raised the minimum wage
- he legalized midwives and birthing centers
- he instituted same sex spousal benefits for civil servants
- he enacted pro-labor legislation (including anti-scab laws)
In the 10 years since he was Premier of Ontario, Rae has been very busy. He has taken a leadership role in education, national security, public policy, health, US-Canada trade, international affairs, industry, and the arts. Here's a list:
- Chancellor, Wilfrid Laurier University
- Professor, University of Toronto
- Author, Rae Review on post-secondary education
- Member, Canadian Security Intelligence Review Committee
- Founding member and Chair, Forum of Federations
- Author, report on the Air India bombing
- Chief Negotiator, Canadian Red Cross restructuring (after the tainted blood scandal)
- National Spokesperson, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- Director, Hydro One, Husky, and a bunch of other corporations
- Member, Canadian Internal Trade Disputes Tribunal
- Legal counsel to the Free Trade Lumber Council
- Member, Canada Transportation Act Review
- Member, International Council of the Asia Society
- Chair, Institute for Research on Public Policy
- Chair, Royal Conservatory of Music
- Chair, Toronto Symphony Orchestra
- Author, two books (From Protest to Power and The Three Questions - both great, by the way; I recommend them)
Rae has degrees from the University of Toronto and Oxford. Like Bill Clinton, he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is a lawyer. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.
He is fluent in French. (According to La Presse, the only Liberal candidates whose French is good enough for a debate are Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion and Maurizio Bevilacqua.)
He has federal experience. He was an MP from 1978-82. It was Rae's no-confidence motion that brought down Joe Clark's government in 1979.
In addition to all these qualifications, Rae has proven political instincts and the most powerful political team, including his brother, John Rae, who (among his many accomplishments) was Chretien's campaign manager for two majority governments.
It is true that Rae became a Liberal only recently. However, as an NDPer he was always a centrist and pragmatist. He left the NDP in the late 1990s, and has floated the idea of running as a Liberal MP since then. The Liberal Party is where he belongs, and we are very lucky to have him. As Prime Minister, Bob Rae can help us make Canada the country we have always wanted it to be: economically successful, environmentally responsible, socially progressive, and universally inclusive.
For more info about Bob Rae, see:
This site has a great list of candidate endorsements by bloggers: