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Federal by-election proves Liberal Party division

Nathan Swinn | Interrobang | Opinion | September 24th, 2007



Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
There's trouble brewing inside Canada's “natural governing party.” Indeed, the split in the federal Liberal Party is becoming as obvious as Pam Anderson's cleavage.

Unfortunately for Liberal loyalists there appears to be nothing fake whatsoever about this divisive situation.

Here's the lay of the land. In Quebec, last Monday, September 17 there were three federal by-elections. By-elections happen when a seat becomes vacant. Ridings need a federal representative, so a by-election is called. There's often a high level of scrutiny from the political geek crowd because these events can be dissected, analyzed, discussed, bet upon, the whole gamut of games that poly-geeks enjoy, in a smaller package than a general election. In a minority government situation, such as we currently have, the results can also be very important to the legislative process and the tone of public debate. This is why it was considered entirely reasonable for an NDP supporter in BC to run naked through the streets with a spliff in one hand and a photo of Jack Layton in the other, proclaiming that, yes, Tuesday was the beginning of something big and important.

You may not or may not be aware that the New Democratic Party won the Outremont seat last Monday. You may not care, and I wouldn't necessarily blame you. The NDP win does little to alter the balance of power in parliament. And only 37 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in this by-election. The media and interested parties will either downplay or trumpet the results, depending on their bias. The end result is largely symbolic: Look, the NDP exists in Quebec! We have a seat, we have a seat, gosh darnit! Maybe next election we'll get two! If only we can find another ex-Liberal to run for us....

The most fascinating aspect of the by-election is not the easy story of how the NDP gained it's second ever MP from Quebec, or that the Conservatives gained a seat at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois. No, the real story here is the Liberal infighting and organizational incompetence that came out in public during the campaign. This is the national angle. It's also the angle with the most dirt and we'd be silly to ignore a fun political implosion when it's stuck in our face.

Various news sources reported that Liberal leader, Stephane Dion and his Deputy Party Leader, the infamous Micheal Ignatieff, aka Iggy Flop, were at odds during the by-election. In fact, some sources have claimed that Iggy Flop purposefully withheld his faction's support from Dion's hand-picked Outremont candidate. The idea being that Iggy Flop would rather see Dion embarassed in Outremont than have the Liberal party win the seat. Iggy Flop, as you may remember, lost the Liberal leadership convention to Stephane Dion last year. The wounds have not healed well. Iggy Flop must still be tortured by his failure to have his intellect and credentials recognized by the Liberal party. And now that he senses weakness in the leadership of Dion, he's going to stop at nothing short of total war to attain his objectives.

This entire scenario has to be a ploy, right? Canada's “natural governing party” wouldn't succumb to internal strife. Would it? The party of Mackenzie King, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin? They'd never purposefully mislead the public.

Impossible.

Haha. Of course they would. They're Liberals, with a historical legacy to uphold. The problem with the Libs is not that they must swap French and English leaders for party harmony, but that recently their vicious leadership issues have continually turned the party in on itself. The party has more problems than a tatoo junkie running out of clear skin.

Iggy Flop clearly wants to shed his label as Deputy Party Leader and get the Big Man's post to take the field against Stephen Harper. And I suspect he'll get that chance eventually, because he's willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Politics being, in his words, “a contact sport.”

The Liberal Party is quickly attempting damage control between Dion and Iggy. Now Dion and Iggy Flop are dedicated to working together. Supporters of Iggy Flop are adamant that Dion needs to reform his operation. As Iggy supporter Marc Belanger said, “At one point, the members, and the internal leaders will start to tighten the screw a little.”

Translation: Dion had better start allowing Iggy and his team more access to power. Dion couldn't have been pleased at the not so veiled threat. Such is the devious nature of politics that we'll have to read between the lines for a little while longer. The pressure is building, and there has to be an election sooner or later. Will the Liberals completely implode before then? Stay tuned.
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