View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Domenic Leblanc & The Liberal Leadership Race

CFN – According to a media report I read, it would appear that New Brunswick MP, Dominic Leblanc, would like to limit the number of contenders for the Liberal Party leadership.

What does he want to give the public, the same old tired crowd that got them to where they are now, IE third party status? Leadership races are supposed to rejuvenate a party, improve its fortunes and give it a bounce in the polls. You won’t do that unless you debate new ideas, hopefully with a few new people at the table. A good recent example was the NDP leadership race which was pretty boring and had a host of relative unknown MPs running, but it still ended with a high profile leader and lots of policy discussions.

New challengers, who have not been part of the party establishment or party caucus for that matter, can bring new ideas and policies forward. Even if that person is not elected some of those ideas might be popular enough that they become part of a winning party platform.

According to Leblanc:


“We have to be careful not to think that somebody who wants to raise his or her profile or somebody who wants to pursue a particular single issue should see this as an attainable platform to do that.”

“What I think Liberals want are a number of good candidates with broad skill sets and different experiences so that the party has a choice between people they can see one day as occupying the Prime Minister’s Office, not somebody who has other ambitions.”


Well leadership races are an opportunity to raise your profile. They are also an opportunity to play politics and back potential leaders with the hope that your public profile and eventual support might earn you a stronger role in your party and perhaps a seat on the front bench. Come to think about it, didn’t Leblanc declare he was running for the Liberal leadership in 2009 and then drop out throwing his support behind Michael Ignatieff. I suppose some might think he entered that race to increase his profile. Either way, it certainly hasn’t harmed Leblanc’s career.

And let us not forget that the Liberals went even further in an effort to crown Ignatieff when they successfully persuaded Bob Rae to step aside for Michael Ignatieff. Limiting the competition is not always a good thing!

Leblanc also has reservations about allowing anyone to run for the leadership if they are not presently elected and sitting in the House of Commons.


 “The ability to win one’s own seat is to extent a judgment of one’s own electability.”

“So party members will have to ask themselves a whole bunch of questions around what are the skills and the attributes they want for somebody who will be leader, and surely electability will be one of the main factors, I would hope.”


Is it just me or am I hearing a touch of arrogance coming through? The last thing any leadership contender should do is sound arrogant. Not only will that be distasteful for the general public, but you just might end up turning away a lot of potential supporters

If Leblanc is right, there shouldn’t be any modern day examples of unelected leadership candidates doing well as a party leader. So let’s look at the recent past to see who won a party leadership while not in Parliament but then went on to be Prime Minister. Two names come to mind, Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper.

Harper was not sitting in the House when he was elected leader of the Canadian Alliance on March 20, 2002. He would run in a bye-election in Preston Manning’s old riding and enter the House of Commons in May 2002.

Mulroney was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives in June 1983. Two months later he would enter the House of Commons after winning a bye-election in Elmer MacKay’s former riding of Central Nova.

But wait, they were Conservatives, not Liberals and both of these former unelected leadership candidates went on to win majority governments.

Dominic Leblanc has not yet officially declared his candidacy for the Liberal leadership, but when he does would it be fair to ask him if he is in it to the end or is he just in it to raise his profile.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. Keith Beardsley does not know how to correctly spell by-election. His poor spelling leaves me rather underwhelmed by his thoughts about the federal Liberal leadership race.

  2. Having a cast of thousands does not guarantee a good leadership race. In fact it waters down the vote and the decision becomes more difficutl. Yes there are those that may run for no other reason than it raises their profile which is the wrong reason but the Libs are in such desparate shape they need only those that have leadership ability in the contest. That is what LeBlance is actually saying.

  3. I agree hollinm. The Libs are are at the bottom of the heap by their own making. There are a few leadership contenders who could turn their ship around, like Leblance, Hall Findlay, Garneau, and maybe a few others. But as most agree, if J. Trudeau runs, he will be crowned. They’ll go with the Hollywood good looks rather than substance. These are desperate times for the once-great party, and it looks like they will blow it again.

  4. You forgot one other person who was not an MP when he was elected as party leader – a pretty successful Liberal by the name of Jean Chretien.

    Chretien was out of politics, and won a seat in Beausejour, NB after winning the leadership in 1990. Consequently Beausejour’s current MP is… Dominic Leblanc.

  5. Leblanc is raising the bar for contenders. Is that arrogance? I don’t think so. As the son of a former governor-general who served as a minister in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet, I’d say he knows quite a bit about what makes a leader.

    As for arrogance, the party of contempt across the aisle has pretty much cornered the market in that commodity, following their “leader”.

  6. Don’t think Dominic has enough backing to become leader. The liberals know that they are probably not going to win in the next election. Don’t think justin trudeau should run, maybe in the next election when the ndp and the liberals merge. They need someone like a john manley, alan rock, or even what was the premier from new brunswick that i forgot his name…think he was the one that stopped charlottetown accord…can’T remember who ..he was a liberal then an ambassador.

  7. PJRobertson, I agree, Mulcar should reduce the arrogance and even stop spending so much time on his beard trimming…..LOL

  8. frank mcenna…just came to me.

  9. Good point Leon

  10. For James Turner

    World English Dictionary

    by-election or bye-election
    — n

    1. (in the United Kingdom and other countries of the Commonwealth) an election held during the life of a parliament to fill a vacant seat in the lower chamber

    2. (in the US) a special election to fill a vacant elective position with an unexpired term

    bye-election or bye-election
    — n
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
    2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
    Cite This Source

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