Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blaming Frank McKenna

I found myself enrapt reading this review of Harvey Sawler's biography of Frank McKenna posted on the G&M's website earlier today. Brian Lee Crowley, (that ultra-rightwing pro-business think-tanker of AIMS fame, whom I remember from my days writing about the Altantic Canadian business community a decade or more ago), does a compelling job distilling the McKenna story and the former NB premier's various temptations to lead the federal Liberal party.

I think Crowley (and by extension Sawler) are bang on in describing McKenna as what the Libs need but will never have. Unlike Ignatieff, (and Dion before him) McKenna is the one Liberal fully equipped to challenge and stop Stephen Harper and the changes he's bringing to our country. McKenna could not only defeat Harper; he could probably crush him, reunify the Liberals and restore them to their (some would say rightful) place as Canada's governing party - and with a majority government. Only, McKenna doesn't want to run. He has never really wanted to run; he probably will never want to run. He is not prepared make the personal and reputational sacrifices that come with angling for the PMO.

Crowley casts McKenna's story as something almost out of Shakespeare (or at least a season of The West Wing): a man so fully suited, so perfectly qualified to be a nation's leader, and yet with so many obstacles standing in the way. Chief among them, of course, are McKenna's own convictions not to drag himself and his family into the tactless, no-holds-barred arena of federal politics, to sacrifice himself for the betterment (some would say salvation) of our nation at large. It makes for some pretty compelling stuff.

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