Toronto Eyes on the Liberal Prize
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Toronto Eyes on the Liberal Prize

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion
Photo by Brandon McKay.
Now that Stéphane Dion has fallen on his sword and declared his intention to resign as federal Liberal leader in May 2009, political types across the country have made a parlour game of guessing who will enter the race to take the reins of the big red brand.
With the GTA one of the only Grit power centres remaining after the carnage that was the 2008 election, we at Torontoist consider it our responsibility—nay, our civic duty—to get in on the speculatory action. Here is our guide to the seven most likely Toronto-area contenders for the Grit throne.


20081023liberalleadership.jpg
Potential Toronto-area hopefuls for the federal Liberal leadership (l-r): Joe Volpe, Ruby Dhalla, Ken Dryden, Martha Hall Findlay, Gerard Kennedy, Bob Rae, and Michael Ignatieff.
Joe Volpe
61, former federal immigration minister, MP for Eglinton—Lawrence.
Will he run? Volpe’s 2006 leadership campaign was marred by scandal, making another kick at the can unlikely. However, he was the first MP to call for Dion’s head after the Grits’ epic loss on October 14, so maybe his fountain of ambition hasn’t quite dried up.
Will he win? Not a chance.
Ruby Dhalla
34, chiropractor, MP for Brampton—Springdale.
Will she run? Eventually. Dhalla is a young, high-profile MP who is full of ambition. She’s bound to run sooner or later, but entering the fray at this point might not be the best of ideas.
Will she win? No, but that wouldn’t be the real goal of taking the plunge this time around. Entering this race would be a dry run for a future contest, maybe in ten years’ time, in which she could be a frontrunner if she starts building her base now.
Ken Dryden
61, lawyer and legendary NHL netminder, MP for York Centre.
Will he run? Possibly. Although he was essentially an also-ran in 2006, Dryden earlier this year criss-crossed the country to talk to Canadians about poverty, the type of profile-raising endeavour that could signal his intention to take another stab at the Grits’ top job.
Will he win? No. Although his on-ice exploits give him name recognition amongst Canadians at large, he is an uninspiring public speaker and placed poorly in the 2006 leadership contest. Nothing has changed since then to give Dryden the edge.
Martha Hall Findlay
49, lawyer, MP for Willowdale.
Will she run? Maybe. Unlike last time, Hall Findlay is a sitting Member of Parliament and well-known among rank-and-file Liberals. She will almost certainly run again, but might be wise to hold off for now.
Will she win? Extraordinarily doubtful. Although her stature within the Liberal Party has grown exponentially since her dead last finish in 2006, she would likely place at most sixth in a ten-way race. Her best bet is to angle for a cabinet post in a future Liberal government and aim for the leadership in a subsequent contest.
Gerard Kennedy
48, former Ontario education minister, newly minted MP for Parkdale—High Park.
Will he run? Chances are good. Although he finished out of the top three in the 2006 race, his role as kingmaker might help woo enough Dionistas to make a second run appealing.
Will he win? Doubtful. Kennedy’s weak French skills are a liability, and his public visibility has dwindled after two years of almost no media coverage while his former opponents did everything they could to stay in the news. If he decides to run, he will have a lot of catching up to do.
Bob Rae
60, former NDP premier of Ontario, MP for Toronto Centre.
Will he run? Like his old pal Iggy, Rae didn’t bother to end his campaign after the leadership battle in 2006. He has already called on Liberals to get on with the race, so expect him to be one of the first candidates to declare.
Will he win? Could be. Rae’s biggest advantage over Ignatieff is his experience as a Parliamentary leader. But then again, depending on who you ask (namely Ontarians), his term as premier could also be his biggest liability. Rae’s best shot is to use his left-wing credentials to bring together the progressive wing of the party, which is extremely uncomfortable with Ignatieff’s rightward views on foreign policy, including his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Michael Ignatieff
61, intellectual and author, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, MP for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.
Will he run? Oh yes. By all accounts Ignatieff’s 2006 leadership team is still alive and well, and he and Bob Rae have already struck a pact to keep the upcoming race clean.
Will he win? He had the strongest organization out of the 2006 contenders and came close to taking home the prize. Barring the entry of a consensus candidate such as former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, this time around will likely be a repeat of the 2006 Ignatieff-Rae horserace, but without Dion there to spoil the fun.
Photo of Michael Ignatieff by RenépasCottylautre. Photo of Bob Rae by Gary King. Photos of Gerard Kennedy, Ruby Dhalla, and Joe Volpe by ycanada_news. Photo of Martha Hall Findlay by Gopslayer74. Photo of Ken Dryden by Bitey.

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