June 26, 2013

The many personae of Bob Rae

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:07

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson says goodbye (for now) to Bob Rae:

There has, in truth, not been one Bob Rae in Canadian public life. There have been several, each slightly less obnoxious than the last. The ex-interim Liberal leader holds the rare distinction of actually having improved with age. From student radical and Rhodes Scholar, to NDP hell raiser who helped topple Joe Clark’s government, to enabler of David Peterson’s coup d’grace for the Ontario Tory dynasty in 1985. The Bob is a very well travelled pol. Few vote chaser survive this long in the game, so a measure of respect is due. I’ll measure it out by the thimble.

Yet whatever he has done before or since, Bob Rae will always be the first and so far only NDP Premier of Ontario. Rae could win the Nobel Prize tomorrow and his obituary would still mention his epic single term as Premier. While I’ve never met the man, perhaps a saving grace for us both, he is the first political figure of whom I have a clear image. There is no figure in modern Ontario politics, aside from Mike Harris himself, who was as thoroughly despised as Bob Rae.

[. . .]

Rae Days were a sincere attempt to be politically Left wing while also fiscally sane. Roy Romanow was doing similar things in Saskatchewan at the time. But Prairie socialists seem to be saner than Ontario socialists. Perhaps it’s something in the water. An intelligent labour movement would have recognized that Bob Rae was trying to save their necks. The blockheads running the public sector unions in the early 1990s did not realize this or did not care to acknowledge fiscal reality. These were the sorts of people who refer to their fellow union members as “brothers and sisters.” They hadn’t gotten the memo about the failure of socialism. Judging by their successors the public sector union movement still hasn’t.

It’s believed that at some point in 1993 or 1994, looking out of his office at Queen’s Park toward a sea of protesting civil servants, that Bob Rae realized he was a Liberal. His brother was a Liberal. Many of his friends were Liberals. From time to time Liberals were known to balance the books and speak in coherent sentences. The Liberals were the party of sane statists. Since he was the NDP Premier of Ontario he decided to ride the whole thing out, delaying the election until the last possible moment. Mike Harris won. Bob Rae went into exile for eleven years and the rest is history.

With the Bob gone Justin is now left without adult supervision. Certainly Gerald Butts & Co are there to direct their ward, but they’re not grizzled old veterans. In his short stint as interim Liberal leader Bob Rae showed himself as smooth, graceful and facile. A long haul from the awkward socialist geek who stunned the country by winning power a generation earlier. Politics is a game won by professionals. For all his many sins and occasional virtues, Bob Rae was a professional politician. Justin Trudeau is not. There is some hope in that.

1 Comment

  1. Dalton McGuinty passed Mike Harris some time ago as the most hated Premier since Bob Ray.

    Comment by Bill — June 26, 2013 @ 23:04

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