Friday, February 16, 2007

Gerard Kennedy leaves Liberal ladies on sinking ship

As the S.S. Stéphane Dion heads into the reef, Gerard Kennedy has pushed ahead of the Liberal ladies of Parkdale-High Park -- Sarmite Bulte and Elaine Flis -- to hop into the sturdiest lifeboat available to take him to dry land. Despite his purported progressive credentials and entreaties from his leader to increase the number of women Liberal candidates in the next election, it seems Kennedy is only too happy to leave the woman behind.

There had been speculation that Kennedy would seek a federal seat in Western Canada (he was born in Manitoba and ran the country’s first food bank in Edmonton), to give the Liberals a strong candidate in the Conservative Party-dominated West, but in the end it was his roots to his previous constituency that were the strongest.

“If I’d been leader I’d have had a different kind of look at this perhaps, in the public interest,” he said. “[But] in my heart of hearts, this is the riding that I know best.

What else can he say? The rest of us know the real reason: under Stéphane Dion, Kennedy's prospects of getting elected in Western Canada are slim at best. Watch for other "star" Liberal candidates to similarly retreat to safe urban-Toronto seats.

Kennedy's decision to run in Parkdale-High Park, however, must be immensely disappointing to Elaine Flis.

It has been reported that Elaine Flis, the daughter of former Liberal MP Jesse Flis (who represented the riding from 1979-84 and 1988-97) would also seek the local nomination. Kennedy claimed to have spoken to Ms. Flis earlier in the year and promised to take nothing for granted in the nomination process.

I spoke briefly to Flis and she indicated she will not contest the nomination, so Kennedy is likely to be acclaimed. Getting elected, however, might not be so easy. NDP MP Peggy Nash is a tireless worker and is firmly entrenched in the riding. Ultimately, Parkdale-High Park may still be represented by a woman MP after the next election, just not a Liberal one.