If you are among the millions of centre-lefties exasperated by the Conservative government and the Liberal “strategy” of keeping them ensconced in 24 Sussex by abstaining or administering oxygen to his agenda by voting with Harper, there is someone you might consider heaping a large part of the blame upon.
Oddly, it’s someone you may not have even thought of in a while. And someone who through a series of bad choices, some are saying, has all but buried his brief affair with federal politics.
It was precisely two years ago today that Ontario’s then education minister announced his candidacy to succeed Paul Martin as Liberal leader. Gerard Kennedy entered the race with astronomical expectations; remarkable for a party who by sheer force of narcissism and hubris routinely transform the mundane into the monumental.
At times appearing to take more inspiration from his legendary namesake than from the actual candidate, supporters claimed that Kennedy would attract droves of young people to the party; revitalize its atrophied left; and by virtue of his Acadian spouse, appeal to Francophones. In a party hampered by its historic lack of appeal to westerners and in a race without a credible candidate west of the Humber River, Kennedy even won converts by claiming he would run in a western constituency (confused somewhat by a similar boast made to Quebecers).
But two years later that’s all ancient history. Owing to a pact between the two men that the first off the ballot would support the other to defeat either Ignatieff or Rae, Stephane Dion is the man in charge of what remains of the Liberal Party. Today, the man Kennedy boosted into the OLO faces blistering criticism from the left for being unwilling to risk defeating a right-wing government that is irreversibly changing Canada, because he is unprepared for an election. Unable to be lost in all this, is that the man Dion rewarded with the post of preparing the party for a 2007 election was Gerard Kennedy.
In any other party, the king-maker is treated to generous riches and a higher profile. In the Liberal Party, Kennedy appears to have been black-listed by the party elite. He could have been the first of the four seat-less leadership aspirants in the House had he been encouraged to run in the 2006 London by-election. Instead, Kennedy is now the only one not in Ottawa and even the most recent of Kennedy’s “current events” on his website are almost a year old.
In recent days, media have noticed and begun wondering aloud about Kennedy’s strange disappearance.
But along with his cushy gig toiling in the mahogany and exam-sweat infused halls of Ryerson University, Kennedy appears every bit a man who has settled into certain realities. The first of which is that his ploy to help Dion win has left him unloved by the party establishment in the Senate who would have much preferred Michael Ignatieff or Today's Bob Rae to the Professor. The second is that Dion will never be prime minister meaning that the next leadership race will be a pathetically personal settling of scores between two college roommates. The third, as noted this week in NOW magazine, is that Kennedy can’t even count on winning election in his old provincial riding of Parkdale-High Park against the popular and accomplished NDP industry critic Peggy Nash who took Harper on over the US sale of Canadian satellite technology and won.
From provincial cabinet minister with premier potential to being the target of media search parties, Kennedy has fallen a long way in two years. A column in the Toronto Star may have summed it up best:
“Maybe it was more than Gerard Kennedy could handle, too. Maybe he vanished up his own cosmic aberration. Maybe when you single-handedly create the first Liberal leader who might not make it into the history books, you're destined to go pffft before he does.”