by Graham Lane
Published by the Winnipeg Sun, October 27, 2017
Dugald Lamont came from nowhere to take the helm of the long-suffering provincial Liberal Party. He starts his leadership poorly by joining in Steven Fletcher’s former PC colleagues bad-mouthing of Fletcher. Lamont’s slap to Fletcher’s face was unnecessary and just plain stupid.
Still to win his first electoral victory, and with little real political experience – not even a school board stint – Lamont shut the door for a chance of obtaining a real experienced politician. One that is a demonstrably highly intelligent MLA that could have provided the Liberals instant official party status in the legislature – bringing a much better chance to gain government in 2020.
The ‘fruits’ of gaining official party status include money to do research, develop positions, and prepare for the 2020 election. With Fletcher the Liberals would attract more attention by the media and gain more opportunities to speak in the legislature. All of this and more if Lamont had the wisdom to be quiet on the Fletcher option, taking time to assess the situation before speaking.
The right thing was to discuss the situation with Fletcher, exploring the pros and cons of engaging Fletcher for his team . Who knows what the result would have been? With Fletcher, the self-described “only real conservative” in the legislature fold, the well-polling Liberals would have been able to say that a vote for them would bring sensible fiscal actions along with progressive social policies.
Consider what Fletcher would bring to a new caucus, if not a Liberal one a new one yet to be formed. His experience includes stints as President of the U of M’s student union, a cabinet minister (twice) in Harper’s Conservative government, and, most recently, a MLA in Pallister’s “NDP lite” PC government. Fletcher would be beyond value to a new inexperienced and unelected new Liberal party leader.
Smart people look for talent and experience, befriend them and draw on their knowledge – formed from years of experience. Stupid leaders seek out ‘yes’ colleagues, any knowledge and experience found there crushed by their desire to be ‘liked’.
As Lamont looks at the three sitting Liberal MLAs – one short of bringing on official party status, how could he not realize that Fletcher would have strengthened ‘his’ team? Jon Gerrard is the only one of the three that can be described as experienced and knowledgeable. He, by the way, gets along famously with Fletcher. But, the only way Lamont has a chance of getting into the legislature before 2020 is convincing Gerrard to resign his seat to allow Lamont to win the seat back in a by-election. But, there is no guarantee Lamont would win that by-election. Even if he did, he would still be left with only three members, not the four he needs.
Lamont has another option to get the coveted official party prize. He could seek the independent MLA that was elected as a NDP only to be ejected for reputed sexual harassment. How could a new Liberal leader with only two women MLAs (if Gerrard steps down) take that route? How? Surely he is not that stupid.
Lamont’s smartest option was to try recruit Fletcher. Now, Lamont targets not the PCs but the NDP, leaving the right and centre to the stumbling Brian Pallister. Fail!