Well, there goes the Hail Mary pass. The provincial Liberal party is going to have to try to find a different way to make its brand attractive to the residents of this province.
Dean MacDonald has pulled the plug — the prominent Liberal and businessman has said he won’t run for the leadership of the party.
And in the process, you could argue that the on-again, off-again MacDonald leadership flirtation has done real damage to the party he’s spent the last few months trying to rebuild from the ground up.
MacDonald had been touted as the next potential leader for ages, to the point that the jury was out on Wednesday, with the betting being 50-50 on whether he would announce his candidacy or drop out of the race.
The question of whether or not a heavyweight like MacDonald would put his name in the ring has certainly stymied other candidates from getting involved, and has stalled any attempts for the party to truly begin the renewal process it should have started after its disastrous performance in the last provincial election.
Sure, the election saw the Liberals manage to hold on to their official opposition status, but only just.
Their electoral effort was weak enough that MacDonald, Siobhan Coady and Kevin Aylward have been travelling across the province on a “renewal tour,” trying to repair bridges between grassroots members and a distant executive, a kind of from-the-ground-up renovation designed to let ordinary party members air grievances and offer suggestions on how the party can recover.
Through all of that rang the persistent theme (or hope) that MacDonald might lead the party out of the opposition wilderness and back to the government side of the House of Assembly.
On Wednesday, he quashed all that, announcing that for family and business reasons he will be sitting on the sidelines as a private citizen, because the time just wasn’t right.
Now, you could argue that the last thing this province needs is yet another leader-driven party carrying a political saviour on its shoulders towards the premier’s office.
We’ve had plenty of that, and to put it extremely bluntly, that hasn’t always worked out that well for the province and its taxpayers. Big type-A leaders tend to drag along plenty of coattail candidates, but also tend to ride roughshod over anyone who develops leadership intentions of their own. Saviours rarely suffer successors in their ranks, preferring adoration to competition.
At the same time, with a government pushing a multi-billion-dollar megaproject that needs plenty of examination, the last thing the electorate needs is to have the main opposition party in leadership turmoil, spinning its wheels and looking in new directions because one of its biggest public supporters won’t take the extra step and put his money where his mouth is.
To put it another way: timing is critically important for a potential leadership candidate and a struggling opposition party.
If you don’t intend to run, getting out of the way quickly and quietly is also critically important — and MacDonald just might not have done that soon enough.