I understand why the Liberal Party has adopted the Costanza theory to all policies - whatever Dion did, do the opposite. For the most part, who can blame them? Dion was a disaster - a madman, acting entirely alone with no regard to a single MP or Liberal anywhere, who almost destroyed the party. Doing the opposite should ensure success. There is one policy where an exception should be made to the otherwise entirely sound theory - on female candidates. During the 2006 leadership race, pretty much every candidate, committed to some kind of a hard target for female candidates (Ignatieff's commitment to 35 per cent female candidates can be found here.) That was then, as they say. A "top Liberal" (not to be confused with a "senior Liberal" or a "Liberal strategist") told The Hill Times this week: "I don't think [Mr. Ignatieff]is going to go that road". Since The Hill Times would never write a story based entirely on unnamed Liberal sources, they did some more research: "But as of last week, neither the Liberal Leader's Office or the party headquarters would make any firm public commitment on meeting the target this time, however several Liberals told The Hill Times that the new leadership under Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke Lakeshore, Ont.) is focusing on winning more seats than meeting the one-third target." Interesting strategy - when faced with the dichotomy of winning more seats or having women candidates, they choose winning? Gutsy. What a silly, silly dichotomy it is though. I'm not a big quota cheerleader but an internal target (as compared to quotas in legislation) like this focuses the minds of the people (mostly white, middle-aged men) seeking out candidates. It also instils a discipline that might - and I say might really meaning likely won't - be there without the targets and certainly hadn't been there for every election prior to 2008. So saying "we expect to surpass that number so no target is necessary" may be true - it just has never been true before. It was only when a not particularly audacious target was put out publicly that the Liberal Party actually committed to more women candidates. And if anyone would like to make the argument that the Liberals somehow lost a single riding in 2008 because of this policy, I welcome the argument but I think you will be proven wrong. There are times when the dichotomy set out above has some merit. In 2008, the Liberal Party won precisely two seats outside of Newfoundland that it didn't hold prior to the last election. Justin Trudeau and Gerard Kennedy won entirely because they were strong local candidates. Said otherwise, any other candidate in those ridings - male or female - would have lost. There just aren't 100 Trudeaus or Kennedys out there. In fact, I'm not sure there are another 10-15 local candidates nationally that would swing ridings that the Liberals couldn't win otherwise based solely on the strength of their candidacy. In Ontario, two names pop to mind: Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello. Both of them would make really tough Windsor seats federally almost certain pick-ups for the party (and I'm not starting rumours here - they both have very good jobs provincially and I would be very surprised if they are going anywhere - I use their names solely illustratively). So let's say all 10 of these superstar, turn-losing-ridings-into-winners candidates are men (forgetting the Sandra example above proves otherwise), that leaves - carry the one - 298 ridings still to go. In other words, these two goals - "winning" and having more female candidates - are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.
UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that Alexandra Mendes won in Brossard-La Prairie as well, making three non-Newfoundland pick-ups. No disrespect was intended toward Ms. Mendes and I think my overall point still stands.