L. Ian MacDonald reasserts in his column today that the unbelievable mess that is now once again the Liberal Party in Quebec must be viewed through the lens of a never-ending battle between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin and their respective camps. MacDonald puts it eloquently enough:
"A clash of ambitions, which rapidly escalated to a battle between the party's warring Chrétien and Martin clans, went nuclear on Monday when Coderre quit as Quebec lieutenant, chief organizer and, for good measure, as defence critic."
I think it might be helpful in this escalating battle to update you, dear readers, on the players on "Team Chrétien" and Tteam Martin."
The Chrétien side is easy enough: Jean Chrétien is still playing Jean Chrétien (with me so far). Martin Cauchon and Bob Rae are also senior soldiers on his side as has been widely reported.
From here it gets more complicated.
Given that Denis Coderre is seen as being on the opposite side from Cauchon, one would assume that makes him a leader on "Team Martin" (which would of course be a major change for Coderre given that his loyalties to Chrétien date back more than 20-years). But hey, Coderre has shown himself to be such a loyal, team player for his entire time in politics, you will forgive him if he changes teams just this once.
What makes this even more complicated is, earlier this week, MacDonald asserted that in the 2006 leadership campaign "Ignatieff represented the hopes of the Turner-Martin clan." This if of course confusing given that, well, not a single high-profile Martin supporter that I can think of actually played a senior role for Ignatieff in 2006 but that's just a small detail.
But back to Coderre (you remember, the main antagonist in this drama and the one on the opposite side from Team Chrétien). Given that Coderre strapped himself with dynamite and jumped on Ignatieff on Monday (as Andrew Coyne colourfully puts it), Coderre really is a team onto himself in this battle and Ignatieff is really now "Team Martin" (as per MacDonald's column from earlier this week, not today).
Still with me?
What makes this so interesting, if a bit confusing, is that David Smith (a long time Chrétien loyalist and now Ignatieff campaign chair... come to think of it, also the 2006 Ignatieff leadership campaign chair... was obviously always a closet Martinite), Gordon Ashworth (Chrétien's former campaign director and now serving in the same role for Ignatieff), Alf Apps, Dan Brock and Warren Kinsella are actually all now Martin loyalists - because well, they support Ignatieff who is merely a front for Team Martin, according to MacDonald (yes, that was Warren's head you just saw explode outside).
But it gets better: John Duffy and Karl Littler - both long time Martin loyalists in the last war, were both very vocal Bob Rae (ie - Team Chrétien) supporters in 2008 during the short-lived leadership race. Neither have been heard from this week and their where abouts are unknown at this time.
Former Martin communications director Scott Reid, on the other hand, was supporting - get this - Dominic LeBlanc in 2008 which tells me he is likely working to open an eastern front in this still developing battle (his advice to Ignatieff today that he actually figure out who his target vote is and try to convince them to vote for him is ludicrous advice - I mean actually target voters? Come on! - and shows that Reid is no longer fighting for Team Martin).
So to summarize: while the Chrétien vs. Martin frame has no actual basis in fact and falls apart with the softest of pokes, that shouldn't stop MacDonald and others from using it as their basis to analyse the week's developments.