Last week an Angus Reid survey revealed that a majority of Canadians want Michael Ignatieff replaced as Liberal leader. He has officially been on the job for 20 months and has yet to face a general election. Before him, Stephane Dion held the fort for 24 months, taking over from Paul Martin who served for 28 months before going down to defeat at the hands of Stephen Harper in 2006. For 136 years after Confederation, the Liberal Party had nine leaders. Over the last seven years they have had three.
Liberals need to face up to the reality that leadership is not their only problem. The truth is that the Big Red Machine has not functioned as a truly national political party since the days of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. That is not to say they should be missing Trudeau. In fact Trudeau is much to blame for current Liberal doldrums.
As every Liberal leader who has followed Trudeau has come to realize, the National Energy Program remains an albatross around their necks. Trudeau never again won a single seat in Alberta. His record in other western provinces was not much better. In the post-Trudeau era, Liberals have won four of the last eight elections, including three majorities, but over that time have taken little more than 20 per cent of the votes in Western Canada.