Loewen jump to Liberals sinks Tory leader?
Manitoba Tory Leader Stu Murray went through a trial by fire on Friday.
And he melted like a marshmellow on a stick.
A disgusted demoralized caucus watched as Murray did his best Caspar Milquetoast performance, once again demonstrating why he will never be elected Premier of this province.
Murray failed every category of the test.
He failed the test of leadership.
He failed the test as a communicator.
He failed the test of vision.
He even failed to act like a human being.
At 9 o'clock in the morning he sat in a restaurant with his colleague John Loewen, who proceeded to tell Murray he was abandoning the provincial Conservatives to run federally for the Liberal Party. He was abandoning his ally on the front benches. He was abandoning the 33,000 Crocus Fund investors who had put their trust in him to get the truth out of the NDP. He was betraying the men and women who worked to get him elected to the Manitoba Legislature. He was turning his back on everyone who supported him and defended him and had faith in him for years.
An hour later, Loewen sat grinning under posters of a grinning Paul Martin as a grinning Reg Alcock welcomed him to the Librano's for the news cameras.
Stuart Murray, meanwhile, spoke with his advisors, his brain trust, and maybe even his fellow MLAs. Just before noon, he spoke to CJOB.
He was still friends with John Loewen, he said. They had a conversation that morning, he said. And he was sure some good candidates would run for Loewen's abandoned seat in the Legislature.
That was it.
No outrage. No anger. None of the emotions you would expect from a normal feeling human being. Stu Murray displayed the lack of passion that has become the trademark of his time as "leader" of the Conservative Party in Manitoba. His epitaph will read "So what?"
Now you would think that after his federal counterpart Stephen Harper had been blind-sided by Belinda Stronach's leap across to the Librano cabinet table, someone would have whispered in Stu's ear:
Don't be like Harper. Control the issue. Make the issue about their weakness and their desperation. Get the message out to the media. Make the voters care.
Had Murray been a leader, he would have understood what had happened and acted accordingly. This wasn't a simple case of an MLA quitting. It was the opening shot of the next federal election campaign.
The Liberals had outlined their line of attack and were moving their troops into battle. Murray was given the chance to show his mettle. And he was asleep at the switch.
A true leader would have rebounded from the setback to seize the initiative. He would have used the opportunity to ask what it was about the Liberals' stealing of hundreds of millions of dollars to use as kickbacks to their supporters appealed to John Loewen.
He would have asked how wasting a billion dollars on a gun registry and another billion on the HRDC boondoggle attracted a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative like Loewen.
He would have noted Loewen's new dedication to the Liberal's health care agenda, and asked if Loewen bothered to read the newspapers where the story this week was that health care professionals across the country were wondering why the billions announced by the Liberals on healthcare spending hasn't made a whit of difference.
He would have asked what was in Loewen's character to join the kleptocrats.
Most of all, he would have given the media a chance to report on strong leadership and principle. Imagine if instead of clips of Loewen grinning and mumbling about how great the Liberals really are after all, CKY had video showing Stu Murray boot Loewen out of the caucus instead of allowing him to resign at the end of the month as a Tory MLA, video showing the leader piling every box from Loewen's office out in the hallway of the Legislature under an exit sign, and video showing Stuart Murray set the theme of the next election: integrity.
Without integrity there is no debate over health care. No debate over foreign policy, rebuilding the military, taxes. If you can't trust the ruling party not to steal you blind, not to engage in a cover-up, not to buy off the police force that's supposed to investigate them, not to buy off opposition politicians and deny the tape recording that proves it...then why bother?
Is it any wonder that people don't vote? Why bother when the Prime Minister cries crocodile tears about the "democratic deficit" then blatantly appoints Liberal losers like Glen Murray to patronage positions and pretends not to know that his advisors are buying off opposition politicos with promises of cabinet posts and senate seats.
But that's asking too much of Stu Murray. He missed the opportunity to prove he isn't a plastic controlled frontman; this was his opportunity to show what betrayal of him, his party, of the voters, meant to him. He failed.
Instead he's happy to stand aside as a party of thieves paints the Conservatives as "negative."
Do you think this is a hint of the coming election campaign, Stu? Huh? Oh, wait, that takes vision and, well, "so what."
Murray had the chance to get his message on the news, but he didn't have a message. Instead he got to watch as the Liberals manipulated the news to their advantage.
First, break the story on CJOB, the most-listened to station on Friday morning.
CKY's noon newscast carried the story, except that it looked exactly like a Liberal election ad.
CKY had pictures of Reg Alcock, John Loewen and even defeated Liberal Glen Murray, but apparently couldn't find a single picture of Steven Fletcher who beat Glen Murray and holds the seat that Loewen wants to contest. And when Stu Murray got on the evening television news, he still had nothing to say.
And when the Loewen story makes the Saturday papers, the most read of the week, that's how the public will see Murray, and by extension the Conservative Party---nothing. Not even asking why it is that Loewen was only contacted 10 days ago, coincidentally just as Peter C. Newman's brutal expose of former Tory PM Brian Mulroney hit every front page in the country (while we initially dismissed ideas that the Newman book was part of a Liberal campaign, now we have to re-examine the possibility).
Even Premier Gary Doer got into the act, stating that if Loewen said he couldn't work federally with Stephen Harper, well, "a Tory is a Tory" and voters could see why Loewen couldn't work with Stu Murray either. The NDP leader got more airtime today than the leader of the party that got shanked.
Loewen's departure is no big loss for the provincial party. He was probably the most wooden and most inarticulate MLA in Opposition. In the last sitting of the Legislature, even though he had the golden issue of Crocus, he was still overshadowed by fresh voices of Health Critic Heather Stefanson (who becomes the front-runner to take over as leader) and Justice Critic Kelvin Goertzen who hounds the NDP at every turn for their inability to handle the street-gang problem.
No, the loss is to the credibility of the opposition Conservatives who have been shown to have no credible leader, no fire in their bellys, and, above all, no clue.