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Bob Rae's Summer Adventure

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Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae gave it a good try today. With the media looking for stories now that Kate and Will have departed Ottawa, it was a good time for him to hold a press conference.

There wasn't much that was new though except that in the next few weeks we will be seeing another "listening" tour by yet another Liberal leader. Each of the previous tours (Dion 2008, Ignatieff 2010) were also designed to raise the then Liberal leader's profile and give the leader the opportunity to listen to the concerns of voters and party workers. One can certainly question the wisdom of this process. Each of the last two Liberal leaders went on to lose seats after Canadians got to know them a little better. How many of these tours have we seen in the last few years anyways?

Clearly this tour is not just about listening to Canadians; it's about the survival of a once proud party that due to its own inner failings got hammered in the last election. Survival of a party that has taken a financial hit with the smaller size of its caucus and survival of a party that will take an additional financial hit as the recently enacted legislation reduces the per vote subsidy for political parties.

Rae will listen to what his surviving MPs and party membership will be telling him, but it won't be enough. This tour will be a battle to scrape up any media coverage, no matter how small, for a party that must rebuild and find new sources of financing. As time marches on, Rae will find that the media will become less and less interested as there is a new game in town that offers more punch, excitement and perhaps even more opportunity for a few slip ups -- namely the NDP.

As the third party, the Liberals will slowly fade from view. Yes, some of their veterans, including Rae will have their moments, but third parties simply don't garner the attention that the official Opposition can attract. It's a numbers game and it's profile and the Liberals have neither now.

The Liberals can still pack a punch in question period. Some of their members are good performers and Rae is arguably one of the best in question period. But we are in the middle of the summer doldrums, there is no question period, Canadians are focused on a royal visit and we have only recently gone through an election that no one wanted. There is not much chance that Canadians will want to hear from Mr. Rae, never mind let him know what they are thinking.

And while it's quiet now, Layton and the NDP will almost certainly make their own move this summer. It would be very unusual for the NDP to let this summer go by without making their presence known as they too seek their share of the media spotlight. And when the NDP makes its move, where will that leave the Bob Rae magical mystery tour?

Keith Beardsley's political blog can be found at

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