It is not just Justin Trudeau’s opposition rivals who were — as the prime minister indelicately put it in a recent interview — left in the dust on election night, a generation of old-school Liberal insiders was, too. For most of the new Liberals in the House of Commons, the names of the party’s veteran power brokers ring only distant bells. Many party fixtures on Parliament Hill are unknown to the new movers-and-shakers of the Trudeau cabinet. The ghosts of a recent Liberal past still haunt the halls of Parliament but they are, for the most part, rattling their chains outside the corridors of power, with few or no IOUs to collect on. Some used to make themselves indispensable by smoothing the Liberal path to well-heeled donors. But such go-between services became obsolete after Jean Chrétien banned corporate donations a bit more than a decade ago.
Then Trudeau was elected leader without the brokerage between various establishment factions that had attended past leadership contests. A politician with hundreds of thousands of social media followers brings a base to an open leadership process and, potentially, to the floor of his party’s convention that no organizer can hope to match.
With the restoration of a measure of grassroots democracy to the selection of the party’s election candidates a connection to the old boys’ network is no longer a ticket to a nomination or, in the wake of the prime minister’s move to fill the upper house’s vacant seats with presumably free spirits rather than with proven loyalists, to a Senate appointment.