The question was on many minds when John Manley signed on as the chief lobbyist of big business - and it still is, judging from Adam Radwanski's interview with him today. How was it that the Canadian Council of Chief Executives had hired a former Liberal cabinet minister - albeit a right-leaning one on good terms with the current government? And how was it that a Chrétien-Liberal had agreed to be hired on by the power behind the Throne said to be responsible for pulling the strings in Canada?
What else is new?
Though it's easy to forget, Mr. Manley's very effective predecessor, Tom d'Aquino, cut his teeth in Ottawa as special assistant to Pierre Trudeau. Mr. d'Aquino, it will be recalled, went on to play a key role in selling Canadians on the free trade agreement - an initiative recommended to the Mulroney government by a former Liberal finance minister.
Let's face it: While the Conservatives have been called the party of Bay Street, the Liberals have historically been the party of the Canadian establishment. They funded it generously over the years and had their generosity paid back in the form of generous policies and appointments. While Stephen Harper may have stopped Canada's slide into becoming a one-party state, the establishment is clearly not betting that the Conservatives are about to replace the Liberals as Canada's natural governing party.
The real mystery of Canadian politics is why the NDP has not been able to ride the anti-establishment/anti-Bay Street train to greater electoral success - as they've done in some provinces. Perhaps that will change in the wake of one of the greatest crises in capitalism since the Great Depression. The odds don't seem high, however, judging from their policy conference over the weekend. While they managed to extricate themselves from an ill-prepared change of name that would have been embarrassing in Québec, there was scant indication the party is about to develop a sharper critique of the system - a problem, to be fair, that is not unique to the Canadian left.