A WEST COAST POWER PLAYER
By taking underdog Stephane Dion to the Liberal party’s top job, Mark Marissen has proven himself as a shrewd campaign strategist and shown his past successes were no fluke
It ’s a f t e r m i d n i g h t , last call approaches and the evening’s final drinks are being downed by a small group of Vancouver journalists, most bleary-eyed and a bit woozy. Not Mark Marissen, the quintessential Liberal backroom boy, as the conversation turns to his favourite topic: plotting the path to power.
The man now regarded as one of the best political strategists in the country sat at the table, calmly listening to the predictions of those who had streamed out of the annual Jack Webster Foundation awards in Vancouver for their traditional nightcap.
As he listened, many offered up their predictions of who would win the federal Liberal leadership race, then still weeks away. An amused look crossed Marissen’s face.
Most in the bar predicted easy victories for Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae as the next federal Liberal leader, the prevailing conventional wisdom. No t M a r i ss e n . He e a ge rly b e ga n spinning, for anyone who would listen, an alternative scenario that most, other than a perceptive few, deemed a political fantasy from a guy who had seen better days.
“We want to be third on the first vote at the convention,” insisted the campaign manager for Liberal leadership candidate Stephane Dion. “If we’re third on the first vote, Dion is going to win the l e ad e rs h i p. Ju s t watch.”
“Sure,” responded a listener, not buying that improbable scenario. Aiming for third place in politics is a bit like settling for best man at your sweetheart’s wedding, hardly the ideal outcome. “Maybe that will work, Mark. But I don’t think Dion has a chance.”
If the Liberals win the next federal election, the boy from St. Thomas, Ont. — Mark Marissen — is likely to become one of the most power ful and plugged-in backroom players in Canada.