Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Take on Stephane Dion

I like Stephane Dion. I remember when Chretien brought him into cabinet; I was living in Africa at the time and read about it in Macleans. He seemed such a catch: super-smart, savvy, charismatic.

I still like Stephane Dion. He's running a great leadership campaign. He's doing really well in the debates. He has ideas and vision and he's obviously competent. He almost has it all.

Almost... but I'm still not over the hurdle that he's from Quebec. For nearly 40 years, Canada has had a Prime Minister from Quebec (not counting three who lasted 9 months or less). Before the Bloc, the Quebec swing vote determined which party would win, so to win a fedeal election a party's leader had to be from Quebec. With the Bloc all that was supposed to change, but somehow it didn't.

And just as importantly... he is part of the group that did a lot of good things but that also took the Liberal party off-track: the Chretien and Martin governments. I'm not saying that he was part of the Martin-Chretien feud or the sponsorship scandal or the decision to reduce social programs, foreign aid and environmental spending, but he was a very senior member of the group that did all that. It was a hard time for the party to stay true - no viable opposition, seemingly unending majorities - but they should have. Renewal is the most important thing for the party right now, and despite all his passion and fresh ideas, Dion is one of the old guard.

Bottom line: I want a Liberal leader who's not from Quebec and who represents a new start for the party. It's an emotional thing, and perhaps I can overcome it. I'm not sure about that.

But there's a more serious issue: can Canadians overcome it? Dion is not popular in Quebec. His English is difficult to understand because of his strong accent. Because he was a cabinet minister, he could be vulnerable to attack on all the failings of the previous administrations. Can he beat Harper? I think he could do a good job as PM, but I'm not sure he could get there.

On the other hand, we have three strong qualified front-running leadership candidates (Ignatieff, Dion and Rae) and all of them have handicaps.



Anonymous said...

How wonderfully un-Canadian to hold where someone was born against them!

I think you should reconsider the ethics behind your decision making process - unless you want to disqualify people of other heritage's too.

Additionally, you want someone who wasn't involved in the Chretien OR Martin years?

So...a Trudeau minister?? A non-Liberal??

Come on! We're electing someone here who will be a Liberal PM. Experience in federal politics is essential to running the country.

And, if your're going to hold supporting Chretien AND Martin against someone, than that pretty much rules out ALL LIBERALS!

I think you are wrong and misguided on both counts.

Liberal said...

All interesting points. But Stephane deserves more credit than this:

1. If Stephane is "old guard", why is most of the "old guard" with Ignatieff? In many ways, Ignatieff is the epitome of "old guard" and "old money." Isn't he a descendent of Russian nobility? Bob Rae, in many ways, is even worse. It's kinda like those baby boomers who won't give it up. His whole team will be hanging out in old age homes pretty darn soon. Stephane is younger, AND paid he has paid his dues. I think it's a pretty good combination.

2. Part of the reason why Stephane is "not liked" in Quebec is the fact that the Quebec nationalist intelligensia despises how effective he is as a defender of federalism. He is respected, however, and now that the campaign is in full swing, the Quebec media who said all kinds of bad things about him during his career admit that he is the only candidate who is actually dealing with the issues, and is strongest in the debates. Stephane is picking up grassroots support all across Quebec now.

3. Quebec is the place where Liberals must make gains if we are going to win the next election. Stephane can re-unite many federalists, and gain us new seats. Rae might do okay in Quebec, but would lose us seats elsewhere. Ignatieff would hurt us badly in Quebec once people start to understand his pro-Bush view of the world.

4. The Liberal Party nees a LIBERAL to lead it, not a former New Democrat, and not a person who has abandoned Canada for 30 years of his life. The leader must be able to speak to both English and French Canada. We can't allow Stephen Harper to make any further inroads into Quebec. I believe Stephane, while not perfect, is just the man for the job.

Anonymous said...

No frenchman this time.....what about Dryden sizzles in Woodstock.

Leonid said...

It's not Dion's fault the Trudeau beat Steinfield and (in 1980) Clarke, or that Mulroney beat Turner and that Chr├ętien beat Campbell... The candidates from outside Quebec have simply not been better than those from Quebec, for either party. If anything, shouldn't this bean argument FOR Dion, rather than against him? Actually, I don't think it should matter at all. We should chose the best-qualified candidate, in view of his/her record and the positions he/she is taking. All the "electability" arguments are bs. If the liberals in 1968 were thinking about that, Trudeau wouldn't have been leader. And it seems to me that that would have been a rather tragic mistake.
As for Dion's association with the Chr├ętien/Martin governments, he is willing and capable of reminding Canadians of all the good things these governments accomplished. And he is not tainted by the scandals; probably even Harper won't succeed in making people believe otherwise.

Matthew Naylor said...

I find it strange that the one major criticizm made is not against the substance of Mr. Dion, but rather the location of him. Please, think about what is best for Canada, and choose the candidate based on substance.

robedger said...

I don't think that most Canadians will hold the fact that Dion is French against him, just like I don't think that the majority of Canadians would hold the fact that Brison is gay against him, or the fact that Bennett is a woman against her.

I think that the vast majority of Canadians judge people by the content of their character rather than by the province in which they were born.

I also agree with the above commenter that we don't need to elect a tourist to promote renewal in the party.