I went to a Stephane Dion rally at Kitchener's Conestoga College today. They must have been expecting a lot fewer people than they got, because they had re-arranged a large room so that it held only 100 people or less and they got three or four times that. I managed to see the proceedings only because I found a slit in the material at the back of the stage that I could partially see through - and a hundred people around me seemed envious that I had that much.
Andrew Telegdi spoke first - a slow, preachy, information-laden talk about child care. Then Ken Dryden got up and spoke some more about child care. He was a bit more animated but it was still pretty bush league. Then Dion got up and... well, from my vantage point I could read his teleprompter but I couldn't really understand him. Doesn't he practice these things? Couldn't someone have told him that we say "one point two five billion" not "one point twenty-five billion"? The strange pronunciations and odd cadence distracted me from the speech and made it hard to follow. Ditto the large chunks of the speech he gave in French. And why the heck were they talking about child care to a crowd of nineteen year olds?
And why are they giving rallies that do nothing more than recite facts and make pledges to spend money? Where's the feel-good stuff? The part where they engage the audience emotionally and make them feel that we're all part of the same cause? The big picture stuff and vision of the future? I want campaigns to be about the issues, but they shouldn't be all dull facts. Plus, by talking about nothing but a single issue they sort of lose people like me who don't really care about that issue.
Dion does not apparently have a "stump speech": this speech was dedicated to the issue of child care and his pledge to increase federal spending on it. I think he needs at least a few minutes of more general issues. And it would be nice to think about who the audience is and say something that would engage them. And have somebody handing out buttons.
Maybe we have developed false expectations from watching American TV, but couldn't our politicians learn how to pause for applause, signal the end, and so on? The whole event was awfully, awfully amateurish - more like you'd expect from a city council race than a national campaign. I can see why people are responding so well to Bob Rae - the man is a great orator but he could be a quarter as good as he is and still stand out as the best in this crowd. (Rae was there but didn't speak.)
I have been really enjoying Curosity Cat's coverage of the election. She's been writing about George Lakoff's work on framing issues in election campaigns and fleshing out how the Liberals should do that. But the lack of strategy in the rally I saw today was so blatant that it seems that the Liberal campaign planners are about ten miles behind Curiosity Cat's sophistication. Dion ran for leader on a campaign of kicking out the backroom boys, and I guess that's showing.