Thursday, September 20, 2007

On elections and by-elections

I recorded the Ontario provincial leader's debate tonight and just finished watching it. The experience was painful.

John Tory is of the old attack dog school, nasty and belligerent. His opening film referred to "Dalton McGuinty's catch-and-release justice system." Later he said that "McGuinty is letting criminals thumb their noses at us." His passion for sending people to jail is the thing that bothers me most about him, of a long list of things that bother me: teaching creationism in schools, shattering our public school system, weakening our public health system.

Howard Hampton was better than I expected. I agree with his values but I'm not always certain of his facts. But I shouldn't quibble: he was in a tough position as the party that's trailing way back and he stood up well.

I thought Dalton McGuinty was fabulous - the hand's down winner, partly because he was clear, fact-based and convincing, partly because he stood up to all the mudslinging with composure (and a good answer to every attck) - but mostly because he stood up for his record, which has been very good. When he came in he discovered a $6 billion deficit left by the Conservatives; he has turned the deficit into a massive surplus. He has made huge inroads on our problematic school system and health system.

McGuinty is not a big-charisma politician, but he's a good man with good values and he is a solid manager who is running our province excellently.

I wish I felt as good about our federal Liberal leader. I don't think Dion should be ousted because of the by-election losses in Quebec, but it's a canary in the coal mine for his leadership.

For whatever reason, Dion has been unable to be an effective, vocal opposition to Harper. He doesn't need inexperienced lieutenants like Hall-Findlay, Ignatieff and Kennedy. He needs to start developing some federal leadership-level political smarts. In the leadership race Dion ran on a platform of being the antiestablishment candidate (pretty laughable since he had been in cabinet and the other top candidates were outsiders). Maybe he needs to eat a little crow and call in the backroom boys who can get us moving again... pure speculation as I have no idea what's going on in his office, but something has to change.

Dion's political voice comes off (in English) as either whiny or angry: he needs to find a better tone. He needs to get on top of some issues that Canadians care about. He needs to start showing Canadians a Liberal leadership team that we can imagine running our country - Ignatieff and Hall-Finlay are getting too much exposure when they're not ready for prime time.

Since many Canadians are still angry about the Liberal adscam scandal (and Dion as leader perpetuates the problem since he was a Quebec cabinet minister at the time of the fraud), maybe it would help if he unveiled new initiatives to reduce government corruption. And he shouldn't just be whining about the environment: he should be out there making concrete things happen and taking credit for improvements.

We knew in the leadership race that Dion was very unpopular in Quebec. Since the by-election he has been announcing that he's going to address that. But he's not going to win the next election unless he addresses his unpopularity in the rest of Canada. He's a non-entity. He needs to improve his English. He needs to get out into the rest of Canada and start doing things. More pandering to Quebec is not going to impress the voters who will decide the next election.

We Liberals have not had the best leadership for a long time. Chretien and Martin both had their strengths, but a gazillion weaknesses too. Dion came in as the reform candidate - the leader who was going to rebuild the party, energize the grass roots, modernize the system. I just don't see anything happening. One thing's for sure: if Dion doesn't figure out how to be leader, Harper is going to get his majority next time.


1 comment:

Hy Coup said...

"teaching creationism in schools"

It's already being taught now, with your tax dollars in Catholic schools. Wake up.