Monday, May 08, 2006

BCer's pick: Stephane Dion

After a lot of careful thought and consideration of all the candidates, their pros and cons and the political landscape I’ve finally made my decision: I think Stephane Dion is the right person to be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

This wasn’t an easy decision, as it is such a quality field of candidates. I went into the LPC(O) convention this weekend with three candidates on my shortlist: Dion, Ken Dryden and Gerard Kennedy.

I was stronger on Dion and Dryden but I’d heard a lot of good things about Kennedy and a friend of mine whose opinion I respect is organizing for Kennedy, so I wanted to give him a look. I think he’s a great guy and has a great future in the Liberal Party, but I just don’t think his time is now. I think he needs a little more seasoning on the national stage. I hope he runs federally in the next election, and if he does I think he’ll be a real force.

I really like Dryden, and I was going back and forth on the two all weekend. I met Dryden a year or so ago, when, on a visit to the Comox Valley as minister to meet with his provincial counterpart, he took time out of a busy schedule to attend a reception with the local federal Liberal riding association. Often ministers would pass through the riding without any notice so the fact he sought us out and took the time impressed me, and I think it speaks volumes to his commitment to the grassroots. I also admire his frankness, his honesty about the challenges facing our party, and the intelligence and conviction he brings to political life.

But in the end, I felt he just doesn’t have the zeal, the passion, and the drive to smack down Harper in a debate, or rally a crowd on the hustings. One on one Ken is great; if he could meet every Canadian in person we’d win a landslide majority. Modern politics is a TV game though, and I’m not sure he has mastered that medium yet. I hope he does.

Why Stephane?

I’ve liked Stephane for a while, and I think I was one of the earlier people in blogland to float his name as someone who should run.

He wasn’t seen as a serious candidate at that point and I’m glad to see that has changed, and in a big way. When I went to his hospitality suite Saturday night ready to put on a Dion button the room was packed and they were out of buttons, they’d been surprised by the demand. MP Bryan Wilfert was able to find me a sticker; hopefully I can find a button soon.

In January when I floated his name the only reservations I had about Stephane were these: does he have the “royal jelly” to inspire and excite, and can he make the transition from loyal lieutenant to leader. Watching his performance over the past few weeks, and this weekend, I can now say the answer to both questions is a definite yes.

You could see him change during his speech Friday night. He started off a bit nervously, the English a bit awkward, but as he got going you could see the passion building as he talked about the need to add a third pillar, environmental sustainability, to the Liberal pillars of social justice and fiscal management and the audience buying-in to that vision.

Stephane is committed to the party, and wasn’t part of any of the Chretien/Martin feuding. He was a loyal minister for Jean Chretien, tackling the difficult unity file, taking on the separatists and steering through the Clarity Act. When called on by Paul Martin he worked hard to help salvage Liberal fortunes in Quebec in 2004, and did a great job in the environmental portfolio. He's succeeded in every file he's been given, and I think now he's ready to get the filing cabinet.

What about Quebec?

The big question people seem to have about Stephane is can he win in Quebec? Don't they hate him there because of the Clarity Act stuff? I think he can be successful for us in Quebec. I'm not a Quebec expert, but here's my theory.

Do some people not like him in Quebec? Sure. It's the same people that didn't like Jean Chretien. It's the soft-nationalist/separatist elite, and I don't see them voting Liberal anyway. Paul Martin and Jean Lapierre tried to go after that vote and it didn't work; recognizing that in the 2004 campaign they called in Dion to shore-up our federalist base.

We're never going to sweep Quebec. The BQ isn't going anywhere; the Tories are back and aren't leaving either.
But they're both going after the same soft nationalist piece of the pie. Let them fight over it, because we can have the federalist piece of the pie for ourselves. Let's be that strong federalist voice again, that passionate defender of Quebec's proud place in a strong and united Canada, that unapologetic defender of Canada. And who better to do it than the champion of plan b, the guy that stood toe to toe with the separatists and wouldn't blink?

The right person at the right time

I think Stephane Dion is the leader the Liberal Party needs right now. He's unscathed by the party infighting and any ethical issues and has always been there when needed, he has experience in government on both domestic and international files and his intelligence and honesty would be a breath of fresh air. He refuses to back down in a debate, but he does it not with confrontation and smears, but with intellect and wit. I'd love to see him wipe the floor with Stephan Harper in a debate, and you could charge admission to see him joust with Gilles Duceppe.

Also, I think his message of adding a third pillar, environmental sustainability, to the Liberal pillars of social justice and fiscal management really resonates with Canadians. The environment is going to be THE issue for the 21st Century. It also brings our party back to the Centre/Left, where I'm more comfortable and where, as I've blogged in the past, I think we need to be.

For these reasons and more, I'll be supporting Stephane Dion for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

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S.K. said...

Mr. Dion was very impresive and very sincere. I had lunch at his table on Saturday, his English is just fine, accent and all.

A worthy choice.

S.K. said...

p.s. I like that your picture is back. It's nice.

BW said...

A well-reasoned decision. Everyone should make such an educated choice, no matter whom they select.

rob said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Dion is a good pick. However I would question his record as Environment Minister. Ministers like him spend too much time praising themselves for the Accords they sign instead of actually doing anything for the environment. We all know the Americans did not ratify Kyoto and have a better record than Canada. We need action not signing more agreements.
As far as Mr. Dryden is concerned, I have dealt with his department and they are rubbish. As a disabled student struggling through University from a lack of accommodations and requiring to protect myself under human rights I contacted his office. Instead of sympathy and maybe looking into the matter, his response was to praise Canada for the Charter of Rights. Give me a break. I know Liberals think it is such a great Charter, but I know for a fact that my rights would have been better protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As Social Development Minister, I would say Mr. Dryden stance on the rights of the disabled is pretty weak.