Monday, June 19, 2006

Babies, bathwater and leaders

Well, it seems like our quiet little leadership race is starting to heat-up a little bit, and the gloves are beginning to come off. In particular, I wanted to respond to a lot of criticism I've been reading in recent days that Stephane Dion is the epitome of the old guard of the Martin/Chretien days and that somehow makes him unclean.

Much of this talk seems to be coming from Gerard Kennedy supporters upset with Dion's statement in their debate on the weekend that Gerard hadn't put forward any policy ideas, a statement they find unfair. So, it's natural they would want to lash-out while defending their candidate. I didn't watch the debate (saw Nacho Libre instead, it sucked bad) but my understanding was that, after a swipe by Gerard, Stephane's statement was specifically referring to Gerard not putting forward any ideas in their debating exchange, not in the campaign at large as some seem to have implied/thought. An important distinction, I think.

But anyway, I really wanted to address this Dion as the old guard argument. That's an interesting one. If you go by caucus endorsements Gerard has twice as many as Stephane and Michael Ignatieff is the runaway leader, so it's hard to say he's the establishment candidate. Nor is he the only former federal minister that's a candidate, there's also five others. But, I guess since he's breaking away from that pack it's only natural he gets tagged with it.

And there has long been a debate: do we need a fresh face from the past 13 years, to distance ourselves from assorted scandals? It's easy to say yes, isn't it? But let's look at this more closely. Is it really a fresh coast of paint that we need, or is it new ideas? Is is substantive change that's needed, or just new window dressing? Look at the Wikipedia endorsements page, all the candidates have establishment backers. It's easy to look for a new messiah to rally behind but it's not smart, and it's not the answer.

Yes, we need a new start, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater here. We need to BALANCE our need for freshness with being proud of the good we accomplished over 13 years in government.

Contrary to Conservative spin the last 13 years were not all gloom and scandal, and we should stop pretending that they were. We took a country teetering on the edge of insolvency and we balanced the budget, that's a monumental accomplishment. We followed it up with years of surpluses that have been reinvested into our social fabric and returned to Canadians through targeted income tax cuts that actually benefit those Canadians that need them the most. Our investments in university research helped reverse the brain drain, bringing Canada's best and brightest home. We worked to create a climate for investment that has helped bring unemployment to lows not seen in years.

We have a record to be proud of and we need to stop running away from it. Yes, Stephane Dion was a member of that government. I think that's a plus. I also happen to think a few years of experience at the federal cabinet table might come in useful to a future Prime Minister.

As I've blogged before, it's time to stop apologizing for being Liberals. We need new ideas and a new direction; I think Stephane brings that to the race. We also need to remind people of the good we did during our time in government, and I think he can do that too.

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1 comment:

Steve V said...

Well said Jeff.