The Race for Stornoway: My Pick
Well, for starters, he meets all the minimum requirements to be leader of the Liberal Party:
Clean on the ethics front? Check.
Not associated with the Liberal Party civil war? Check.
Political experience? Check.
Effective communicator? Check.
But meeting those requirements only makes Kennedy a competent candidate with a kick ass political name. What else does he bring to the table?
Well, for starters, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Gerard Kennedy is the most electable candidate in this race. He's young, he's photogenic, he's a charismatic speaker, and the ladies assure me that he's quite cute. He'd be the kind of fresh, energetic face which could excite the public, and draw people back to the Liberal fold. His wife is Acadian which will play well in the Maritimes, and Kennedy himself spent the first 26 years of his life in Western Canada. As a Calgary grit, it's extremely encouraging to see a candidate with strong Western roots in this race, and I think there are a few seats in Edmonton which would swing to a Kennedy led Liberal Party. With the party on the decline in Quebec, it's absolutely essential to reach out to the West and, from what I've seen, Kennedy is the best individual to do that.
Another big drawing point for me is his experience. While Stephen Harper was off writing about fire walls before entering politics, Gerard Kennedy was running food banks. Listening to Gerard talk about poverty, you can tell that it's an issue he is passionate about and that he's in politics because he wants to make a difference. Jack Layton can talk all he wants to about helping the disadvantaged but Kennedy has walked the walk. In an age when Canadians are cynical towards politicians, I think voters would welcome an individual who has spent his life trying to make Canada a better place for all Canadians. Because of this, it would not at all surprise me if Jack Layton is having a few nightmares about the prospect of running against a Kennedy led Liberal Party.
Some will ask about his policy and vision, and after listening to him this weekend, I'm sure the substance is there. Kennedy has talked about making Canada an internationally competitive country, where immigrants can succeed. He's talked about promoting enterprise to spur on the economy. We know he has a commitment to education and to the disadvantaged. And, judging from his track record at the Daily Bread Food Bank and as Ontario Education Minister, he seems like an individual who can achieve results.
Pierre Trudeau was just what the Liberals needed in 1968, and I believe Gerard Kennedy is what the Party needs in 2006. Gerard has spoken about engaging the grass roots and reaching out to Western Canada. The Liberal Party needs a leader willing to spend the next decade of his life rebuilding a party sorely in need of repair. Gerard has shown a commitment to the Liberal Party for over a decade and he's talked about fixing the problems which ail it. He's a fresh face who can inject life into this party and remind Liberals of why they are Liberals. Free from past civil wars and supported by all wings of the Party, he's a candidate Liberals can rally behind after the race. Because of all these reasons, I am very proud to be supporting Gerard Kennedy in the Liberal leadership race.
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."
Background: Born in The Pas, Manitoba, Kennedy attended University in Ontario and Alberta. Like all 22 year olds, Kennedy helped found Canada's first food bank in Edmonton, becoming its first executive director. In 1986, he moved to Toronto to run Canada's largest food bank, managing a 30 million dollar non-profit organization without a dime of government support. Try running an attack add against that.
Political History: Kennedy won a 1996 by-election for Bob Rae's old seat, a seat which hadn't gone Liberal red in 70 years. Less than a year later he ran for the provincial leadership, losing to Dalton McGuinty on the 5th ballot. Despite McGuinty's loss in '99, Kennedy stayed loyal and was rewarded with the Education portfolio when the reptilian kitten eaters rolled to power in 2003. In that portfolio Kennedy has done a lot to give Ontario labour peace (if you think the Bettman and Goodenow had a tough time, the Ontario teachers are far, far more difficult to bring under contract), cut class sizes, promote healthy lifestyles at school, and go after bullying.
Rejected Campaign Slogan: "Think Ted Kennedy...minus the boozing!"
Rejected Endorsement: If my track record of supporting candidates is any indication, Calgary Grit.
Guaranteed Endorsement: Mississauga Peter
Pros: Young. Has experience in politics, but is clean of civil war and Adscam stains. Charismatic. Fluently bilingual. Roots across the country.
Cons: Not a ton of name recognition outside of Ontario. Not a lot to make fun of thus far, which will seriously make my life as a blogger more difficult should he win...
Chances: Kennedy has started at a disadvantage, having to focus on his job as Education Minister, while other candidates criss crossed the country. Despite that, Kennedy is among the group of 5 or 6 who have a realistic shot at winning it on the convention floor. At that point, he'll have to reverse the karma of 1997 when he lost on the 5th ballot, at 4:30 am.
I can't speak for our East, but I'm fairly sure Gerard will do well in Western Canada, having already recruited some big organizers in all four Western provinces. Rumour is, he'll also land a couple big name endorsements and has good caucus support among the under 40 crowd. He's got strong youth support and has managed to draw in organizers from both the Chretien and Martin wings of the party.