Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Race for Stornoway: Stephane Dion



"le ciel est bleu, l'enfer est rouge"


Age: 50

Background: Born in Quebec City, Dion has an alphabet after his name on his wikipedia bio (PC , MP, BA , MA , Ph.D.), so one imagines he's fairly well educated. He taught political science for 12 years at the Universite de Montreal, before entering politics.

Political History: Dion was one of the wise men brought in by Chretien following the referendum scare in 1995. As Intergovernmental Affairs, Dion drafted the Clarity Act, often considered Chretien's largest legacy. He also earned a reputation for writing articulate letters to Premiers, in the days before we simply gave them whatever they wanted. After being bounced from the original Martin Cabinet for Jean Lapierre (*shudder*), Dion earned the Environment Portfolio following his help in the 2004 election. He is now Foreign Affairs critic for the Liberals.

Potential 2007 Election Documentary Title: "Harper vs. Dion: Revenge of the Nerds."

Rejected Endorsement: If the short lived "Draft Dion" blog is any indication, one imagines he won't have Paul Wells giving him too many introductions.

Pros: More experience in the federal government than the rest of the field put together. Extremely thoughtful. Well respected by most Canadians. Is from Quebec.

Cons: His English isn't sensational. Might be seen as too ancienne regime. Sometimes considered to be "not emotive". Is from Quebec.

In Person: Dion's a bright guy and I've always been impressed with him when I've met him in the past. He won't rely on platitudes and gives honest, well reasoned answers. He gets flustered in English at times when caught off guard, but most Liberals who have gone to Dion events over the past few weeks have left with nothing but nice things to say about the guy.

My Take: Dion is a gutsy intellectual who I've always admired as a politician. I don't necessarily agree with all of his decentralizing policies but the Clarity Act and his firm refusal to give in on the fiscal imbalance is certainly policy I deeply respect. And, much like Ignatieff, Dion can be counted on for well reasoned policy, even if it's not always exceedingly popular. At the same time, I like the "sustainable environment" focus to his campaign but, then again, who isn't pro-environment in this race?

Dion has more experience than most of the field and has always been a loyal soldier to the leader, whomever that may be. And despite a decade in elected office, he's been relative untouched by scandal or controversy.

The only drawback I see to Dion is that he isn't a great politician and I seriously doubt he could beat Harper. But that alone shouldn't disqualify him since politics is a funny game and if Harpr can win, I don't see any reason a francophone Liberal version of Harper couldn't. The only real reason I'm not supporting Dion is because I truly believe that Gerard Kennedy is what the Liberal Party needs right now - Dion is still number 2 on my ballot.

Chances: Mark Marrissen, of Team Martin fame, is rumoured to be his National Campaign Manager, and Don Boudria has signed on board.

He likely won't be top 3 on the first ballot but Dion is another guy who could turn out to be the "consensus candidate" at the convention. He's in the group of 4 or 5 who can win this thing.

45 Comments:

  • Wouldn't that be weird?

    If he won, it would be the guy who inspired the Clarity Act vs. the guy who introduced it.

    I think you're instincts are right though: Dion and Kennedy are the best this field has to offer, by about a mile. If I were a Liberal I'd be supporting one of those two as well.

    But as a Conservative, I have to pull for Volpe. We're due for a 200 seat romp.

    By Blogger Brandon, at 1:52 AM  

  • While I love being the evil neo-con and therefore love imagining the prospect of Harper wiping the floor with Joe Volpe, I realize that there's a good chance that whoso becomes Liberal Leader might become Prime Minister. And something like that scares the crap out of me.

    While the office can change people (look at the change in Martin after he became PM; look at Iggy after he became a politico), I'm quite satisfied with what I've seen from Dion. He wouldn't be intolerable to me.

    And I say that honestly. And not just because I identify with nerds. I like the fact that Dion has substance behind him. He has actual, you know, ideas. Goals and objectives. An idea about where he wants to take the country. Crazy stuff like that. And he's talking about it. That's impressive in itself. The fact that I agree many of his proposals makes him my favourite.

    By Blogger Jarrett, at 2:13 AM  

  • Don't you think Dion and Dryden would make a great ticket?

    By Anonymous habs fan, at 2:29 AM  

  • Allright...so Dion is a pretty good guy...intellectual, federal experience, untouched by scandal, and bilingual...his only drawback seems to be a lack of political skills. Looking at that list got me thinking...there is a guy out there that has all of Dion's pros plus a healthy dose of "likeability". Granted, it is a bit late and all, but am I crazy or could Jack Layton win this thing in a walk if he jumped into the race?

    By Blogger Small Town Shyster, at 2:47 AM  

  • I met Dion in Edmonton at the LPCA and to be honest I walked away VERY impressed. He took the time, about 15 minutes, to talk with me and talk about some of the issues. He's passionate and knows what he's talking about.

    I fell in love that night,

    Stephane for Leader :)

    By Anonymous J, at 3:10 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:50 AM  

  • History is sometimes amusing. The original architect of the Clarity Act was Stephen Harper. It was then championed through the debate and the House by Dion. Who was the visionary? The possibility of these two duking it out in the next election over real ideas and policies would be an incredible upgrade for our nation.

    Marrissen may not be the best choice as national campaign manager as he may be otherwise occupied. During the run up to convention Mark will be busy testifying for the Crown in the trials of fellow Federal Liberal co-workers and operatives in BC. The charges include the influence peddling, bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, etc.

    1:50 AM

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:54 AM  

  • "le ciel est bleu, l'enfer est rouge"

    So, you're saying that Tory blue is heavenly, and Grit Red is hell?

    You and I should switch homes, CG. I am living in "l'enfer".

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 8:18 AM  

  • Dion is one of the leadership hopefuls coming to Charlottettown this weekend.
    While Dion isn't a great politician, he's got an invaluable reputation for honesty and straight-shooting.

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 9:32 AM  

  • I think Dion is the best candidate out there. He's smart, thoughtful centerist and seems to be all substance (although he is lacking in style). Dion also has a good record and has unquestionable character.

    Now, compare that to Gerrard Kennedy. The man is one shade of red away from being a communist. The only reason he is a liberal is he knew he couldn't get elected as a dipper after the Rae fiasco (OK, so the Grits could do worse).

    By Anonymous Andrew, at 9:57 AM  

  • Andrew,

    I hardly think Kennedy's role as a diligent chair of government expenditures makes him very left at all. That is pure stereotype and his campaign will be in the centre where the party belongs.

    By Anonymous reality check, at 10:04 AM  

  • This leadership campaign has to be about ideas and above all Vision. Dion is one of the few candidates out there with a real, attainable vision for this country.

    Many Canadians are sick of "political" politicians. Many of you criticize him for not having the best political skills, but I wouldnt underestimate the Canadian voter supporting an honest broker... a straight shooter with real ideas formulated into sensible arguments.

    Dion is definately top 3, if not 2, for me.

    By Blogger UofOLiberal, at 10:24 AM  

  • I think Dion is a really really good candidate. While he is not my top choice I would be happy with him as leader. Interestingly enough I have had NDP supporters tell me they would join the party if he was the leader.
    TO be frank the not very good politician is a fair line but he could potentially be a great PM. The one thing I do object to is even comparing him to Harper. This guy is a whole other league above Harper!

    By Anonymous Aristo, at 10:33 AM  

  • I agree with you. I predicted Stephane Dion would be the next leader for precisely the reasons you mentioned. But I have to admit that Gerard Kennedy is darn tempting.

    I've heard rumours here in Kitchener Centre that there is some movement behind Kennedy as he's more of the renewal candidate. But if one wins, the other would be a very good deputy leader, in my mind.

    By Blogger James Bow, at 10:40 AM  

  • You guys are freaking me out. Somebody badmouth the guy or you'll jinx him.

    By Anonymous Paul Wells, at 10:53 AM  

  • CG,

    I agree with you about Dion being my clear number 2 choice behind Kennedy.

    No matter what happens I want Dion to be a senior minister and part of the inner circle of whoever wins the leadership.

    By Anonymous Manitoba Liberal, at 10:56 AM  

  • I'll echo James' post. I think the 1-2 Dion-Kennedy punch would be killer.

    Whenever I see Dion in interview, he just strikes me as authentic and genuine (which is completely the opposite vibe I get from Iggy and most politicians really). He's the type of politician that I'd hope most MPs would aspire to, that most people would want in office. Combine that with his experience, intelligence and more concrete vision, I'd lean towards giving him my vote. Kennedy, would be number 2 from my perspective, mostly because he's an unknown quantity to me. I foresee the race really coming down to Dion and Kennedy, with the Iggy and Dryden camps likely sending one or the other over the edge on the last ballot.

    By Blogger Jasen, at 11:00 AM  

  • Maurizio Bevilacqua doesn't like the environment!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:19 AM  

  • Paul's right. This is all a bit too flattering.

    I think Dion is great cabinet minister material, but I'm not entirely convinced he has the leadership capabilities which the liberals so desparately need right now. He didn't do a terribly good job of selling KYOTO to Canadians, and we're beginning to see the effects of that. The leader really has to be a seller. A seller of policies, ideas and vision [and potentially baked goods].

    I think he's got ideas and capability- I just don't see him making it to the final ballot.

    By Anonymous Matt Campbell, at 11:26 AM  

  • Paul: The postings about Red com-yew-nists are worth a lack of leadership snark, though, aren't they? Kennedy's candidacy will be worth it for that alone.

    Paul's concerns are the major element of the reactions I've seen to Dion: nobody seems to really dislike him, but they dismiss him as a nonentity that doesn't have the killer political instincts to win. This may, perhaps, be true, but consider the Premier of Ontario before you make that judgement.

    The problem I can see, though, is that as far as I remembered Dion wasn't tremendously popular in Quebec. If that's changed, great, but if not it may be a big problem.

    By Anonymous Demosthenes, at 11:45 AM  

  • Come on you guys, anybody but Dion, that's what the slogan should be. Why can't the Liberals can't get out off Quebec for a leader? The west wants in! The west wants in! We failed with Harper! We need a western boy! The west wants in!
    Dion as leader should generate twice as many comments than Kennedy has.
    By the way, since so many are signing "Anon" or should it read "Avon" I'm signing the same too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:35 PM  

  • I say we draft Presto just to placate the poor Albertans! It's time for a little reeee-FFfoooooorrmmm Liberals!

    By Anonymous imspartacus, at 1:17 PM  

  • CG wrote:
    "I don't necessarily agree with all of his decentralizing policies but the Clarity Act and his firm refusal to give in on the fiscal imbalance is certainly policy I deeply respect"

    Well then, I guess that means you have even MORE respect for Stephen Harper, Grit...since Harper is the guy who actually CAME UP WITH THE IDEA in the first place, as has been mentioned several times here already.
    Give Dion credit though......his years in University taught him one thing: Only plagiarize from those who are smarter than you are.
    Makes sense.

    What would be truly impressive however, would be Dion admitting that he was simply building on Harper's idea, the same way Paul Martin was building on Harper's ideas of how to slay the deficit. Lord knows, the best ideas the Liberals came up with in office were lifted straight out of the REFORM Party's handbook....written by....you guessed it, Stephen Harper.

    James Halifax

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:27 PM  

  • I hate to say it, because I don't necessarily dislike Dion, but I think his ascendency to the throne would be the Liberals death knell in Quebec. I think Harper would lick his chops at going head to head against Dion. Dion's unfavorables in his home province are off the charts, no something that can be easily corrected. Why start a new era with a leader who already has two strikes against them?

    By Blogger Steve V, at 1:28 PM  

  • To Brandon and to Anonymous regarding the Clarity Act and its architect, does the name Guy Bertrand ring a bell? This Quebec City lawyer took his case right up to the Supreme of Canada. In essence Me Bertrand argued that one's Canadian citizenship cannot be used as a negotiating tool between governments. The Supreme Court judgment which followed truly was the inspiraton and basis for the Clarity Act which Dion defended politically. I never go back to what Harper did or said before 2004 as I have been told this is considered "demonizing" him. Whatever that means....

    By Anonymous Loraine Lamontagne, at 1:38 PM  

  • Paul Wells was right! Paul Wells was right! He's the pick of the litter.

    My favorite Dion jab of late:

    "If I were just entering politics, I wouldn't dream of running for leader."

    -- take that Iggy. Stephane's one mean cookie and he's going to take you to town.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 1:42 PM  

  • Dion is a good guy. He in the race, not because of vanity (like others...cough, cough Kennedy..cough) but to toss out some serious ideas about the country.

    He will place strong, and I expect that after two ballots he will toss his support to the only other serious candidate with vision and expereince in the race and go with Joe Volpe.

    Deputy Prime Minister Stephane Dion in a Volpe PMO sounds pretty darn good. That is a heck of a one-two punch.

    By Anonymous Toronto Liberal, at 2:04 PM  

  • Apparently, Iggy's reps are offering cabinet posts in exchange for MP support. Iggy may be new to the Liberal Party in Canada but he is using the old boy network tactics. My view of him just dropped a few notches.
    We need a leader with some ethics, and preferably, a generational change.

    By Anonymous fed up liberal, at 2:41 PM  

  • Yes and I heard that Kennedy has been offering premierships to supporters (not to mention food), Volpe is offering Pizza and Dion has been offering to make people King of the world!!!! I know for a fact that CG was offered Lord high king of all bloggers if he would support Brison, I was offered free leafs tickets for supporting Dryden and I even heard that Harper was offering Cabinet posts to Liberals willing to cross the floor.
    cmon fed up Liberal quit smearing people

    By Anonymous Aristo, at 2:51 PM  

  • -For all the Clarity Act stuff, if Martin gets credit for cuting the deficit, and Pearson gets credit for healthcare, I don't think it's unreasonable to give Chretien/Dion some credit for the Clarity Act.

    -The quote is from the old 19th century church saying in Quebec, before the Liberals took over as the dominant party there. I think we're back in a situation where the Liberals are a bad word in Quebec and need to turn it around...and with Mr. Dion as our Quebec candidate, it seemed appropriate.

    -I think most people like Dion, but most also have doubts about him as a leader. If you're grasping for negatives, he's not very well liked in Quebec and wouldn't be a "fresh face" a lot of people feel the party needs. But he'd certainly be one of the safest choices in this field.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:58 PM  

  • 1) thanks CG for this post. I knew you'd pull through.

    2) I think the fact that he's second choice for everyone will give him the upper hand in a race like this. Any candidate wanting to win shouldn't come first on the first ballot. I think whoever comes second, third, or even fourth has a good chance at winning this thing. The fact that Dion is virtually EVERYONE's second choice gives him a great chance.

    By Blogger Hangin to the left, at 3:02 PM  

  • I think Dion is your best bet, which is to say that I feel sorry for you.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 3:19 PM  

  • Aristo,

    No smear at all, it's factual. Check it out.

    By Anonymous fed up liberal, at 3:48 PM  

  • "The fact that Dion is virtually EVERYONE's second choice gives him a great chance."

    I think that's very true. Personally I've been very impressed by what he's been putting forward in terms of policy and vision. He may not be the type of person that is normally considered a politician, but given all the studies lately that have shown that Canadians don’t trust politicians I think the fact that he comes across as very honest may resonate very well with the public.

    By Blogger A View From The Left, at 4:04 PM  

  • Fed up Liberal
    Check it out oh yes of course why did I not think of that.
    I think I will call up David Smith and ask "Hey Senator, who did you offer cabinet positions to today, make sure you offer some senate seats while you are at it."
    You are making the claim
    YOU post the evidence.
    Name one person so offered
    Name the person doing the offering
    Put up or shut up
    Mealy mouthed smears like this are just stupid.
    I dont know who you are supporting but I bet they will not be happy about you smearing other candidates in the blogs. Especially one on David Orchard, did they offer him something is that why this is here?
    Do you even have a Liberal membership?
    Fed up Liberal my ass you tory troll

    By Anonymous Aristo, at 4:30 PM  

  • CG responded:
    "-For all the Clarity Act stuff, if Martin gets credit for cuting the deficit, and Pearson gets credit for healthcare, I don't think it's unreasonable to give Chretien/Dion some credit for the Clarity Act."

    That was my point Grit. Martin gets credit for fixing the economics of the country, when in reality it was Free Trade and the GST that allowed it to occur through increased revenues. On top of Mulroney's policies....we have the REFORM Party offering policies that would eliminate the deficit and begin paying off the debt. The Reformers didn't get in....but the Liberals took those policies and implemented them anyway. That's my point. The Liberals take credit for the work of others' when it suits them, but have NEVER acknowledged their errors. The cult of Trudeau forgets that our debt balloned under his tenure, and the cult of Chretien Martin forget that the correct way to deal with the problem was NOT A LIBERAL IDEA.....and given that Liberal ideas result in Gun-registries and terrorist fundraising....then we are happy to have the Liberals steal others' ideas.

    At least have the honesty to admit it. We all agree Sponsorship wasn't JUST JEAN CHRETIEN and Paul Martin......there were a LOT of Liberals getting rich. Credit where credit is due.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:49 PM  

  • "Marrissen may not be the best choice as national campaign manager as he may be otherwise occupied."

    LOL! It's unfortunate this was offered by an Anonymous poster, as it's one of the few material contributions to this discussion.

    Who really cares who ends up as leader of a Liberal Party that has lost control of its only real product line, power, and that is out of office and out of patronage and over $35 million in debt, with less than zero prospects for paying down that mountainous debt.

    Still, with players like Marissen, Cunningham, Bornman, Basi and Virk forever teetering on the brink of another major eruption, this leadership non-race is likely to have some amusing entertainment value for political junkies who are not Liberals.

    By Blogger Budd Campbell, at 4:55 PM  

  • CG,

    It's "ancien régime", not "ancienne régime".

    "UN régime", not "UNE régime". It's masculine.

    Not that you care, but I still thought I'd let you know.

    Regards,

    Alex
    Quebec City

    By Anonymous Alex, at 8:32 PM  

  • "Granted, it is a bit late and all, but am I crazy or could Jack Layton win this thing in a walk if he jumped into the race?" - Small Town Shyster


    I have heard several Liberal organizers say this exact thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 PM  

  • For what it's worth, I heard the story about David Smith offering up Cabinet posts to lure MPs away from other candidates too...

    I think I'll only bite if I get offered Feschuck's job...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:33 PM  

  • I would vote for Layton for Liberal Leader...I kinda like the guy and without the bagage and wacko's that the NDP has I think he would do very well. He always rates highest in leader survey's, it's just that people think his party is full of commies (it is!)

    This is why I don't add my real name to posts. I would get fired if the truth ever got out.

    By Anonymous Manitoba Liberal, at 11:38 PM  

  • Just a few comments:

    1. I noticed some posted that Dion was unpopular in Quebec b/c of his constitutional history as a minister and can't win as a result. As I recall, folks made the same comment in 1990-93, about the last Liberal leader who won 3 majorities. The fact that Dion drives soft nationalists crazy helps Dion just as it did Chretien.

    2. Others have noticed Dion doesn't speak the best Queen's English. Once again, the last Liberal leader who won 3 majorities wasn't exactly Laurence Olivier either. He just has to be sufficient in English.

    3. Finally and most importantly, it is true Dion may not be a natural stylish politician like Bill Clinton. However, that fact may be his biggest strength. Harper won over Martin to some part because Martin was too stylish and no substance and was perceived as saying anything to win (eg. removing Section 33). Dion is widely regarded as an intellectual straightshooter. He may actually neutralize Harper on his own turf by being just as reserved, thoughtful and certainly as intelligent (if not more) as Harper. One of Harper's weaknesses will be to what extent it can be shown that he has been inconsistent between campaigning and governing. Dion will have the respect as a man of integrity to capitalize on it. It is precisely that he's not your typical politician that Dion can be appealing in this cynical age. I think it would be a disaster for the party to pick a showman for leader.

    With that being said, Dion's retail politics ability has improved 10x since entering politics in 1996. He would give "lectures" not speeches. Now, Dion is much more polished than where he was. He also works rooms better as well.

    By Anonymous Michael Jensen, at 1:52 AM  

  • Please not Dion. The west wants in, the west wants in, lets vote for Kennedy, he's my man.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 PM  

  • So I've put a little bit more thought into it...Jack Layton needs to be the next leader of the Liberal party.

    He has all the advantages of all the current frontrunners and none of their weaknesses. He is untouched by both the sponsorship scandal and the Martin/Chretien feud. He has a Ph.D (so he gets to claim the title "academic intellectual" and doesn't have to concern himself with smears about his level of education), he is bilingual, he has federal experience, he would attract a whole raft of NDP votes, he has been in the country for the last little bit...and he would leave the NDP leaderless.

    By Blogger Small Town Shyster, at 9:56 PM  

  • Dion is the man the Liberal party needs someone like him to rebuild them from the ground up. He's honest and Canadians will trust him if he is elected. He needs to be in the public more right now he is smarter then any of them, and he can debate with them on camera he will kick there butts.

    By Anonymous Scott C., at 1:15 PM  

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