Friday, September 22, 2006

The One To Watch

This may mark the first time this campaign the Globe & Mail has written anything remotely nice about Gerard Kennedy so I figured it was worth a link.


TORONTO – Quick, now: What does the jumbled Liberal Party leadership race have in common with an obscure 19th-century English novel?

The answer: "a dark horse," a phrase thought to have been first used in print in The Young Duke, published in 1831.

The germane sentence reads: "A dark horse, which had never been thought of, rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph." Bonus points if you identified its author, a 27-year-old lawyer who, something of a dark horse himself, would become prime minister of England — Benjamin Disraeli.

The dark horse in the Liberals' current grand national steeplechase is easy to spot. More than halfway toward the finish line — the leadership convention in Montreal — Gerard Kennedy is raring to go, tucked in behind Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion.

But while much of the news media have been focused on the front-runners, Mr. Kennedy has been galloping in their slipstream, signing up thousands of new party members and raising just north of $400,000.

Four weeks ago, a very senior Liberal senator, officially unaffiliated, hosted a salon for Mr. Kennedy in his Montreal home. A private affair, no reporters, just a few well-placed friends to meet the candidate, take his pulse and hear him talk about renewal, what the Liberal Party needs to do to regain the confidence of Canadian voters; the sort of event one might imagine being arranged for a young Pierre Elliott Trudeau, circa 1967.

Clearly, he has some distance to go. A survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel last week for The Globe and Mail and CTV shows Mr. Kennedy tied for fourth place with Ken Dryden, each with the support of 9 per cent of Liberal Party members. Several blogger surveys predict Mr. Kennedy will do better.

Much will depend on the convention's mood. Less sullied and more youthful than his better-known rivals, Mr. Kennedy — neither a Martinite nor a Chrétienite — bears no scars from the party's internecine wars and might thus be regarded as a leader who can heal the rifts.

More importantly, although 81 per cent of Liberals told the Strategic Counsel they believe the party can form the next government, delegates will, in fact, be electing a new opposition leader, for potentially five years. By that time, Messrs. Ignatieff and Rae, with all their liabilities, would be into their mid-60s — not an age, perhaps, to galvanize the emerging generation. Mr. Kennedy would be just 51, seasoned federally and, leaning slightly left, a nightmare for Jack Layton's NDP.

"Kennedy's what I call the sleeper," pollster Allan Gregg said. "He doesn't carry the same baggage as some of the others, although he does carry some — notably, almost no support in Quebec. But it's early days yet. And oftentimes, to find the winner, you have to look not at the front-runner or even the guy in second, but the third choice."

Political consultant John Duffy, a principal at Toronto's Strategy Corp. and officially neutral, agrees. "Kennedy is well positioned to exploit the negatives of the other name candidates. He's definitely one to watch, with a lot of late-ballot potential. The question is: Will he be able to withstand the scrutiny of being the one to watch?"


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Peter, at 12:18 p.m.  


    Calgary Grit,

    On Tuesday, January 24th, you allowed me to post:

    "Gerard Kennedy. Born and raised in Manitoba. Attended University of Alberta. Opened first food bank in Canada (in Edmonton). Every party wanted him to run for them in Alberta. Instead, came to Toronto to run the Daily Bread Food Bank. Every party wanted him to run for them in Ontario. Probably best Ontario Minister of Education ever (or at least the last 20 years). Bilingual. Good Guy."

    On Thursday, January 26th, you wrote

    " a field of 20 or 30 rather uninspiring candidates, someone like Kennedy might be exactly what the Liberal Party of Canada needs right now."

    Michael Posner should be commended for his well written article. The Globe and Mail should be commended for allowing the article to be written and then published.

    I hope no other paper responds with innuendo.


    By Blogger Peter, at 12:22 p.m.  

  • Kennedy has avoided the spotlight for the last few months it seems. And for good reason too, after the initial stumbles over moving to Quebec and such.

    He's not a bad candidate I think, but I have to admit I find his credentials rather lacking. Still, I'd bet real money that Kennedy will end up being the King-maker in the leadership contest rather than the King.

    By Blogger SouthernOntarioan, at 4:04 p.m.  

  • Wow. I'd have no problem with Kennedy as Liberal leader, really, but this article may have just sold me on getting enthusiastic about him.

    Mr. Kennedy would be just 51, seasoned federally

    You know, I don't buy him as PM. At all. GREAT Premier, I'm sure, terrific CabMin, no doubt, but not as Prime Minister.

    But... the author makes a great point there. And yeah, I'd probably buy him as PM after a couple years as Opposition Leader.

    Very interesting thoughts.

    Oh, and I had the origins of "dark horse" on my google list for tonight - thanks for saving me the trouble!

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 7:19 p.m.  

  • I think Kennedy is a good candidate. A lot of people are going for Rae and Ignatieff since they feel they have the best chance to unseat Harper, however they also carry a far amount of negative baggage and during the course of a campaign one never knows how that will play out. With the vast majority of Canadians not watching the Liberal race too closely, the real test will come during the next election. While Kennedy may be seen as an ideal leader for an extended stay in opposition, he also does have the possibility of beating Harper in the next election. Since he carries little baggage, the election will have to be on Harper's record, which although it hasn't been horrible, it hasn't been great either. In fact according to the strategic counsel, only 10% strongly approve of Harper's performance, but only 10% strongly disapprove, the remainder or in the somewhat approve or somewhat disapprove. My first choice is Dion, however I certainly think Kennedy is still a decent choice and him along with Dion and Dryden could just emerge as a consensus candidate. I have yet to meet a Liberal who would tear up their membership card if Dion, Dryden, or Kennedy won, but I have met ones who would if Rae or Ignatieff won. In the case of Joe Volpe who thankfully won't win, the majority of Liberals I know would tear up their membership card if he won, whereas at least with Rae and Ignatieff the majority wouldn't.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 11:34 p.m.  

  • I have to agree with Miles.

    I like Dion in particular because he has a calm competence. He knows and loves our country, in a way that Iggy cannot, and in a way that Rae blew up.

    Count me among the Liberals who has no use for either Iggy or Rae, if they win, then they can work the phones for themselves, because I will not work for a watered down Ontario NDP agenda, nor will I work to install Peter Lougheed II, from the Harvard Business School.

    But I do agree with you that the Liberals have a large number of qualified candidates, and that most of them should find their way into Cabinet for the obvious reason that anyone of them is vastly superior to Harper, and his wooden dummy, Kenney.

    By Blogger Joe Green, at 1:00 a.m.  

  • I think with Kennedy as leader the party will truly go back to its root and there will be a true renewal. Its not backroom politics or the old boy network that has propped up Kennedy, it is grassroots supports. And Kennedy has shown he can take a mess (the Edmonton food club, the Ontario Education Ministry) and run it well. He will be ready for taking over the mess left behind by the Conservatives.

    By Blogger mezba, at 12:38 p.m.  

  • Can you believe the story about Volpe? Buying memberships for dead people and those who don't even know they joined. That is absolutely the last thing we need.

    The others should insist he quits if this is proven to be true.

    By Blogger Put the Party first, at 2:50 p.m.  

  • Ya know, two thoughts:

    1. Gerard isn't bilingual. I've spoken to him, twice, en Francais. Il ne parle pas suffisament bien le francais pour converser de coeur a coeur avec des francophones, et il ne parle pas suffisament bien pour contester les autres participants dans les debats televises. (Sorry about the lack of French accent marks, people. How do you turn them on on your computer??) That's a problem. Maybe if he studies hard, his French will improve enough over the course of a couple of years so that he can be expected to perform well in a French language debate. Now, and six or eight months from now when the next election will be held, it won't do.

    2. Gerard isn't quite ready for prime time in other respects. In particular, he doesn't seem to have the policy chops to be a person I would feel comfortable with as a PM. Here's an example: His attempt to pander to Albertan prejudices (and to undermine support for Ignatieff) with his reckless and, frankly, economically illiterate public opposition to carbon taxes. Any economist on our overheating planet will tell you straight that if we fail to increase the price of atmospheric carbon emissions (one way or another) to the point where emissions cost more per tonne than avoiding emissions (whether by geosequestration of waste gases or replacing coal-fired generating plants with wind power and nuclear power, or whatever) then THERE WILL BE NO REDUCTION IN EMISSIONS and our planet will be TOAST as runaway self-reinforcing CO2 and vast methane emissions from sources like Siberia's 40,000 year old 'yedoma' permafrost (now beginning to thaw) lead us from the current 380 ppm CO2 up towards 1,200 ppm and beyond. I'd been considering supporting Kennedy earlier in the summer, but had the feeling he didn't have the maturity in policy terms, and when he came up with this incredibly stupid and irresponsible policy, I felt sadly vindicated in my decision to support a different candidate.

    Maybe Kennedy will grow in office as a cabinet minister in a government led by Ignatieff or Dion. Maybe he's a future Liberal PM; it's not out of the question. But he's clearly not ready for prime time at this juncture.

    By Blogger Jay, at 6:04 p.m.  

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