I think the criticisms of his French are fair. This country’s Prime Minister must be bilingual and while Kennedy is technically bilingual, he’s going to have to improve his French. I’m sure he’s dedicated to improving it and with a French family at home, he’ll certainly have time to practice. I’m convinced he’ll be up to Harper’s level by the next election and that’s good enough for me. If you think Kennedy’s French is a liability in Quebec, you have to concede that Dion’s English will be a liability in the rest of Canada.
What I don’t think is a fair criticism is saying that because Kennedy did poorly in delegate selection meetings, that he can’t win Quebec in a general election. Less than 1% of Canadians are members of the Liberal Party and those who are members will vote Liberal regardless of who the candidate is. Equating the general population to the Liberal Party is what led to ridiculous polls showing that Ken Dryden would come out of this weekend in first place. Now we’re seeing the same mistake being done in reverse. During the last CPC leadership race, Belinda Stronach cleaned up in Quebec. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that she would have been destroyed there in a general election. Instead, Harper was the right choice for the Tories in Quebec and he showed that last election. Belinda won Quebec because she had the best organization there and Kennedy’s weak showing in Quebec this weekend was because of a weak organization. And while organization is often an indicator of a candidate’s popularity among Liberals, it’s hard to infer those results to the population at large. Joe Volpe won more delegates than Scott Brison but does that mean he’s a better candidate than Scott? Nope. Ignatieff was first in Saskatchewan and fourth in BC – does that mean he’d win seats in Saskatchewan but lose them in BC? Not really. Any Dion or Rae supporter who says Kennedy couldn’t win Quebec because of his weak showing there is effectively saying that Gerard is more electable than their man in Ontario.
Given his perceived left leaning nature and progressive policies which I think should appeal to many in Quebec, I don’t see how electing Kennedy would be writing off the province in a general election. Gerard isn’t known there now but that means he’s not tied to the “old Liberal Party” of the Adscam years and he’d enter the province free of any baggage. It's a lot better to fail to get supporters because you're unknown than because you are known in my opinion.
Leadership races and general elections are two completely different animals. Obviously Kennedy will need to address the perception that he’s less electable in Quebec than other regions. That will mean calling Quebec delegates, doing events there, and trying to get endorsements from a few prominent francophones. It will also mean working on his French because how he speaks en francais on his Friday speech at the convention might very well determine whether or not he wins this race.