51

The Commons: Dream On


 

(The Commons returns with a 37th attempt to understand the Stephane Dion Era.)

In the early hours of the last day of his first campaign for Prime Minister, Stephane Dion stood on a makeshift platform in another haphazard campaign office, this one in Fredericton. Outside it was cold and damp. Inside, owing to the spotlights and a hundred supporters, it was just short of balmy.

His stump speech was, by this point, little more than a series of punctuation marks—every second sentence another sound bite demanding applause. And his performance that morning was altogether adequate. His voice rose where it was supposed to, the crowd cheered on cue. But then he got to what is easily his most popular quip.

“He may speak better English than me,” he said of Stephen Harper. “But I speak the truth in both official languages better than him.”

He had delivered variations on this line—self-deprecation twisted into a virtuous boast—maybe a hundred times. It was typically well received, the crowd laughing, then applauding. But this time, for whatever reason, in the final moments of a futile effort, the ovation was longer and louder than usual.

***

It cannot be said that Stephane Dion didn’t come as advertised. He was who we thought he was. Awkward, shy, thoughtful, generally ineloquent, perhaps a bit stubborn. When he beat a man of politics (Bob Rae) and a man of words (Michael Ignatieff) to become leader of the Liberal party, all of it was somehow part of the allure. He was celebrated for everything that would eventually be held against him. He was a new kind of something. A different way of doing things. He was on at least one occasion mentioned in the same breath as Bobby Kennedy.

And so maybe the lesson is that whatever we may say about change, what we really want is something we recognize.

It is impossible, of course, to completely isolate Mr. Dion’s struggles from the general confusion of his party. The easy comparison might be to the post-Clinton Democrats, the bumbling, yearning donkey that struggled to find voice and purpose after the thrill and frustration of the Bubba era. In the wreckage of Chretien-Martin, the Liberals found themselves with plenty to look back on, numerous opinions on where to go next and no agreement on what to do now. Everyone had an angle, a bias, a claim to unique experience or vision or insight. After a long leadership campaign, not even the front runner (Ignatieff) could claim unquestioned support from a third of the party. And so the party chose Dion, a minister to both Chretien and Martin, but a politician quite unlike either of them. A man who wrapped himself in green as much as red; who spoke with neither the small town pragmatism or Chretien, nor the vague dreaminess of Martin; a man who seemed averse to the very idea of politics.

The question immediately, in anonymous quotes and Conservative attacks, was one of leadership. Before he could even begin to go about trying to lead, he was defined as weak and cowardly, pursued by numerous rivals who, while they hadn’t been able to beat him in a year-long campaign, were apparently better, stronger, more deserving captains. For months he was mocked without riposte. Maybe a more archetypal politician might’ve been able to transcend this, might’ve reassured those who doubted his abilities. But, in Dion’s case, all that made him who he was only seemed to confirm what his opponents purported him to be. All that he supposedly stood in opposition to, he now needed to personify.

And so maybe the question is how we now define leadership. Or how we know a leader when we think we see one.

If it’s a matter of intelligence and experience, Dion would seem, by any objective standard, to have both. Commitment to country? Dion can claim to have almost single-handedly fought back the separatist forces in Quebec. Vision? Dion built his entire campaign on the theoretical ideal of a “better” future, on an issue—the environment—we all purport to worry about for the sake of our children. Humanity? Dion, traveling with his wife and adopted daughter by his side, spoke of bringing more women into politics and ending poverty.

At rallies he spoke of the economists who supported his carbon tax, the Nobel Prize winners who blessed his environmental policies and even the other party leader (Elizabeth May) who wanted him to be prime minister. If his primary opponent was, at his core, a cynic, often speaking directly to those who sneer at the last 50 years of Canadian history, Dion was the silly optimist. He spoke insistently of conviction and commitment and truth and trust. He finished each speech with a short explanation of his life in politics, the personal decisions and values that led him to here. He seemed fundamentally a decent man. In his own way, endearing.

On paper, then, he was a fine candidate. Not Lincoln, but hardly Mondale. Not Trudeau, but hardly Day. But, of course, politics doesn’t exist on paper. As much as some try to make it so, it is not fantasy baseball. It is visceral. As much about what we see and hear as it is about what we know and understand to be true.

Dion is thin and gawky. His smile is small and tight. He speaks with an accent. He is reported to have a hearing problem. He wears glasses. If this was high school—and in so many ways it still is—Dion would be a dork. A wuss. A loser. And in him, Stephen Harper, an old nerd now in a position to play the bully, found someone to push around.

When CTV decided—in the interests of journalistic responsibility, of course—to air tape of Dion struggling with an interviewer’s poorly worded experiment in verb tense, there were some who objected to the gratuitous ridicule. But then there were also those who found great meaning in the moment. As if it demonstrated the inherent risk of Dion. As if, in a fleeting moment of confusion, he might plunge the country into nuclear war. As if a misspoken word might ruin the stock market. None of which was really worth taking seriously, even when expressed by those who claimed to be speaking in the interests of seriousness.

But then there was something to this, at least inadvertently. Because we do not simply seek someone who is intelligent and committed and visionary and decent. We do not simply want someone who speaks of good ideas and a better future. We do not only want someone with a wife, a kid and a dog. We want someone to represent us. To flatter us. To make us feel good about where it is we live and who we are. Someone we can relate to, but someone who also stands for all that we want in ourselves. That means eloquence or at least charisma, however you define those things. Something to look up to. The same sort of stuff we look for in movie stars and baseball players and supermodels. Even if we’d never actually vote for a movie star, baseball player or supermodel.

And so maybe the question is this: Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?

***

When it was all over, when he’d given his last stump speech and sung the national anthem, he departed the stage into the mob of well-wishers, bodyguards, cameramen and photographers. It had been 15 hours since he spoke in Fredericton and there was still a turkey dinner to enjoy with staff and reporters.

It took him several minutes to get outside the ballroom, another two minutes to get down the hall. The crowd followed and when he got to the elevators in the hotel lobby, he stopped to sign autographs. Many wanted pictures, so he patiently posed with whoever appeared at his side.

His handlers tried to move him along—”One more picture… One more picture… one last picture… absolutely last picture”—but he lingered for awhile. Shaking hands, sharing a few words, posing and smiling. The same routine, maybe more than a dozen times. Not until his wife took his hand and pulled him away did he say goodnight.


 

The Commons: Dream On

  1. Poor guy.

    I’m not going to claim he deserved a better political life. The machine chewed him up and spit him out.

    But he does deserve a better life. Hope he has it.

    One thing. I never again want to see one of those broad national issues polls where the concerned citizenry tell us the burning issue of the day is global warming/ poverty/ health care/ political integrity/ blah blah.

    The less than 60% of us who pretend to care clearly think otherwise.

  2. “And so maybe the question is this: Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?”

    While there are certainly anti-French bigots to be found amongst Anglo voters, I think for many they way Dion speaks became a shorthand for a myriad of reservations that were difficult to identify and clearly state.

    Put another way, if Harper had equally failed in his initial tenure as leader, it might just as easily be explained with regard to his robotic-like inability to come across as an empathetic human.

    If Harper can be PM despite a fairly offputting demeanor, than Dion could too.

    No, it was the Green Shift (which first had the crap kicked out of it by his own caucus, let’s not forget), the inability to lead and inspire his own party, and the general state of the diminished Liberal organization that ultimately worked against Dion, I think.

    Hard to imagine that Rae or Ignatief would have done significantly better, to be honest.

  3. I think Dion was a bit out of touch. He fell back on cliches when characterizing Harper (far right wing, exteme, etc., liar). People have been talking about a green shift since the 1970’s. If it was easy, it would have happened by now. It can happen, but it will take a lot of work, and perhaps a lot of pain.

  4. I feel sorry for him today.
    I admit to not voting Liberal- in my riding, it made about as much sense as voting Marxist-Leninist.
    But it seems to me that he’s been th ekind of guy we all claim to want as PM- Smart, kind, and both idealistic and practical.
    I guess we didn’t really want what we claimed we wanted.
    Ihope someone givwes him a hug today.

  5. And so maybe the question is this: Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?

    No. The platform was a dog’s breakfast of ideas poorly articulated with hard to grasp benefits. I think Liberals rejected the liberal brand as much or even more than they rejected Stephane Dion.

  6. A couple of thoughts.

    The Conservative campaign was long (it started way before the election was called), nasty, and very well funded. On the other hand, the Liberals started out with not enough money and a not-very-well-known candidate. Even so, the Conservatives did NOT win a majority.

    Dion did the best he could. It was not enough because a) Candians, the ones who vote at least, do not yet believe that a carbon tax and real efforts to deal with environmental polution are necessary things, b) the economic crisis descended upon us, and c) the vote on the left was divided.

    I do not think that any of the other Liberal contenders could have achieved a different result. The Liberals need to regroup and improve their brand. They should also ditch the Liberals – always there for you tagline.

    There are now a whole bunch of new MP’s and it will be the job of the experinced members of all parties to try to make Parliament productive. No one wants another election in the near future.

  7. Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?
    = NO!

    Dion made a fatal error when he took a short term politically expedient strategy … that was a Hail Mary pass … to change the channel on his leadership problems (and it was effective as far as that went) … however … he married the idea and this was one of the most stupidest political mistakes made in canada in quite some time. No political leader has ever and I mean ever run on a New Tax and won and that’s it plain and simple. Dion had an opportunity had he listened to his own MP’s and he didn’t Misstake # 2 – after all he could have run on soemthing like = the first thing I will do as PM is setup a royal commission or bipartisan working group or some such to look at ideas regarding a Green Shift! This might have worked … or at the very least publicly redirected the Green Shift at the debates with something like – realizing current global econmic crisis I would as PM put the Green Shift off for a year until the market settles .. some such move anyways would have certainly helped. The carbon tax was one of the best things that ever happened to my party and in large part decided this election and that’s for sure – let’s face it folks it was just stupid! I don’t mean that in an insulting fashion I just can’t find a kinder, fairer or greener word to describe it but Stupid!

  8. Oh, Wayne. Not one word of facetious praise for the NDP ?

    Not one ? A wink ? A nudge ? A nod ?

    That’s cold. Love ’em and leave ’em.

  9. 58% turnout. Sad statement on politics today, I say.

    I challenge anyone to articulate the vision that Rae or Ignatieff, as brilliant and as articulate as they are, have for Canada. That lack is the reason they would have fared no better.

    The media now engages in creating a narrative and fitting facts to that narrative, rather than letting facts speak for themselves. When it becomes a de facto organ of the state that is unwilling to challenge the government narrative, and rather promotes it for its (i.e. the media’s) own benefit and survival, then something is very wrong with this country.

    Austin

  10. Last night Roger Smith said that Dion asked him how Harper could get away with lying about the Liberal Green Shift and why the media didn’t challenge him…

    I think that is a fundamental problem.

    You would think there would have been some kind of debate on what this Green Shift is all about. Instead we got “The Liberals will raise taxes on everything!!” Very informative.

    The role of the media really needs to be re-examined. For example, instead of repeating “Nobody understands the green shift..” maybe they should explain it to us. After all, if the Liberals would have won last night they would implement the green shift whether we understand it or not. And when you think about it, what is the Tory environmental policy and what are its cost and effects? You’d think in 37 days that the media would have let us know. I’m sure it’s simple.

    We all lose this election and the media is the main reason for it. And now we watch as they try to figure out why only %58 of the country voted… hmmm.

  11. “The media now engages in creating a narrative and fitting facts to that narrative, rather than letting facts speak for themselves.”

    Exactly. They’re already drooling over and creating the battle of Rae and Ignatieff.

  12. I don’t think the Liberal problem was leadership. The Conservatives just have better followers.

    The laundry list of Dion’s failings could just as easily be a description of Harper. The difference, the CPC is the party of the sheeple. Conservatives blindly follow the leader. They would sell their firstborn if the leader said so.

    The Liberals, on the other hand, are chock full of people who want to be leaders. Liberal voters stay home when they aren’t happy. Rank-and-file-liberals donate money to their party? Never. They feel just as entitled as the party does.

    Count how many CPC MP’s were elected on individual merit. Harper, Flaherty, a couple of others. How many Conservative voters can name their local MP?

    Now do the same for the Liberals. Were there any generic, faceless Liberals elected out of party loyalty?

    The Conservatives won out of blind party loyalty. The Liberal party came second on the strength of individual candidates. Looking at the numbers, any blind party loyalty the Liberals had stayed home.

    Congratulations, Mr. Harper, on winning the support of 22% of eligible voters. 42% stayed home. Congratulations to all parties on this stunning achievement.

  13. When Dion talked, in a funny way, about the environment, and climate change, before the Green Shift and during his leadership campaign, people listened. When he talked, in the same funny way, about how the Green Shift would reduce poverty too, and how Harper was a lying lying liar for attacking a caricature of the Green Shift, people didn’t listen.

  14. Then again, Our Leader has (today) released his plan (6 points) for dealing with the economy.

    Vaguely familiar.

  15. Canada (esp. certain of the media) treated Dion as well as we treated Robert Stanfield. We should all feel very proud of ourselves.

  16. Well, here’s hoping that when the CPC blow it as they inevitably will, the ensuring Liberal majority doesn’t run on, yet imposes anyway, a carbon tax.

    The ‘Turning the Corner’ plan is an abomination that will need to be eliminated.

  17. Then again, Our Leader has (today) released his plan (6 points) for dealing with the economy.

    Vaguely familiar.

    Not surprising at all. Well at least to people who pay attention (which apparently excludes a large part of the MSM).

    The CPC is devoid of policy. Handouts? No problemo.

    Repackaging large parts of the Liberal Platform is nothing new to them.

    And I have absolutely no doubt that the MSM will fall in line.

    Austin

  18. I challenge anyone to articulate the vision that Rae or Ignatieff, as brilliant and as articulate as they are, have for Canada. That lack is the reason they would have fared no better.

    I don’t think this was the problem, and I say this as someone who donated time and money to the Liberal cause, and who liked Dion a lot. I think the problem was that, outside of Dion, no one could really articulate the Liberal message. The saying about campaigns not being time to discuss the issues is right. There’s no room for nuance, and when your whole platform is based on a nuanced idea (and one that can be twisted into something very different incredibly easily), that’s just asking for trouble. For all their faults, I think both Rae and Ignatieff would’ve understood that the campaign had to be about one, simple message. The Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc all understood that, and as much as I’d like to mock them for it, “Strong Leadership”, the kitchen table and “Present for Quebec” were easy messages to grasp. The Green Shift…wasn’t.

  19. Shenping
    “The difference, the CPC is the party of the sheeple. Conservatives blindly follow the leader. They would sell their firstborn if the leader said so.

    They do until they don’t. Look up “Brian Mulroney” on wikipedia.

  20. I think both Rae and Ignatieff would’ve understood that the campaign had to be about one, simple message.

    Hmmm…well I’ll have to say that I’m not convinced that they would have been any better at coming up with the slogan/message.

    And if they did, I think they would have had an equally large obstacle placed in front of them in getting that message out.

    FWIW…

    Austin

  21. “And so maybe the question is this: Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?”

    No, of course not! It was that carbon tax thing, you know, the risky nutbar policy experiment that only idiots support, like…Michael Ignatieff…and the NRTEE…and half of Eurpoe…and BC…and Quebec….

    No, of course not! It was the Hail Mary message shift, the silly 5-point non-plan that…kinda sorta looks a lot like Harper’s six point plan….

    No, of course not! It was the legacy of the sponsorship scandal still hanging over his head, so much so that…he took over second place in votes from Stephen Harper….

    No, of course not! After all Jean Chrétien talked with an accent, right? And Canadians totally respected his intellect and communications skills, and would have given him majorities no matter how the right-wing vote split, right?…Right?

    River in Egypt alert.

  22. ” I think the problem was that, outside of Dion, no one could really articulate the Liberal message.”

    More like they didn’t want to. Dion was sabotaged by his own people. His own caucus was echoing the Tory notion that the Green Shift was too risky and that of the pundits who claimed that it was ill-timed and too complicated.

  23. Hmmm…well I’ll have to say that I’m not convinced that they would have been any better at coming up with the slogan/message.

    The “journalists” would have liked it, perhaps. Simple messages work for simple…I mean exhausted…exhausted…people.

    Although even then, we can’t be sure. When The Toronto Sun splashed Oily the Splot all over its front page that weekend, the media liked the reaction better than something as simple and eloquent as “Green Shift.”

  24. This was all TRUDEAU’s fault. He created the Turner-Trudeau rift, radicalized the west so it would never vote Liberal (at least Alberta), and created a constitutional mess in Quebec.

    Why did Dion become Liberal leader? A divided party (the Chretien-Martin divide being a replay of the Trudeau-Turner divide, which is now the Rae-Iggy-Dion divide) sought a weak compromise leader (which rarely works out – neither Stelmach nor Clark are exactly shining examples of strong leadership).

    Why didn’t Dion win 75 seats in his home province? Well the Bloc was in the way. Yet for the Bloc, there must have been Mulroney, and there must have been Trudeau.

    Why are Conservatives, mindless automotons, in the view of some commentators here (if the left believes Harper has a hidden agenda to take the country to the right, why can’t the right?). That too is the fault of a Prime Minister who sought to nationalize energy.

    Trudeau destroyed the natural Liberal majority, and Mulroney took him up on the offer – fumbling badly enough to cost the right the next four elections. Dion is only realizing a new reality that has been 24 years in the making – a process that is not yet complete either, but should be by 2010.

    It is reductionist to pin all of this on Dion. He is an unfortunate symptom of a terminal disease on the Liberal party – a systemic, path-dependent shift in Canadian politics. Iggy or Rae may be an antibiotic, but they are no cure.

  25. Someone best explain to Mr. Wherry that politics is a blood sport and unlike the current school kids, you don’t get the gold medal for “participating”.

    Stockwell Day was a nice guy too and didn’t deserve the CBC/taxpayer funded “Doris Day” campaign, but he sucked it up and soldiered on.

    Mr Dion’s legacy will forever be the peril of Strategic voting, as performed by the Liberals at their Leadership Convention, is the election of a nice loser.

  26. hosertohoosier- I think the divides in the country and in the party are far more complex than your anti-Trudeau analysis would suggest. There was a REAL sense of nationalism and seperatist sentiment in Quebec. Trudeau refused to back down in the face of it and refused to allow the PQ seperatist PROVINCIAL government of Quebec to hold Canada hostage constituationally. The NEP, love it or hate it was an attempt to act in the best interests of the whole country, not just Alberta. Alberta has long had a sense of alienation and the need to defend its interests against those outside of the province. Trudeau tried to act for the country and Alberta reacted according to existing distrust of the Feds.
    Put simply- Alberta resented the rest of Canada long before Trudeau arrived. Seperatism and strong nationalism existed in Quebec. Trudeau was faced with two choices bow to regional interests or act in the best interest of Canada. He chose the later. He didn’t create these problems, they already existed and as PM of CANADA he refused to bow down before these regional interests. You may think it would have been better to let them be (if so we can agree to disagree there) but suggesting he created these problems simply isn’t fair.

  27. Aaron- Fantastic piece, I really enjoyed reading it and I think you managed to capture the spirit of things very well. Thanks!

  28. I second that one.

  29. The day that the Liberal caucus morphed the green shift from a carbon tax into a huge social welfare program for all of the Liberal’s interest groups was the day that the electorate tuned out. PM Harper was not a liar for calling it a tax; he was telling the truth. It was Dion who misunderstood his own program.

  30. AARON:

    You’ve missed an important trait: competence. Dion’s own political persona is a shambles: he is deep in debilitating debt and unable to consolidate his former opposition. The party he is supposed to be leading is also a disaster, its leadership as bankrupt as him and deeply divided on core principles. If Dion is so visionary, why couldn’t he get everyone to buy into the Green Shift and the rest of his platform? And his campaign was poorly conceived, poorly executed, and poorly managed: he failed to understand what the real issue would be (it’s the uncertainty, Stephane), he shifted messaging (and messengers) more than once, and he didn’t even have a bloody plane on the first day.

    Call it what you want (Alexander Hamilton called it “energy in the executive”), but insisting on this kind of competence is not cynical. And it is an infinitely more serious qualification for leadership than not “talking funny”, the cynical and frankly condescending reason you offer for Dion’s defeat.

    After all the stump speeches with the special ovations and the closely held family members during an election campaign, politics collapses into work. And managing an organization as large, diverse, and unruly as the federal government requires toughness and an ability to appeal to people’s interests in a specific and meaningful way, all to the end of moving things through the morass of people that populate politics and government. Canadians are right to see this as important and to reject the hopeless idealist, yearning after something far away but losing every possible power struggle and unable to bring people together. Canadians know that think kind of guy will never get anything done.

  31. Dear Mr. Wherry,
    you have written well throughout this campaign and this post may be your best and most perceptive yet. It has also provoked some of the more considered comments I have read on the website.

    As I previously mentioned re. Coyne’s post on the interview assassination, the whole premise of the attacks on Dion was coded anti-French bigotry from the beginning: mockery of French mannerisms (shoulder shrugs) and intonation (“hard to make priorities”) and accent, and of course he is a French-Canadian intellectual and dresses and looks like one.

    Most of the comments about Dion’s and the Liberals’ failings seem legitimate. Our good qualities are also always our bad ones. In a sense, like the professor he is, Dion set Canadians a test: do they really want the most decent good smart guy around with a full, coherent forward-thinking platform and the best, most experienced government-ready team? And Canadians failed the test. And since democratic politics is about getting people to agree with you, this also reflects poorly on Dion and the Liberals. But not nearly as badly as it reflects on the media and the public: 58% voted, so right away we can say 42% are fools. And of the 58%, only some 34% voted for any responsible honest accounting of our situation – the demagogy of the NDP & the Cons was a disgrace to the memory of the CCF and the better kind of red tories who used to run this country.

    It is often said you get the government you deserve. How true. How sad.

  32. Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?

    That theory might hold water, were it not for Chretien who talked much funnier. The proofy proof, a proof is a proof when it is proven is the fact that Chretien remains the most successful Liberal politician in our generation — particularly with anglos and english Canada.

    I think Dion’s problem can easily be described by a comparison to Paul Martin. As a conservative, I really liked Paul Martin the Finance Minister. He was a decent and accomplished man with the best CV on the planet for Prime Minister. All of a sudden, he turned into a raging lunatic, telling women that Stephen Harper would take away a women’s right to choose, that the sponsorship scandal was water under a bridge and that Harper was going to destroy medicare and build aircraft carriers called HMCS George Bush and bomb Iraq, etc.

    Paul Martin lost and in his concession speech, he gave probably the most eloquent and compassionate speech I’ve ever seen him make. He was Paul Martin of 1995 – 2002 and If the Paul Martin who gave that speech had run his campaign and PMO the same way, I am convinced he’d have won in 2006.

    That brings us to Stephane Dion. It’s kind of the same story…a good man, intelligent and principled. All of a sudden, this guy starts telling Canadians that Harper is not a good Canadian, that he destroyed the economy (after supporting his government and budgets) and calls Harper a lying liar every second sentence. Its hard to take someone seriously when they are calling for less meanness by calling the other guy an evil George Bush and a liar.
    Maybe Canadians rejected him because he wasn’t campaigning as the same man we thought we knew.

  33. As a card carrying rightwing ideologue it’s not really my place to comment, but I think Dion is the geatest Liberal leader in a generation. I find it incredible that lefties in this country didn’t flock to a leader with such obvious intellect, decency and patriotism.

    I support Harper on just about everything, and I voted to that effect. But thoughout this election I found myself wishing my Prime Minister could show half as much class as his Liberal opponent.

  34. “I find it incredible that lefties in this country didn’t flock to a leader with such obvious intellect, decency and patriotism.”

    But when you have Layton and May on the left as well, why necessarily park your vote with Dion? It’s not like the Liberals have worked hard over the last 13 years to win over left-of-centre voters, instead collecting business liberals on the right-of-centre with some centrists.

    Care about the environment, vote Green. The working class, NDP. The economy, vote Tory.

    Dion should not be blamed for the Liberal loss, I agree. He’s a good person who has served his country well thus far and was sent as a lamb to the slaughter so the rest of the Liberals could rebuild the party and its policies. This election was a write-off for the Grits since Harper took office in 2006.

    In short, Stephane Dion got John McCain’d.

  35. Even though Stephane Dion deserves respect, most people tune him out after a while. In Quebec, we did just that a long time ago.

  36. One problem with Dion is that his rhetoric is too far removed from reality. Voters understand that a politician will exaggerate somewhat, and provide a spin on things that makes them and their party look good (or at least less bad).

    But if the rhetoric is over-the-top, then it induces a cringe-like response from the listeners (other than the partisan supporters). A good example of Dion’s rhetoric going too far was his (thru the liberal.ca website) bribery accusations re the Cadman affair.

    Also, Kinsella was suggesting that instead of using the “hidden agenda” card against Harper himself, the Libs should have used it against Harper’s inner circle. Kinsella’s suggestion makes a lot of sense to me, as it closer to being believable.

  37. Frankly after hearing “Mr. integrety” call Stephen Harper: liar this, liar that… one too many times…
    THAT is the legacy of Dion during the dying days of his election campaign. Wasn’t THAT a nice memory to be left with!

  38. Frankly after hearing “Mr. integrety” call Stephen Harper: liar this, liar that… one too many times…
    THAT is the legacy of Dion during the dying days of his election campaign. Wasn’t THAT a nice memory to be left with!

  39. Unfortunately Canadians got the government we deserve.

  40. “58% voted, so right away we can say 42% are fools.”

    Correction … only 41% of the people who are subject to the laws of parliament participated in the election. And only 15.5% of the inhabitants of the country voted for the people who now claim to be their rulers. You may think that 15% of the country have the moral right to jam up the other 85% – tax them and regulate them and order them around, while giving themselves and their partisan cronies huge salaries and fat government contracts … but I don’t. Sounds like a bit of a racket to me.

    The people who stayed home are not fools. They’re saying “No” to Big (Crooked) Brother and Big (Arrogant) Nanny. Are you listening?

  41. And so maybe the question is this: Did we all just collectively take a pass on Stephane Dion because he talked sort of funny?

    If we look at everything from the “not a leader” ads to CTV’s brutal decision to air that clip I’d say yes. Everyone (especially the media) decided to become so focused on Dion’s english that they never looked beyond that to see anything else about him. I think it’s very sad.

  42. Finally, a comment on the notion of projection, in the sense of the common mortal projecting self onto a leader. It’s the same phenomenon at the movies, where people identify with the star, where the spectator “becomes” the star. That is human nature, pure and simple. The only thing that’s changed today is the form, i.e. the stereotypes. In the not to distant past it was cool to smoke, today it isn’t. Nowadays, to a certain extent, geekiness and nerdiness is actually cool, moreso amongst the younger generations, so Dion could have been a hit with politically minded youth. However there is much political apathy among the general population, particularly among the youth, as the recent voter turnout reveals. And so remains the quest and longing for the same “charismatic” stereotypes as before. It reminds me of that incident during the Beijing Olympics where a pretty Chinese girl was chosen to lipsync live in front of the world audience instead of having the actual singer, who apparently didn’t have the right ‘looks’. It is unfortunate that the culture of image, i.e. the culture of narcissism is what drives the media today. It is unfortunate that form always seems to trump over content.

  43. The liberal party is responsible for our abortion policy, same sex marriage is one reason that many won’t vote for them. Many vote conservative as they see them as the lesser evil. Some won’t vote at all because none of these parties have the guts to say where they stand. Some will vote for the candidate that they like.

  44. You seriously think HARPER representing Canada is going to make us feel good about ourselves?
    Listen, the man wears granny sweaters and has cats.

    I’ll take a geek with glasses & dog – any day!

    DION should stay. He’ll be even BETTER NEXT TIME! ;)

  45. Thanks for a perceptive column that befits its subject. Stephane Dion is a great Canadian, a gift to the nation. But not only don’t we deserve him, much of his own caucus doesn’t deserve him! I thought he was absolutely the right leader for our times, but now we know he was ahead of his time. He believed in us, believed if he appealed to our better nature we would respond. But we failed him and in doing so, we failed ourselves. I hate to think Canadians deserve a jerk like Stephen Harper, but the truth is, we have just proved that we do.

  46. Well said!
    I hope it is well read.

  47. “Congratulations, Mr. Harper, on winning the support of 22% of eligible voters. 42% stayed home. Congratulations to all parties on this stunning achievement.”

    I strongly echo this sentiment. We need a real shakeup in Canadian politics to get people engaged. The same old sweater routine just doesn’t cut it.

  48. “Congratulations, Mr. Harper, on winning the support of 22% of eligible voters. 42% stayed home. Congratulations to all parties on this stunning achievement.”

    We as Canadians had the opportunity to change the FPP electoral system last time and voted against it. In my books this means we like the percentages as is. So get used to it.

  49. I had no problem understanding Dion’s English. I thought his vision in terms of Green Shift was great. I had no problem understanding the concept of the Green Shift either. I think that those who claimed not to understand them did so because it was a convenient way to dismiss him.

    I don’t think that Mr. Dion is to blame for the “poor” results. I blame the Liberal Party and not the leader. Suppose Bob Rae had been the leader, he would turned Ontario completely blue. If Ignatieff would have been the leader, no center to center-left liberal minded person would have voted for him. The only other leader who might have (with an emphasis on might) done better than Dion was Kennedy but his support in the party was much too small.

    I find Mr. Dion inspiring. While I don’t think that he has the movie star charisma that people seem to enjoy so much, I think he has loads of class. Fact is, I am not looking for a movie star leader either and I do not even require a leader to have class. I look for someone honest, sincere, level-headed and logical.

    While I certainly am not part of the Liberal Youth (thanks to a few extra years) I am inspired and touched by the support Mr. Dion had gotten from them.

    What makes my red blood boil is that Mr. Dion had so little support from Liberal MPs (starting with Rae and Ignatieff). To this day, I do not get it. Even before the election, there was already talk about Liberal MPs not supporting the Green Shift. For the life of me, I simply don’t get it. What were they thinking? Why are these people trying to destroy the Liberal Party?

    Lastly, the fact that Liberal Party appears to be succeeding in getting Dion to resign as leader makes me angry, upset and disgusted. Angry to a point that goes beyond words. I am a liberal, I always be a liberal but without people like Dion, this Liberal Party is no longer my party. If I can no longer vote for the Liberal Party I will simply no longer vote. I don’t want and don’t like and don’t appreciate the attitudes and behaviour of the Liberal Old Guard. I want my Liberal Party back! I want my Canada back!

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