Two speeches - Macleans.ca

Two speeches

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Has it been a week already since Stéphane Dion announced his plan to save the planet? Indeed it has, almost. Not that he announced the details of the plan, but he did announce its existence. Or at least its imminent existence:

In the coming weeks and months, we Liberals will release our plan on a green shift for the Canadian economy. We will set the agenda for an honest national debate on how to reconcile the economy and the environment so that no Canadian is left behind. I hope the Conservatives join us in this debate in an honest way. They avoid it at their own peril. Canadians are ready for this debate. They want solutions. They’re tired of excuses.

I am convinced that Canadians are ready for:

…a tax system that makes it easier to create jobs, not more difficult;

…a tax system that encourages innovation instead of stifling it;

…a tax system that discourages pollution instead of rewarding it.

It’s what I believe.

And since then, Dion has not hesitated to advance his bold plan. Why, just this morning, he was meeting with the rising musical generation of Sherbrooke. You scoff, but some of the Greater Sherbrooke Glee Club’s recent work on carbon sequestration has really been pushing the envelope.

Every day he doesn’t define his plan, the Tories will work hard to define it for him. But that is not the only danger or even the worst. The other risk is that if the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada can’t be arsed to pay attention to his own policy for saving the freaking planet, then nobody in Canada will get excited about it for him.

If I had a plan for a fundamental change in Canadian politics, I’d announce it. In the absence of a plan, I wouldn’t give a speech about how I had a plan. And if I had announced a plan was on the way, I would make a rather extravagant show of making sure I was getting the policy right.

How? By staying away from Sherbrooke’s music salons for just a few days while I met with the smartest minds in my party to nail this sucker down. Or by delegating to the kind of Liberals who have the firepower to cement a major cultural change in the party and, after that, in the nation. Perhaps Dion could have tasked Frank McKenna, John Manley and Chaviva Hosek to put the finishing touches on the plan. Perhaps he could have persuaded Carole Taylor to leave B.C. politics a little early for the greater good of nationalizing the carbon-tax policy she introduced there.

My point is that if you’re going to lead a revolution, you should look like you’re leading a revolution. If the usual dribbling-along of the party’s internal policy-generation process has failed to cough up a presentable  tax-shifting policy until now, it probably isn’t going to be up to the task “in the coming weeks and months.” And if the Liberals have trouble getting ordinary Canadians to pay them much attention, it may be because their leader isn’t acting like they should pay attention.

I have been thinking all morning of a speech Jack Layton gave to an NDP national convention in Quebec City in 2006.

At this convention, we have begun a campaign to persuade the people of Canada to elect an NDP-led government.

In the months to come, I am going to ask the people of Canada to hire me as their next prime minister.

In the months to come, we are going to ask Canadians to put a team of New Democrat MPs into office to make life better for today’s families.

In the months to come, we are going to ask Canadians to elect the New Democratic Party to lead the next government of Canada.

Remember that speech? No, because after sounding the trumpets of revolution, Layton didn’t do a single thing to transform the NDP into the kind of party that could realistically compete for four times as many seats as it had ever won. How odd and dispiriting that Stéphane Dion would use that as the model for his own strategy.