Second Thots

Sometimes one has to step back, take pause, and have some "second thots"

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The Dion victory

Dion gives his victory speech (photo by The Gazette/Phil Carpenter)

There will be a lot of commentary in the next few days about Stephane Dion's rise to the leadership of the Liberal party. I wonder how much of it will include the real reason why Dion won.

Gerard Kennedy clearly put Dion over the top. Yet, contrary to what many are saying, and taking into account the selfish reasons for why people do things in politics, Gerard Kennedy did what he did for one main reason: Gerard Kennedy. It has little to do about winning the next election, because Stephane Dion is not about winning the next election.

Stephane Dion being leader now means Gerard Kennedy just became front-runner in the next race to become leader after Dion. That leader will almost certainly not be from Quebec, won't be a francophone, and will have some Western roots to boot. That's Gerard Kennedy. That's why he supported Dion for leader.


Another thing I found interesting about Dion as winner is that, for the first time that I can remember, the Liberals did something that wasn't about winning elections or pleasing party bosses. Picking Dion for leader was, among other things, about: a) saying no to Iggy and Rae; b) saying yes to what it means to be a Liberal. So, maybe for the first time in a long time, Canadians will see Liberals as they are, instead of what they can do for them. I'm not sure the Liberals will like the result, however. We'll see.


For the above reasons, as well as others, I think Stephane Dion has a lesser chance, compared to Iggy or Rae, for electoral success in any upcoming election. Yes, he's always been underestimated, but being leader of a major national political party is a whole different ball game. It's unclear if he's got what it takes, and he's only got a certain amount of time to prove it, too.


If the Liberal convention was more democratic, by implementing a one-person-one-vote system instead of a delegated one, then I don't think Dion would have become leader. While being everyone's second choice wins in these kinds of setups, I don't think it wins in general elections. Joe Clark and Dalton McGuinty, although achieving some electoral success, prove that winning because you're not someone else leads to other kinds of difficulties on the road to political leadership.


I also think that the other three party leaders in the House of Commons will be happy with Dion as the Liberal pick for leader. They all would have been happier with Ignatieff, but they'll probably settle for Dion without a fuss. He represents the past, has baggage in Quebec, and his ability to grow Liberal support in areas it needs to grow is probably limited. These are all handicaps the other parties will exploit in the coming weeks and months.


So, congratulations to Stephane Dion for winning one of the most coveted prizes in Canadian electoral politics — at least until now.


As somewhat of an afterthought: a) Why in the world did the Liberals have both Chretien and Martin speak right before the new leader was presented to Canadians? b) Why in the world did the Liberals have Martin give a self-serving speech AFTER Dion was declared the winner, but BEFORE Dion gave his victory speech? It was one of the oddest political moments I have ever witnessed.

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