The early consensus, Dion did quite well in the debate. With all due respect to the people that support Dion, I found today's debate a watershed moment as to why Dion isn't the best choice for leader. The attacks on Rae and Ignatieff scored points without question, but they also revealed Dion's own dilemna. Stephane Dion firmly positioned himself as the old-guard Liberal, the defender of rejected government.
Renewal, that is the central theme that everyone talks about moving forward. Where exactly does that belief find weight within Dion, as he proudly speaks about the Martin/Chretien days? Ironic that Dion attacked Rae's record, because I immediately envisioned the same exchange between Harper and Dion, with Dion on the defensive as Harper hammers his favored talking point. Amazing that Dion lectures Ignatieff on the environment, when he himself admitted that the issue wasn't a "priority" for the Party, except for the last while (even Dryden had the stones to admit the relative failure). You don't ridicule people for suggesting new initiatives, you should embrace anything that distances itself from the sad legacy. I hardly see "there were papers on my desk, ready to sign" as powerful imagery to convince Canadians that environmental progress was at hand.
The record of the past Liberal government might play well to partisans, but I think it complete folly to suggest that will resonate with the public at large. If it wasn't for widespread hesitation about Harper, the Liberals would have enjoyed a Mulroney-like eradication. Make no mistake, Canadians have overwhelming rejected the old Liberal Party, and the last thing the Party needs is a champion of the past.
After the debate, I watched the press conferences with the various candidates. My thoughts about Dion were articulated by Kennedy, who, without using names, argued that it was fine to be proud of the past record, but ultimately the debate has to be a discussion for the future. Kennedy said he saw moments of the "old divisions" up on stage and this was unfortunate for a Party that desperately needs a new image. That's it! The problem with Dion, he embraces the past as testament of his experience, but it serves to remind us all of better to forget times.
I like Stephane Dion, he is an honorable, thoughtful man. He genuinely cares about the country and has extensive ideas on what needs to be done. I agree with Dion on a host of issues, from that standpoint he would be a great choice. However, Stephane Dion at the helm is a recipe for prolonged opposition. Canadians will not respond to any connection with a failed regime. Dion wears his past like a badge of honor, but it looks like an albatross around his neck from here. The big argument, Dion will bring the Liberals back in Quebec. Yes, keep mentioning Chretien and Martin, that is sure winner in Quebec- in the west too!
I'm sure the buzz from this debate will be how Dion took on Rae and Ignatieff. In my mind, the really relevant thing to come out of this debate, Stephane Dion should not be the face of the Liberal Party moving forward. If Dion were to actually win, it means that despite the platitudes, Liberals don't understand the mood of the country, the desire for real renewal. I say this not to slag an impressive man, but because I don't think this country can afford a long Harper reign. I hate to say it, but Dion effectively guarantees that fate in my mind. Two cents.