Thursday, February 15, 2007

Can We Talk?

Something is afoot, and it’s not particularly good for Liberal prospects. I’ve noticed a building lather in the media about Dion’s leadership, and not much of it is flattering. We are in the midst of Dion being defined, the media is turning on Stephane. I don’t know if the new tone is a result of the attack ads, or relatively poor polling, but there is a new hostility with Dion that wasn’t there only a couple weeks ago. And the sources, the supposed “left-wing” media, should be of some concern.

The basic gist of what I am gathering from the media is this sentiment. There is some hesitation in Liberal ranks about Dion, he has failed to instill confidence and some MP’s privately question his leadership. I’m not sure if all this talk about whispering is warranted, there are always “nervous Nellie’s”, but this serves to undermine Dion’s stature.

Dion has failed to distinguish himself, which has created a vacuum, that the Tories are exploiting. There is a danger of Dion looking the “one trick pony”, on an issue where he surely shares the pie. Dion needs to breakout of the green suit and show Canadians more. The media, in the absence of self-created Dion momentum is filling in the gaps, framing him. My advice, Dion needs to make more news, which neuters a bored media looking for controversy.

Dion’s English has become a key concern, maybe over-stated, but none the less an issue. There really isn’t much Dion can do about this “problem”, in some ways it can be spun as endearing.

I really believe a lot of the negative press stems from Dion’s relatively weak performance in the House of Commons. You can argue the importance, but I think the media takes a lot of cues from the mood created. It is also worrisome that the media tends to seek out Ignatieff more and more as spokesman. Yesterday I actually heard him say “I haven’t decided”, when answering a question on whether the Liberals would attempt to bring down the government over the Kyoto bill. A small slip of the tongue, but it surely doesn’t cement the chain of command.

What I am getting at here, we can pretend everything is fine, but in mind there is no question that, objectively, the tone towards Dion has changed and this should be of concern. We need to ask ourselves why the sudden change in approach, is this a natural occurrence, or is this an indication of legitimate problems. I believe our prospects are best served by recognizing weak spots and finding ways to address them. Things can change in a week, and probably will, so my opinion is merely a relative snapshot, but I don’t like what I’m seeing. If we’re not careful Dion will be defined by outside forces and that framing will become a hurdle to any future success.

22 comments:

A BCer in Toronto said...

I'm not saying your offbase or that everything is peachykeen, I've made my own call for a change in direction. But, as I was reading your thoughts, the paralells with Chretien's early days as opposition leader are quite striking. Here's hoping he goes on to the same kind of electoral success.

bigcitylib said...

objectively, the tone has changed in that the "usual suspects" are lashing out as though an election might be just around the corner. So far, though, they have yet to move the polls, so so far I personally am not terribly worried.

None of this was unexpected. Conservative papers always go right overboard when attacking Liberal opponents. But, again, the Tory "surge" in the polls has not materialized, and I don't see any point in acting as though it has.

Also, is there discontent in the Liberal ranks? If there is, it seems pretty well hidden to me.

James Curran said...

Well said Jeff. Chretien was not the most popular leader in caucus. he only went on to win 3 majorities though.

The ship will be righted in time.

Steve V said...

Jeff

That is a good point.

BCL

"Also, is there discontent in the Liberal ranks? If there is, it seems pretty well hidden to me."

I've heard a couple reporters mention that behind the scenes some MP's and strategists are worried. None of this is substantiated, so you have to wonder if it is over-stated or genuine. The only way I could see some credibility to the "reports" is because of the fact that Dion didn't enjoy a great deal of caucus support in the leadership, while the deputy leader has many minions.

In_The_Centre said...

I agree with you and have noticed a much more critical tone against him in the MSM over the last three weeks. I really think the catalyst has been this retarded Kyoto bill (And the Globe pretty much ripping him apart on it last week).

It has all the hallmarks of being labeled a flip flopper and playing convenient politics

I’m one of those individuals who think the earlier the election, the greater chance of a Conservative victory. Dion needs time to settle down and define himself and what he truly plans to bring to the country. Phrases like "Social justice", "economic prosperity" are grand in vision, but vastly short on details and specifics.

If there is one the thing the party has going for it with Dion, it is his reputation for underperforming and being underestimated initially, but stepping it up when the time comes.

Can he do it as a leader? Time will tell. Otherwise, he will continue to be outshined and outperformed by Ignatieff. And sooner or later, things will blow up.

Anonymous said...

lets not forget Chretiens opposition was Kim Campbell, Preston Manning and Stockwell Day. None of these had the support that Harper has.

In_The_Centre said...

And...Chr├ętien probably had the most favourable circumstances any Liberal could ask for, a divided and often foolish looking right wing. Ah…those were the days.

bigcitylib said...

Well, they have taken alot of flack for c-288, and what has surprised me is the lack of response. I think the bill is quite defensible and not at all a job killer, but why hasn't the party made a better argument? Again, the Con response was pretty predictable.

Anonymous said...

Be wary of 'anonymous sources' informing the press. At least some of this comes from Robert Fife's rumours about party insiders, and he can't really be trusted after his Maher Arar disinformation.

I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of this seems to be rumour built on speculation.

WestmountLiberal said...

Just to remind everybody...
If an election was held today and if polls are to be believed, the Liberal Party with Dion as leader would form a minority government.
2 big "ifs" but important nonetheless.
The Conservatives looked v stupid last night trying to strike down Pablo's Kyoto bill. They are on the defensive save a bunch a low budget attack ads which should impress no one.

Anonymous said...

Ya, and like there isn't any discontent in the Conservative ranks.

If there isn't, they are a pretty weak and stupid bunch.

ottlib said...

Stephane Dion had a honeymoon just like every other new leader has a honeymoon. It is over as expected.

Much of the media does not like hearing about the environment any more because it has lost that initial zip that it had. Media types have a very short attention span and they are constantly craving that next big thing.

As well, I would point out that the media began to turn on Stephen Harper when he seemed to go overboard on sponsorship. They considered him to be a one trick pony and implied that he needed to change the channel. However, what he did was keep the one issue that he had the greatest advantage in, government accountability, at the front of Canadian's minds until the Justice Gomery issued his report and the subsequent election, then he changed the channel. Very clever is you ask me.

The Liberals have the advantage on the environment. That is indicated by the continued desperate efforts of the Conservatives to catch up and "neutralize" the issue. To stop talking about it now is to allow Mr. Harper to succeed in his goal.

In about 6-8 weeks we will be in an election campaign, at which time Mr. Dion will be able expand his vision beyond the environment.

Anonymous said...

A good post; I too have seen the shift.Heck, when someone as Liberal-red as Lawrence Martin is writing pieces about weak leadership, something is going on. Full disclosure: I'm a Tory. And one of the things I'd say is that it's harder to be in opposition, harder to discipline a caucus, to keep former key players (Landslide Annie or Manley or Cotler) much less recent rivals (Ignatieff or Rae) onside,their supporters from undermining the leader with anonymous sourcing to the PPG--especially when you've never been a caucus favourite. Hell, Gloria Galloway made a career on this stuff when Harper was in the OLO.

That said, Dion has been a bit indecisive and a bit monochromatic, and I agree that really underwhelming performance in the House has played a part with reportes on the Hill, and his fellow Parliamentarians. When the line of questioning is about Tories "paralyzing the world" or "destroying Canada", and every question includes the tedious wordstrip "mean-spirited, far right-wing ideological agenda", the Official Opposition runs the risk of becoming a laughing stock, and on certain days it has, with laughter on both sides of the House--I've watched it. That's not good, needless to say. I think too the attack ads have played a part--misteps largely overlooked early on are now being slotted into a narrative framed by those ads. What can I say--reporters aren't necessarily the most imaginative or industrious of creatures, but my guys have been framed plenty in their day as well.

Finally, as Chantal Hebert--scarcely a right-wing nutbar--pointed out last night, M. Dion and his troops seem to have gotted left behind by the Kyoto discussion and their insistence now, in C-288, that hey presto, we can meet 2012, NO PROBLEMMM, sounds farfetched and looks clumsily cynical to apopulace which, because environement has been THE story since October, knows a whole lot more about just HOW MUCH (270 megatonnes, but who's counting?) OFF those Kyoto targets we are right now, 4 years out. Frankly, I think he's lucky there's going to be an election in Quebec, because otherwise Harper would like have made last night a confidence vote and been happy to do it.

As I can testify, losing the media can be tough to overcome; falling victim to the opponent's framing and the media's hunger for the ready-made label and storyline, can dig a very deep whole. Nonetheless, not just Chretien (who had the advantage, though, of being a bit better liked by the caucus at the outset than Dion), but Harper himself have done it, so who knows....

DMD

Steve V said...

"Finally, as Chantal Hebert--scarcely a right-wing nutbar--pointed out last night"

Hebert HATES Dion, I put no stock whatsoever in her opinions.

Miles Lunn said...

He is new on the job and leading a party is not easy. I don't think he has made any serious missteps and I think he is doing the right things. However, he will need to expand his platform beyond the environment. While it may be the number one issue, you win elections by appealing to as many Canadians as possible. We cannot appeal to everyone, but we should be able to appeal to at least everyone close to the political centre.

As for the results right now, although the polls are still tied, the tightening of numbers in Ontario is not a good thing for us. Now I don't think we would lose any seats in Ontario, but unlike a few weeks ago when we could have picked up a whole whack of seats, now we would probably only pick up one or two. This could off course change as I expect the polls will many times.

Dana said...

I'm waiting for the moment when some Canadian conservative tightass sanctimonious bigot equivalent of Donohue decides to attack some aspect of the Liberal online presence.

It'll happen sometime and big media will dutifully report the attack without mentioning the history of the attacker, just as they have in the US.

Only once this happens will we really know whether this incarnation of the Liberal party has it in them to do more than giggle into their clenched little fists.

Me I don't think there's a centrist or left of centre politician left in North America with the stones to attack right back in kind.

They all bring to mind a review once given to an actor playing Lear. "He played the King as though under the momentary apprehension that someone else was about to play the Ace."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, sounds like some paid flunkies to reiterate talking points.
How is Harper going to rescue autp sectpr workers unemployed because Harper cares more about majority that Canadians?
Why, hire more flunkies! Assign them taxpayer paid jobs, give them free rein of the press releases and harper approved machinery.
Wake up Canada. Harper and The North American Union is scratching at your doorstep. Why else would Harper approve a motion which says in part "... in a United Canada."
Think about it. Ask Harper questions about North American Union. Ask Harper if he thinks Canada is and will always be a country in and of itself.
Ask Harper. You won't get a straight answer, but the asking is the telling.
Harper is not for Canada.

Anonymous said...

And while you're at it asking Harper, ask Judy (sting-em-up-get-truth-later) Wasever-Leis if Winnipeg knows that it's in line for a major takeover from the south. Ask Winnipeg if it knows that their next language for success will be Spanish. Ask Judy if Winnipeg knows that their proud Gateway to the West has been breached. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Looks like Dion lost Red Tory's support too.

Steve V said...

Dion hasn't lost my support. I know this is hard for Conservatives, but you can be critical, blind allegiance isn't required. It's healthy, and if Conservatives want to jump over everything that isn't mindless partisan flag waving, fine.

Red Tory said...

Joanne -- I don’t know where you got that ridiculous notion from, although seeing how you folks in the fantasy-based blogosphere maliciously delight in attempting to manufacture discontent through your relentless lies and humbug, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that you’d so badly misinterpret what I wrote this morning.

Yes, I did change my opinion regarding extension of the “sunset” clauses in the Anti-Terrorism Act and I feel the position that the Liberals appear to have staked out on this issue is a political liability. However, as others here and elsewhere have pointed out, unlike the monolithic groupthink practiced by the Conservatives, a respectful difference of opinion isn’t considered a heretical thought-crime in the Liberal Party.

Sorry to disappoint you Joanne, but Mr. Dion still very much has my support. Certainly, I have some legitimate concerns while the party gets its bearings, but I’m also mindful of the fact that Dion has only been the leader for a couple of months. It would be insanely premature to write him off at this early stage of the game. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated".

Steve V said...

rt

Tories seem to view anything but the goosestep as division. I don't know how anyone could conclude you dropped Dion from that post.

BTW, one reason not to write negative pieces, they link to it and all the riff raff shows up at your house :)