Yesterday, I had the chance to meet Ken Dryden. Dryden is making the rounds, having just completed a busy week speaking to Liberals. Some thoughts on what he said, and what it might mean moving forward.
First and foremost, no matter your political affiliation, Dryden is the type of public servant who embodies the best, genuine to the core. If we had a Parliament full of Ken Dryden's, much would be accomplished, with class and apolitical determination.
The main thrust of Dryden's speech revolved around the idea of election timing. It immediately became clear that Dryden was anything but a "hawk" in forcing an election. Dryden was quite frank in arguing that the Liberals really aren't ready, that we haven't made the case to Canadians as to why they should invest in our party, over the government. Until Liberals present a compelling case, then it isn't worth the risk of an election, facing the prospects of 5 more years of a Harper majority. The fact Dryden is sending this message to the grassroots, here and elsewhere, leads me to believe that his opinion isn't freelancing, but part of a wider strategy to dampen expectation.
Dryden argued that the Conservatives have a support ceiling, and this belief had been proven in all the polling since the last election. Harper is a known quantity, and while people admire some of his accomplishments, his leadership skills, there is still "an unease" with his government, a fact the Liberals can exploit. On Dion, Dryden said he is largely a blank slate, opinion on him is superficial, which provides an opportunity to make an impression. Dryden clearly believes that it is essential to equip Dion with more policy, in order to compel Canadians.
I had a good chat with Dryden after his speech. We discussed election timing, and I argued that there is a tension in creating a compelling narrative for Canadians, while simultaneously taking a pass on issue after issue, the two realities pull in opposite directions. Dryden argued that Liberals need to show Canadians what they stand for, but I question how that develops within the reality of abstaining.
Whatever the stance on election timing, I was very pleased to hear Dryden say he didn't agree with "the conventional wisdom" of withholding a platform until the election. Dryden was quite passionate in his belief that it was important to put flesh on the bone now, and not worry about the Conservatives stealing ideas, or developing counters. It was obvious that Dryden was pushing hard, he is clearly an ally on that front.
The basic thrust of Dryden's visit, be patient, we're not quite there, Cadman may pay dividends, but in the meantime let Canadians know that a Liberal government would have their best interests at heart. I still think we should go now ;)