As everyone digests the merits of Dion's yet to be determined carbon emissions plan, there is no debating the "leader" question. If one were to pinpoint the greatest challenges the Liberals face, if they are to win the next election, at the top of the list would surely be Dion and his perceived weakness. Rightly, or wrongly, Dion is considered a drag on the Liberal brand, a check on further Conservative erosion, a reason why voters look elsewhere. In that sense, it is hardly a bad development to have Dion championing a risky proposition.
The most common term used so far, to describe Dion's plan is "bold", we've also heard reference to terms like "courageous" from unlikely sources like Mike Duffy. Others would argue the first words that come to mind are "silly", "suicidal", "ill-conceived", etc, but these are all tactical considerations, that don't necessarily undercut the fact that what Dion is poised to do, represents everything that leaders should embody. The fact any tax shift comes with risk, is actually a testament that Dion is acting on principle first, pandering an afterthought.
Nuts and bolts aside, it is refreshing to see a measure of conviction, a calculation that starts with a belief in good policy, then entertains ways to make that policy fly. Contrast that approach, with the retail politics obsession of the Conservatives, and Dion starts to emerge from the shadows. No one can claim, for or against, critic or proponent, that Dion isn't demonstrating leadership on this file, is anything but cautious, or dithering. In many respects, this policy stands as a direct contradiction to the Dion narrative to date, it is the anti-Dion caricature.
In a way, the good policy first approach, may actually be a way to leverage political advantage. There is certainly an appetite with voters, for politicans who tell them like it is, instead of what they want to hear, who show the capacity for honesty, based on passion, rather than marketing. If, at the end of the day, certain quarters dismiss Dion's proposals, no one can argue a lack of "guts", it is an inherent quality within these proposals. Granted, the Conservatives will frame Dion as out of touch, heaps of bombastic language, but where it matters, with the soft supporter, the swing vote, it should say something about leadership.
Dion is now on center stage, for the first time people will debate his ideas, attacks start with his premise, support rallies behind him. Dion will be the one fiercely defending his vision, all his surrogates will line up behind that vision, a good portion of a lazy summer will have Dion in focus. At the end of the day, fail or succeed, it will be hard for anyone to say Dion is "not a leader", that one thing is clear.