Jeff has an interesting post, detailing the latest "environment" numbers for the various parties, and possible ways for the Liberals to capitalize moving forward. At first blush, barely ahead of the Conservatives on the question of the environment is, as Jeff says, "a little disappointing". However, when you consider that the other two players here, the NDP and the Greens, both have well deserved credibility on the issue, hardly surprising to see no party with a clear advantage. In other words, I'm not fretting about that question at the moment, there is an ample pool from which to "grow", should the message receive a fair hearing.
In my mind, the most important indicator for the Liberals in the next few weeks and months won't be the horserace numbers or the issue questions, but the leadership trends. If you had to pinpoint the most glaring weakness for the Liberals, it would be Dion's woeful leadership numbers, the overwhelming sense that he is weak and indecisive. Until Dion raises his personal stature, the horserace numbers will mask an underlying problem that will likely manifest itself during a campaign.
The "Green Shift" should be judged, not just by the acceptance of the policy, but how this initiative transforms the perception of Dion. If this debate starts to show a marginal rise in Dion's leadership numbers, that may just be the best political news for the Liberals in the grand scheme. Replacing "weak" with "bold", would be quite the coup, whether one agrees or disagrees with the idea. At the very least, a developing measure of respect is exactly what the doctor ordered for Dion. Many negative columns or opinions, at least acknowledge the "stones" in proposing a controversial idea, give some credit for presenting something which shows no obvious political advantage. It would appear, the "wimp" tag is fading into the background, the tertiary leader firmly planted on center stage.
Obviously, the horserace numbers are indicative, and I'll be looking closely. But, more important in the preamble to a looming election, the notion that Stephane Dion is a serious character, armed with serious ideas, someone Canadians start to view as a credible leader. If, we start to see a favorable trend on leadership questions, I would argue that the "Green Shift" has achieved the most critical, purely political, goal.