Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stephane Dion

I have a ton of thoughts on where the Liberals go from here, but for a moment I'd like to focus on Stephane Dion. I joined the Liberals because of Gerard Kennedy, in him I saw the progressive, forward-thinking, humble, grassroots Liberal that the party desperately needed, easily something I could support. I was never a big fan of Dion, from a purely political sense, the baggage, the lack of charisma, having followed politics closely for so long, my rational opinion was hardly kind. Readers of this blog will know that I once called for Dion to resign, and was highly critical for a long stretch. That changed however, when I put aside my cynicism about political requirements, and merely focused on the concepts proposed and the sincerity of the orator.

What happened last night was disappointing by any measure, but for some odd reason I've never been prouder of Stephane Dion. Despite the talking heads, I completely understood the depth of the man, the ability to weave complex ideas together into a coherent thrust. If you actually listened, and could get beyond the pre-conceptions and spin, there was a real vision there, a vision which has been absent from immediate satisfaction election mentality for quite some time.

Dion isn't a natural politician, he doesn't necessarily think in a strategic sense, and snappy soundbites aren't readily available. That said, it was sort of refreshing, I mean here we have a man who is the anti-thesis of all those things we say we hate, all those attributes that make "politician" a dirty word. Just a man of conviction, demonstrating sincerity and honesty, presenting a view of Canada, which always had the country's prosperity at heart. We can agree or disagree on the substance, but nobody can question the character, bold ideas and firm resolve.

We all know our political discourse is a superficial game, I'm not naive enough to be surprised, but I guess what happened, I became invested. I believe Stephane Dion would make a great Prime Minister, I believe that this is the type of person, armed with solid ideas incorporating the skilled views of those with knowledge, that would benefit this country. People can heap scorn on the Liberal Party, in many respects I'd probably agree, but Dion wasn't part of all the jockeying really, wasn't involved in the game, devoid of ego, he just wanted to serve, his intentions were pure. Any fair observer would give Dion that admiration, it doesn't take much to agree.

Before I dive back into the realm of rational deduction, tactical consideration and political instinct, it is important to see someone outside of this arena, an arena which isn't particular attractive. In the end, the perceived failure of Stephane Dion is more a statement on the problematic nature of modern politics, than it is an accurate interpretation of the man's attributes or abilities. I'm proud of Stephane Dion, and despite the outcome, Canada was better for his participation.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you and am also proud of Dion. You expressed this view very well. I found his substance, vision, commitment and integrity inspiring. I also am a big fan of a carbon tax shift and admire Dion for having the courage to stand behind this sound policy.

Anonymous said...

Very well said.

me dere robert said...

Well written..

A Eliz. said...

I was very saddened last night as the media did it again. Dion is everything you said. The problem was the Green Shift as Harper lied his way through and the media helped. You did not here them say how many environmentalists or economists said the tax on carbon was the way to go.They should have been blasting this, for the country to hear. They did not care that Harper's goal was to ruin the country, as we know it. Their job was to get Harper elected.A few good liberals went down, and we got some new ones . Mike Harris riding's, 905, went Con. Thankfully the cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver did not buy it.

Mark Richard Francis said...


Changing leaders now will play right into Harper's hands.

The goal of this Parliament is to keep Harper to a minority, while rebuilding what the PARTY stands for and how it functions at the grass roots level. The Libs changing leaders will not be anything other than musical chairs, and would completely get in the way of making needed changes. We simply do not have the time to do both.

I think Dion is developing a reputation for being "straight up." harper is one his way to being well set up as another "lying Brian."

Ontario and Quebec continue to be the battleground the Libs have to gain in. Forget the West, except portions of BC. The Libs can't rebrand for the West any time soon.

Susan said...

Thanks for all your posts and especially this one.

900ft Jesus said...

The Libs should keep Dion. Several reasons - those qualities you listed, steve; he is the type of politician we badly need right now - one who will commit to progressive policies despite the hard sell; one who can bring differing groups together; one who understand the world situation and our role in it; there's no time or money to go through another leadership race and establish a new leader; Dion wasn't solely responsible for the loss last night and the Liberal party better face this and get its s*** together; we need, as you said, start to appreciate as qualities what has been portrayed as weakness or we head toward a might is right attitude and a belief that brawn is better than brains.

And he wants Canada to be a fun pace.

At least the Liberals should see if the Dion who came out more and more during the election will perform better in the House this time around.

Constant Vigilance said...

I wholeheartedly agree. The more I saw of Dion the more I thought that he is the type of person I can believe in.

If any one thinks Ignatief or Rae would have done they are fooling themselves. I bet there are puerile commercials and websites ridiculing those two in reserve for after any leadership change.

My recollection from your previous polling posts is that the Liberals were well ahead in Ontario prior to the Doofusy trap interview. After that the polls were to the Conservatives by a hair. But for the complicity of the media there might have been a much closer result.

I think he played a tough hand very well.

Omar said...

I share all your sentiments regarding Stephane Dion as do many in Atlantic Canada. I believe he would have made a more than fine PM thus making Canadians proud to call him leader. Having said that, I do not believe he will ever appeal to enough voters outside of eastern Canada to ever see him claim the nation's top job. It saddens me to say, he needs to go. The sooner the better.

Kirbycairo said...

I agree that Dion's failure is a sign of what is wrong with our political system and the inability of voters to actually pay attention. But Dion also, like all the other leaders, was far too partisan and it is the blind parisanship that our politicians need to abandon in favor of coalition politics. That is where we need to move forward.

The Mound of Sound said...

I became involved with the LPC when it had a justice minister named Trudeau. From Pearson on I've watched them all come and go. Nice, intelligent guy that he is, Mr. Dion is the weakest of the lot by any measure.

If we offer Mr. Dion in the next election, the party risks irreparable damage. The Canadian public has rejected this fellow and those arrogant enough to ignore that do the party no favour.

Stephen Harper was never as strong a leader as some think. He ought to have been vulnerable on his own words, on his own record. He only looks invincible in contrast to his main opponent.

Mr. Dion did himself very little good and did Mr. Harper very little damage in the course of this campaign. The best attacks I saw on Harper came from Jack Layton and Elizabeth May, not Stephane Dion - and that's inexcusable.

I believe that very few Liberal votes last night came via Mr. Dion but, instead, either people voting for a popular local candidate or supporting the brand.

Hanging on to Mr. Dion out of fear is so antithetical to everything that has made the Liberal Party great. Politics is a blood sport and Mr. Dion lies mortally wounded. That's it. It's over.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. You've just communicated everything I believe (except using better grammer).

Stephane Dion is going to be the greatest Prime Minister Canada never had (Let's be honest, he's not going to stay leader, I hope he decides to remain an MP/future cabinet minister).

Tania said...

As a British Columbian, I share your sentiment. So the belief that Stephane will not be popular outside of the east is inaccurate.

I went to the Liberal "party" here in Vancouver after picking up a friend who was talking about why Dion shouldn't be our choice for leader.

Have we become so jaded that we "need" someone who can fight dirty? Who can go low?

It amazes me that we are always bemoaning the fact that politicians are "sleazy" and "untrustworthy" and Dion can never be described as those two things.

He's a man of honour, integrity, passion for this country that's stronger than my own. And I LOVE this country. He's sacrificed so much of himself to us, more than Harper and Layton ever have.

And now there's talk of replacing him? The Liberal Party wasn't built in a day. It didn't fall in a day.

This election wasn't a slight against Dion. We didn't have the money to fight back the two years Harper was constantly attacking our leader.

We all failed. We failed because we didn't rally behind our leader. We're still divided. We still have some grassroots building to do.

I hope that it's with Stephane as our leader.

He's made me proud to be a Liberal. He's made me passionate about politics.

Canadians deserve a Prime Minister who loves this country, from coast to coast. I hope one day that man is Stephane.

Thank you for this post. I frequent liblogs but I find most of it to be negative and divisive so I rarely comment. Your post eloquently described all my feelings for this wonderful man.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Problem is, in these "modern" times, those kind of qualities are not enough to engage 40% of the electorate who just don’t care... and don’t frankly get inspired by policy but by personality. The LPC ignored that fact at it's own peril.

Buyers remorse anyone?


Anonymous said...

I have no real interest in seeing the Liberal party succeed, that said, you better stick with Dion or get him out and a new leader by the end of January.

Anonymous said...

We need to keep Dion and throw Bob Rae back to NDP. the old people hate him in Ontario....I blame him and Jack Laytons deal with Harper to have his voters vote conservative where they were nort in the running in exchange for a conservative vote in the ridings where they were ahead...I believe the conservative party was telling layton what to do and when to do become official opposition...lucky for us ...he failed but did get rid of liberals....I say KEEP DION. even Michael Coren said he was a good man.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Steve. Excellent Post.

I think Dion is a wise man. As the campaign went on I also became very invested in the fact that the public despite all evidence in how they speak about politicians actually want politicians and not truly visionary leaders. I think this election says a lot about that. Right or wrong, our society wants leaders that play the game well. Once in a while, we are blessed that they have a good vision as well. But the priority is clear, isn't it? The game comes first.

As I see it, and I have vast personal experience with this, Canada has for the past few years has been slipping into the malaise that held the grip in the US for over a decade. I purposely push that date back into the 90s, culminating - one hopes - with Bush but with its roots some years prior to his arrival.

It is a race to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to implement a government that claims to be anti-government but actually serves to centralize power more vastly to make the people ever more reliant on being in good favor with the central power in order to move ahead.

While I somewhat hope that Canada will avoid the worst of it, and may due to its more progressive history, more often than not I am surprised to see the same conditions and the same symptoms I witnessed there.

When I read the myriad of "strong progressives" writing, "Why vote if a man like Dion can't win?" or "Why vote if there is no electoral reform?" as I have this morning, I cringe a bit inside.

The people who blindly follow Steven Harper and his not clearly spoken but blatantly obvious vision will vote every time regardless of what he or his government does. EVERY SINGLE TIME. This is not the early 90s so even failure of policy will not in itself lead to the failure of his vision. The mood is different, and it will not shift for several years and only after catastrophic results if progressives do not remain strongly engaged.

The people who are easily swayed or overly burdened by their own lives will buy the leader's message, even if it is a pack of lies dealt one dirty card at a time. They will vote for it because fear and derision are powerful emotions for some. And the media in Canada, as with the US, has already begun to retreat into simply parrots for the leader even as they work to convince their viewers and themselves that they are "balanced" in their views.

So if the progressive vote remains fractured or sits out a few elections due to some "proud principal," the road will be rough as Canada's progressive spirit and voice are scuttled for nearly a generation.

The only thing that can prevent that is if progressives across Canada recognize it and devote themselves to ensuring this is the high-water mark for Conservatives under Stephen Harper. They have successfully excised the "Progressive" name and spirit from their party.

I am still torn as to whether I feel a true coalition is needed - I actually like the myriad of voices in Canada and feel it in some ways prevents the polarization seen in the US - people need choices and do NOT need to be forced into an A or B proposition. But for the good of the country, in the next election, progressives will either need to unite under one strong and respected progressive candidate, or they will need to create some alliance among the parties.

As for Dion, I admire him greatly. But I hope he steps down for the good of the Party. This election should have been about Harper all along, and it never once was. That is not the media's fault, though they were complicit at times. Dion boldly launched an election that made it about himself. And he lost that election. As far as I am concerned, the case is closed on that.

Finally, I am MIGHTILY relieved that Harper does NOT have a majority this morning. At the end of the day, I am one of those people that truly does believe that Harper has a vision, a deep and dark vision that I inherently do not trust. I expect we will see a return of that man in short order because he is small and manipulative. it is at his core. I think people are fooling themselves if they cannot objectively stand back and see that throughout his career. Read what he has written and ponder what he has said throughout his career. It is all there. Any reigns on his power are a blessing to everyone, even his most fervent supporters.

Canadian Hegemon said...

I can't argue with your assessment of Dion, it's spot on.
I was hoping that Canadians would see and decide this election with reason and understanding. However, this election has just demonstrated to me that most Canadians are too lazy and stupid to bother with understanding issues and examining the true character of the party leaders.
So, as good as Dion is, the liberals need a CHARISMATIC POLITICIAN if they want to win. We just saw good policies and a clear direction for the country will take you now where, unless you have a good leader who can put the question mark on his opponents.

Sean Cummings said...

Dion has a shot at a second chance, if anything to force the Liberal Party of Canada to play nice with each other instead of playing with themselves. Let's face it, the Liberal Party has been a shadow of itself since it ousted the last winner it ever had - Jean Chretien. Since then it's been backstabbing, undermining, "anonymous Liberal sources", etc. Personally I think Dion should tell those who want him gone to "vas faire foutre a la cache" ya bunch of disloyal F$#%$'s!

Lola Smiles said...

I hope DION stays.

He needs to.

Anonymous said...

Dion's problem was the Green Shift. The worst policy ever in a time of economic crisis. But where did this policy come from? Dion didn't dream it up. In fact he has always been opposed to a carbon tax. Rae and dear Mrs Findlay wrote the Green Shift. They sunk Dion.

Dion should demand that next May the convention vote on a new Red Book and develop sensible party policy. He should dump Rae to the back benches and disown his policies. Lay the blame where it belongs ,on Rae and Martha and replace them with Kennedy and Trudeau

liberazzi said...

We all know what the problem with Dion is and it is not something the party or himself can overcome. Everytime I talk about Dion to someone at work, family or friends its comes down to his English. Its sounds stupid, its not right, but this is the reality of the situation.

I was at a Liberal election party last night. 100% of those there said that Dion's time is over. I like Dion and I like what he stands for, but yes its over. Bob Rae believes that politics is the art of persuasion. Dion does not have this skill and he never will. We cannot afford to give Dion another chance. The Liberal party is a party that is out to win, not to just to make a good showing. If Dion was able to achieve a seat count around 100 then I believed he should stay. However, under Dion the Liberals lost a significant number of seats and our worst popular vote total ever.

Dion needs to leave within the next few weeks, so that we can start a leadership contest right away. A brokered contest will be too costly and too divisive. We need to either have a grassroots vote at the riding level or have caucus decide and we need to do it quickly. We need a new leader in place by next spring at the latest.

Electing a new leader is only the start. The party needs to improve its fundraising, getting the grassroots engaged and improving its local organizations. The Liberals lost a number of races because it did not get the vote out. Take the example of Bonnie Crombie's campaign. It used a number of different methods to id voters and make Bonnie known, plus it got the vote out and it paid off. Finally, the grassroots need to be listened to and not just pandered to. If we are not listened to then the party will continue to struggle. The party will most likely now move closer to the center. However, it must not abandon Dion's determination with regards to the environment and to eliminating poverty.

Dion's time is over. He can either leave with dignity now or be humilated into leaving next May. For the good of the party, he needs to leave now, but I hope he stays on as a MP, because he is a good man.

Gayle said...

Steve - I am taking a break from politics, but I saw this post this morning and did not have a chance to reply until now.

I just want to echo the voices here and compliment you on a great post. I do not know what the future holds for Dion, but I agree with your opinion of the man.

Dr. Tux said...

I completely agree with your assessment of the man.

Dion should stay. We cannot afford the money, nor the time to choose a new leader. We cannot afford the political expense of a protracted war and the infighting that this will inevitably bring.

This is a minority government. Let's not forget that. Let's also not forget that Harper's got a lot of challenges ahead of him. Balancing the war, the international economy, the bailouts, all the spending promises he made, while keeping out of deficits, is a tall order.

I really hope we can put this leadership non-sense behind us as quickly as possible, and focus our energy back on Harper and the issues we are facing.

Steve V said...


Don't take too long of a break :)

Gayle said...

Steve - I could hardly tear myself away for too long (look at what I am doing today!) :)

However, I have let some things go at work, and I really want to relax a bit. Besides, the Oilers are looking to have a break out season this year, so I want to ensure I can maximize my hockey experience. 2 down, 80 to go...

I will be back in a couple months or so.

Steve V said...


Maybe, they'll meet the Leafs in the Cup final ;)

Möbius said...

I agree with most of what you say about Dion. He would make a great MP (again), and could contribute, outside of the constraints of the Chretien/Martin situation.

However, as a leader, you have to lead, and inspire people to follow. That, he did not do.

Steve V said...

You know what, I didn't even like the guy, or more correctly, didn't think he had it. In the end, he inspired me, so that's saying something, given my predisposition.

Gayle said...


I do not like that idea. I do not want to start hating the Leafs! :)

Steve V said...

No worries, unless you guys are gunning for the first pick in the draft ;)

Gayle said...

the might OIL are 3 and 0.

I think it will be a perfect season...:)

Steve V said...

Ah, October optimism, I know it well :)