Monday, November 03, 2008

In Defense Of Gerard Kennedy

Interesting, a couple of rumors of his entrance, and already the lazy criticisms of Gerard Kennedy begin. The only guy who had the fortitude to resist the easy endorsement, rejecting Harper's cynical attempt to curry favor with Quebecers, somehow that's a bad thing. A guy who decided he had enough of theoretical indoctrination, and instead ventured into the practical world, the only motivation a pretty selfless endeavor, that's a bad thing. But, the real criticism, Gerard Kennedy, he gave us Dion, forever blemished in the eyes of many. Bullocks!

I must admit, I assumed that Kennedy would take a pass on this leadership race. However, it would appear that Kennedy is giving another run serious consideration, the idea of the "renewal" candidate floated. That characterization was always a given, should Kennedy decide to run, because after all, if you paid attention in the last campaign, he was already well ahead of the curve in this regard. Whether Kennedy runs, or he doesn't, I'd like to clarify what I perceive as an unfair attack.

Yes, Gerard Kennedy moved to Dion in the Liberal leadership. Yes, that decision was a pivotal moment at the convention, mostly because Kennedy had the rare capacity to deliver an overwhelming number of his delegates. However, what I've always found completely unfair, the way others "blame" Kennedy for the convention outcome, as though he the ONLY player, as though his decision was different from OTHER candidates, OTHER delegates. We all love Martha, but didn't she move to Dion initially? Why doesn't Findlay wear the goat horns too? Ditto for Dryden, ditto for Volpe, both of which eventually went to Dion on the final ballot. What of Rae, he didn't move to Ignatieff on the final ballot, a non-decision that was crucial in the final analysis? As a matter of fact, not ONE of the contenders in that room went to Ignatieff, only Brison after Rae was out.

Kennedy may have been the big player, but this was only a function of his popularity, his sizeable delegate total. The real story of the 2006 convention wasn't Kennedy, it was the simple fact that NOBODY moved to Ignatieff, the entire mood of the convention revolved around people shifting to stop him. Brison made his decision, Dryden made his decision, Findlay made her decision, Volpe made his decision, Rae made his decision and Kennedy made his decision, all of which conveyed a common theme, a collective mindset- Anybody But Ignatieff. With all the candidates, it was simply astounding to watch person after person decide against Ignatieff, the final insult, the greatest, when old friend Bob Rae sat on his hands, which essentially gave it too Dion, or at least confirmed the tide. Why didn't Bob Rae see the Dion danger and act to try and prevent it?

People want to blame Kennedy, I would say they have a selective memory, because all the players had a role, and in the final analysis most of it was counter-productive. The funniest part, seems to me DELEGATES vote, was Kennedy to blame for the fact that 2/3rds of Rae's people moved to Dion on the final vote? What was Martha thinking, moving to third place Dion after the first ballot? What were all those other candidates thinking moving to Rae, was this an orchestrated attempt to give the underdog Rae the job? What was Ken Dryden smoking when he went to Dion because he had "a greater chance of winning" the next election? In other words, it was a very complicated affair, and I frankly don't understand how Kennedy is singled out, when by all accounts, he made a personal decision to back a preference, just as EVERY other candidate did, just as EVERY other floating delegate did.

I don't know if Kennedy decides to run again, but I know one thing, anybody who discounts his candidacy because he "gave us Dion" has a serious case of selective memory and disjointed logic.


Jesse said...

Now, to be fair, I'm pretty sure Volpe still wears the goat horns, just, y'know, in general.

Anonymous said...

You can't stop people from assigning a negative catch phrase to GK if they think it gives them an edge in either stopping him from entering the race or keeps him from building support. I live in his riding and all the Conservatives and NDP canvassers and supporters and even a couple of Liberals sad to say tried to use that line on me to keep me from voting for him - i.e. "GK gave you Dion, you have to question his judgement, blah, blah." At first I tried to argue but once you're in a defensive position you waste all your energy so I came up with some creative lines to repel that BS and the best counter arguement I can offer now is despite this co-ordinated PR smear campaign by both major parties, Mr. Kennedy won the riding and beat out a very popular and competent NDP incumbent. He worked insanely hard at the grassroots level, unlike some other Liberal MPs he worked hard to make the Green Shift sellable by holding Carbon Challenge workshops to help people learn how to reduce their household carbon footprint. He held community parliaments to involve people in policy and debates. HE managed to turn lemons into lemonade and that's no small feat for a liberal these days. Wow, sounds like I just talked myself into supporting him doesn't it?

Steve V said...

"HE managed to turn lemons into lemonade and that's no small feat for a liberal these days."

The fact Kennedy won that seat, with a sizable margin to boot, despite the Dion baggage, a popular incumbent as an opponent and a general trend, is a testament to his ability to resonate, to roll up his sleeves and beat the odds, it really was a remarkable result.

calgarygrit said...

Well put.

And I think time will likely show that the LPC's problems run a lot deeper than Dion. And even if they don't and we're only a leadership change away from a Liberal majority government, then over half the delegates and virtually every non-Ignatieff MP made the same decision Kennedy did.

MississaugaPeter said...

As I stated elsewhere, Gerard has a record of winning seats from the NDP and the Conservatives.

Everyone knows Gerard did NOT take the easy route to the House of Commons. Gerard had to beat an incumbent MP. Peggy Nash was expected to run for the leadership of the provincial NDP after she beat Gerard. She may still.

But fewer people know Gerard did NOT take the easy route to Queens Park. Gerard, in his first election in 1996, beat Harvard educated, present day Toronto mayor, Dennis Miller. Miller was the NDP candidate in York-South Weston, a riding that Bob Rae had resigned from, and had been an NDP riding for over 70 years (since 1925).

But fewer people know Gerard did NOT take the easy route to Queens Park. Gerard, in his second election in 1999, after riding redistribution, went into a predominately Conservative riding (by Derwyn Shea), and won it for the Liberals.

Dianne said...

Wow. Well said Steve V.
I don't think Kennedy will run this time but he is going to be a Liberal star. I just wish the Party could shine. In the short term, with the Rae or Iggy re-play, things are looking grim.

Anonymous said...

Don't count GK out, his campaign office was a a hive of activity this weekend with a bunch of Young Liberal types hard at work. So something's going on over there. I hope we can have a reasonable and robust leadership race where the two so-called front runners will work hard to win our hearts and minds and prove themselves worthy of support. If it's a backroom takeover or a forced coronation, or some other sneaky strategy game, we'll be no further ahead than we are now.

Antonio said...

I think you are right steve

Not only did the entire party give us Dion, but the arrogant Ignatieff supporters, (yeah I guess myself included) didnt do anybody a favor.

I have one caveat tho

Kennedy was the kingmaker of the convention. Had Dion succeeded, Kennedy would be credited with it as well. That goes without saying.

It is a double-edged sword. However, I dont think it disqualifies Gerard from running. hardly.

Gerard has had two years since the last race. I hope his French has improved. The one singlemost criticism of Kennedy in Quebec was his terrible French, which was worsened by those who continued to defend it.

It was only made worse by two Ontarians in the race whose French was impeccable.

He has his faults, but I wouldnt include making a decision on the floor of the convention to be the most pivotal.

As for his positives, he beat a popular NDP incumbent. On an organizational level, the Liberal Party needs more of that anyway...big time!

If Justin comes aboard again, Kennedy would already have a bit more of a springboard in my home province, something any Liberal leader should have.

Under no circumstance should a Liberal leader get less than 25% of the vote in any region of the country, not just in Quebec.

sorry for the wall of text

Steve V said...


You're right, it was a double-edged sword. Another point, that I failed to mention, more Rae delegates went to Ignatieff on the last vote, than Kennedy delegates when he dropped out. That fact speaks to Iggy's inability to be anybody's second choice, and I suspect that part of Gerard's thinking, took into consideration, what his delegates were saying to him in the pre-amble.

I would be really curious to see if his French has improved, because you are quite right, little to no support in Quebec doesn't make him a credible candidate.

I heard somewhere, that Trudeau was musing about LeBlanc...

JimmE said...

I like Mr Kennedy & would have supported him; save for his ability in French, so I supported Martha.
I would support him; but we need a leader who's french is not the flip side of Dion's english.

Anonymous said...

We need leader with 'Charest bilingual' capability. If Gkennedy wants to be taken seriously in Quebec he needs to speak French fluently. Remember the Dion English complaints in the ROC.

Steve V said...

I'll be very curious to see if two years have made a difference, because it will be an important consideration for many people.

liberazzi said...

Clarification: I believe Dryden moved to Rae first then Dion.

I am not too concerned about GK moving to Dion, it was more Rae being spiteful that sealed the deal for Dion.

If GK's french has greatly improved, then it makes him a player. I think his loyalty to those who supported him last time is somewhat in question.

Steve V said...


I said "eventually" in reference to Dryden, but he did move to Dion in the end, because of electability.

MississaugaPeter said...

The French has improved.

Is it better than Rae`s or Iggy`s? No.

Should this disqualify him at this point. No.

Will it get even better. Most definitely.

Will there be a French website? Yes.

Remember, Gerard used his youth support and grassroots, to get the SECOND largest number of delegates outside Quebec (more than Dion and Rae).

With a greater focus on Quebec (and hopefully, as Antonio alluded to, Justin`s support again), Gerard can have the same, if not better success, than he did in the rest of Canada.

FINAL POINT: When the fine residents of Quebec get to know Gerard and his family (Jeanette, Théria and John-Julien) they will embrace them. The reason being, is that their values are his values. Having a bilingual wife and bilingual children (they attend French public schools in Ontario), will not hurt either.

Steve V said...

Plus, Chantal Hebert will be in Kennedy's corner ;)

Northern BC Dipper said...

From an outsider's point of view, I agree that the "Kennedy gave us Dion" line is kind of weak.

But, Kennedy actually has a big gaping weakness which would undermine a claim to being a "renewal" candidate and therefore undermine his whole candidacy: his debt from the last leadership convention. One of the key things the Liberals must improve in their "renewal" is fundraising, and still having a debt shows that Kennedy is not so strong in that area.

Steve V said...


He's actually paid off as much as others, that have cleared, it's just he borrowed more. I don't think the debt indicative of anything frankly. Others had more institutional organization at the beginning, so to compete, the lesser knowns needed to borrow. What was quite telling in my mind, how that organization evolved over the campaign, and he was surprisingly strong around the country, with the exception of Quebec. That speaks to a motivated base of supporters.

liberazzi said...


Oh, I didnt catch that.

Actually, Hebert seemed to be gushing a bit about Iggy today.

I need to see the complete list, before I make a decision.

Antonio said...

it really is grim for anybody in Quebec if there is a provincial election and the entire PLQ machine is backing one candidate

MississaugaPeter said...


Steve was being funny.

Two of Chantel's greatest passions are knocking down Dion and acting like Gerard did not exist.