Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Work To Do

A new Strategic Council poll asks the following question, which suggests there is work to do:
Would Canadians want to see Stephane Dion become Prime Minister?

Yes 20%
No 52%
Don't Know 28%

June 8-11 Strategic Counsel, MOE 3.1

Disappointing, concerning, sobering, some would argue not unexpected. Interesting finding, on the heels of the Decima Poll, which gives the Liberals a slight edge. This isn't the first poll to show Dion wanting in the leadership arena, having said that it doesn't diminish the implications.

Dion's leadership is acting as a drag on the Liberal numbers. I would argue that the only reason Harper isn't in complete freefall is due to the hesitation with Dion. Despite the Conservative erosion, the Liberal numbers have remained largely stagnant, with a slight uptick. Some support moving to the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc, as voters vaciliate. I assume that if Dion had made a better impression with Canadians, the Liberals would be in the mid to high 30's right now. Dion's leadership is clearly a check.

However, I don't see the present circumstance as permanent. What we see is latent opportunity for the Liberals, and what is required is that Dion seizes the moment. I think it objectively obvious that Dion has improved in the past weeks, both in deliver and confidence. That fact suggests Dion is starting to grow into the job, and that raises the possibility that his personal numbers can improve. As an aside, when Dion was presented with these numbers today, his response was a good one- it is hard for a new leader to make an impression, citing Layton, Harper and Duceppe as past examples.

Will Dion improve? Open question, but the fact that the Liberals are polling ahead of the Tories, or even tied, is a good foundation, given the net negative with Dion. It makes me wonder what might happen if Dion starts to connect.


Karen said...

To use ottlib's term, ordinary Canadians know nothing about Dion, well that's not true. All they know are what those sorry attack ads portray.

Do you ever watch that bit on cpac, where they go out on the street and ask questions? They did one on Dion recently, and almost to a person, they said he wasn't a leader and quoted, verbatim, the ad's.

So, now it's time to get him out there on his own terms.

My question is, how do we get the media to cover it?

Perhaps because it looks like a campaign summer, he'll get his due?

Steve V said...

"Do you ever watch that bit on cpac, where they go out on the street and ask questions? They did one on Dion recently, and almost to a person, they said he wasn't a leader and quoted, verbatim, the ad's."

That's interesting. I don't know how much coverage Dion can get with a barbeque tour, locally sure, but outside of that, it will be a challenge. Reid argues that the Liberals should release some policy soon to flesh out Dion. I still say a foreign trip this summer would be a great opportunity to showcase Dion, in an environment that speaks to leadership.

Dr. Tux said...

What I personally think is that in the next election, Canadians won't be voting for Dion but against Harper.

The fact of the matter is that people are either too busy or think they are too busy to pay any attention whatsoever to the leaders of political parties.

Harper will fall and Dion will take his place. Then Canada will have unconsciously chosen a good leader. He'll surprise them as PM.

ottlib said...

It's funny, just before the convention I wrote a blog where I stated Mr. Dion was my third choice after Mr. Rae and Dr. Ignatieff.

My argument was he would be perceived as weak, largely based on his performance during the debates in Montreal. It should be noted that the line "its not fair" in one of the first Conservative attacks ads came from that debate.

Since then my opinion has changed and I have warmed up to the man. Conservative attack ads aside he has shown good leadership qualities. Certainly he does not come across as a "win one for the Gipper" type leader but there is no doubting his leadership abilities.

As well, he has a certain genuineness in his demeanour and personality, which is a marked contrast to the current head of government.

So I am not worried about Mr. Dion. The Liberals are in good shape. They have a solid foundation from which to build from, their chief opponent is making themselves look less and less electable with each passing day and the Liberal leader has still not brought his 'A' game.

With regard to the poll, I will again sound like a broken record and point out that Stephen Harper had similar numbers at this point in the last election cycle, except his party was trailing in the polls by close to double digits. At the time many pundits were claiming that he was not connecting with voters despite a tired and scandal ridden Liberal government. Many were saying that the Conservatives and Mr. Harper had to get their act together and quick or they were going to lose the next election.

I only wish the pundits were right.

It should also be noted that he came out of the summer of 2005 no further ahend than when he began it because he was the Leader of the Opposition. Most Canadians ignore what the government says during the summer let alone the Opposition.

Mr. Dion will probably not connect with voters until we get closer to an election. At that point I hope the Liberals spend some of their time showing the stark contrast between Mr. Dion's and Mr. Harper's personal styles and attitudes. At that point Canadians will warm to Mr. Dion.

Steve V said...

"What I personally think is that in the next election, Canadians won't be voting for Dion but against Harper."

That's how Harper was elected. Harper's entire strategy in the last election- don't say anything provocative and stay out of the way.


Ultimately, I think the key will be the "stark contrast" between the two approaches. Dion is already playing that angle, the sincere, honest man who's word is his bond vs the divisive, aggressive figure who panders. In my mind, that is Dion's only and best chance, mainly because it's true.

IslandLiberal said...

I don't think Dion's image problems are insurmountable, but it's clear that that is probably the party's biggest problem at the moment. He's clearly improving, so if he keeps that up I think he'll be in good shape.

His biggest advantage in terms of public profile is that he's quite clearly a nice fellow; if he can steel himself a bit and lose the "not a leader" stigma, I think he'll do well. Harper has an inherent mean-spirited edge that Dion does not.

Gayle said...

I am not sure this problem would not have existed with either Rae or Iggy, each of whom have their own history which would have been exploited by the conservatives.

The fact that the "leadership" mantra was so easily exploited by Harper was because members of the liberal party/caucus fed that. They seem to be more cohesive now, and the message that Dion has the support of his caucus needs to get out.

I maintain that one reason Dion is having problems is because people have more expectations for him than they did with Harper.

Anonymous said...

As a partisan schmuck who got involved because of the Emerson Affair (if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere, kinda like what's happened to Atlantic Canada, but I digress...) my personal experience in talking to people about what I've learned about Canada's New Government(TM) I am finding that many "ordinary Canadians" are much more on the ball than Harper and his supporters would give them credit for. Moreover, I am finding that people who have heard or seen Dion in action in QP or in interviews or news items, his personal QP site on Lib.ca, are drawn to him.
I am seeing people who are mostly ho-hum about politics and politicians becoming interested in Stephane Dion and what he is saying to and for Canadians.
For this reason I think that Stephane Dion has been underestimated by his opponents and it is only a matter of time when Dion will be known to Canadians and what he says and envisions for Canada will resonate, even in translation :)
Harper will never elicit that sort of response from ordinary Canadians no matter how much he and his communication team says it.
I also think Dion is supported by Iggy, Kennedy, Rae and the others no matter how much Harper's playas would say otherwise.

Anonymous said...

remember - Canadians didn't like Harper at all while he was in opposition. The same for Chretien.

I think the MSM make too much out of it and wonder - do they not have anything else to write about?