Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Has Dion Erred?

I'm not sure this decision by Dion is necessarily positive:
International affairs expert Jocelyn Coulon has been handpicked by Liberal leader Stephane Dion to be the Liberal Party's candidate in the coming by-election in the riding of Outremont.

Rather than open the riding to a nomination battle, Dion served notice early on he would exercise his prerogative as a leader to personally name the candidate who would run in Outremont. Coulon's success or failure risks being seen as a litmus test for Dion's judgment and his ability to deliver ridings in his home province.

Losing a by-election in what is generally considered a safe riding for the Liberals could fuel questions about Dion's leadership. A win could help quell grumblings about his performance.

I don't like the idea of Dion circumventing the nomination process because it puts added pressure on his leadershop, the candidate is his alone. If the rank and file picked a candidate, you avoid the direct link, to a leader who's popularity is pretty much non-existent.

In making this decision, Dion furthers the "litmus test" argument, and introduces the flavor of mini-referendum on his leadership. The odds are good for the Liberals, but there is still a danger, and Dion's edict looks unnecessarily risky from here.


Canadian Tar Heel said...

Who knew that Dion liked to gamble? Has he been practicing at the Lac Leamy Casino?

Seriously, though, this move definitely puts unnecessary pressure on the LPC's leadership, and undercuts particular democratic aspects of the party's system.

Steve V said...

If Dion wanted to circumvent the nomination process, this was clearly the time to appoint a woman, given his "affirmative action" stance. Why shine the light brightly on your leadership?

Anonymous said...

The proof will be in the pudding. I think Dion's appointed a great candidate.

You refer to Dion's non-existent popularity. Just because somebody isn't number in the polls today doesn't mean their popularity non-existent. You expose your anti-Dion bias when you use such language. Personally I love Dion, so therefore your statement is incorrect.

ottlib said...

Look at it the other way.

In all likelihood the Liberals will win this riding and the fact that the person who wins would be Mr. Dion's hand-picked candidate would raise his profile and his stature in Quebec.

If on the other hand if the Liberals lose a by-election for one of the safest Liberal seats in the country then they have much greater concerns than the perceived weakness of Mr. Dion.

Mr. Dion cannot win. Many folks are accusing him of being invisible as a leader and then when he actually exercises leadership those very same folks criticize him for it and question his judgement.

Note Steve, that last statement was not directed at you. It is directed at some of the wags in the media and the blogsphere who just do not seem to like Mr. Dion.

Dan McKenzie said...

lol @ matt

Anyways, I'm also not sure I agree with you Steve. I'm pretty sure Mulcair was pretty much appointed. And if the Conservatives are to run a "star" as well then they won't be going through a clean nomination process.

I think not putting his leadership on the line is a worse idea. What would that say? And as for the women candidates, I'm pretty sure we're going to reach that target easily, and Dion deserves credit, but in this case getting the right candidate in place is more important. Affirmative action is nice where appropriate, but winning is still winning.

Sounds like a good candidate to me so far.

Steve V said...


Give me a break. It isn't "biased" to say Dion isn't popular in Quebec at the moment, it's just a fact, borne out in every single poll. A francophone leader of the Liberal Party, with half the "leadership" number of a guy with no seats in Quebec. Stating the obvious isn't bias, it's called reality, like it or lump it.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Personally I love Dion, so therefore your statement is incorrect.

It would seem that this statement characterizes your quibble in a nutshell.

Steve V said...

Sounds like a great candidate, but I think it would have been more shrewd to have a nomination, without such a direct link.


I understand the "Dion can't win", but maybe this wasn't the best way to flex his leadership muscles. I'm not saying it is a dreadful move, but it is curious and it has limited potential to backfire. Just a thought, not a damnation of the man, as hyper-partisans like Matt spins it.

Dan McKenzie said...

Maybe, it would have been better to go through a nomination, but that's assuming Coulon would have bothered running if he had to go through a nomination battle, and assuming they thought he could actually win one in the first place.

Steve V said...


Fair point. I would argue anyone who isn't prepared to bother with a nomination, shouldn't run in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Here's the bottom line kids.
Coulon is a star candidate as anyone who owns a TV or read a Montreal newspaper knows.
A woman with similar creds would have been nice but that does not seem to be the case ie Linda Julien etc.
Professor Coulon will win this riding and be a great addition to the Quebec Liberal caucus.
Excellent choix M Dion!

Steve V said...


I stopped reading at "kids" :)

Mark Dowling said...

Paul Wells on this subject:

Anonymous said...

They say Dion has been invisible - so, how can anyone hate a man they don't know. Kind of silly isn't it.

I remember how hated Trudeau and Chretien were in Quebec and we know how that turned out.

Fact is - no one knows what will happen a few months down the road - things can change dramatically in a short time in politics.

Steve V said...

"They say Dion has been invisible - so, how can anyone hate a man they don't know."

The "don't know" in Quebec? Come on.

"Fact is - no one knows what will happen a few months down the road - things can change dramatically in a short time in politics."


burlivespipe said...

Steve V said: 'Fair point. I would argue anyone who isn't prepared to bother with a nomination, shouldn't run in the first place.'

Could be worse. Could be someone who doesn't want to bother with an election and lands himself in the senate. Democracy, for some, is both messy and irrelevant.

On naming Coulon, I agree with anonymous. The riding membership have got themselves a very strong candidate, and the result now rests on their (and Coulon moreso than Dion's) shoulders.

Karen said...

I confess, I know very little about this man. I was disappointed it was a man, but I'm not troubled by it.

Steve, we discuss often, how there is so much to be done with the party right now. Policy development, persona, presence, etc.

I think Dion is being strategic, based only on what I have read on Coulon today.

These by-elections are important and at this point in time, we do not have the luxury of losing.

I think it will all level out. I think there will come a time when he'll let things be, but now is the time to think strategy.

Steve V said...

You know what? Sometimes I just throw out my initial thoughts, and then the feedback gives me some different perspectives. I feel somewhat better about it now, after hearing the various reasonings.

Calgary Junkie said...

I think the LPC should re-think how much power they give to the leader. I agree there are circumstances where the leader will want to appoint a candidate. But he should have to justify such an action--say to the Party Executive. And the bar should be set fairly high, say he needs to get 60 % of the Executive to agree. This seems like a reasonable check on the Leader's power.


C4SR said...

Those who dislike Dion will use this as club to beat him.

Not a woman.

Not a nomination.

Not democratic.

It's all BS.

Frankly, Dion will be judged on whatever happens in Outremont.

That he wants to be judged on his terms with his own candidate suggests to me Stephane Dion is prepared to take outside-the-box decisions.

That's leadership.

And this guy looks, on paper, to be a good candidate.

I can live with that.

Steve V said...


That's a fair point, which is relevant for all parties, not just the Liberals.


Is it possible to question the decision, without it being a question of like or dislike?

Mac said...

To Dan: Mulcair was not appointed. the membership of NDP Outremont was notified that nominations were open. Simply, no one turned up to challenge Mulcair.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "bottom line" background on Coulon, Anonymous. Two thoughts:

1) Dion is not only a gambler (think Central Nova), he's also a clever creative thinker.
2)Compare Coulon to the Middle East "expert" the Libs lost to the Cons--Whajid (sp?) Khan!!

Nice going, Mr. Dion.