Monday, November 05, 2007

Why Cherniak Is Wrong

Jason argues that the Liberal council of the presidents meeting should include a motion in support of Dion:
A high-profile Dion leadership campaign worker and blogger, fed up with what he calls "incorrect," but powerful media reports, says he may force the leadership issue and move a motion to support leader St├ęphane Dion at next month's first-ever council of presidents meeting of the 308 riding association presidents in Montreal.

Jason Cherniak, riding association president for Richmond Hill, Ont., said although there isn't supposed to be any vote on Mr. Dion's (Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Que.) leadership at the meeting, he's considering putting forward the strategic motion of support.

"I personally think we should pass a motion saying that we support his leadership and I might even be proposing it, but this is something that's in the early stages and I haven't organized anything," Mr. Cherniak said in an interview. He runs his own popular blog and served as blog campaign chair for Mr. Dion's leadership campaign in the last Liberal leadership campaign.

"Media reports about challenges to Mr. Dion's leadership are incorrect. As the grassroots of the party, we need to remind everybody that we're the ones who make those decisions and we have full confidence in St├ęphane Dion."

Why I will be telling my riding head to avoid this idea like the plague. I understand the sentiment, I know Jason means well, and on one level there is some appeal. However, this meeting isn't a referendum on Dion, it's supposed to be about engaging the grassroots, seeking input. Why introduce a motion on Dion's leadership? That introduction is frankly an admission of weakness, it only feeds the perception that Dion needs reassurance. Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc, don't find it necessary to tell the leader that he should be leader, it's supposed to be a given.

If the presidents want to meet and decide to pump Dion at every turn with the media, put on a united front, then that idea may have merit. Give the perception that the party is in lockstep, a feel good meeting, without the obvious pitfalls of a formal motion on Dion. You can see some potential problems, with a quote from another riding president Ernest Lustig in the article itself:
We have a leader up there, some people like him, some don't, we still have a leader, you have to support him.... Not everybody is agreeable with every body's thoughts and the ways and means of doing things. No body's perfect, but we elected him and that's the guy we have to support,

I would describe the above as anything but a ringing endorsement of the leader. Just imagine what some of the Quebec presidents might offer on the question of Dion. In other words, why go there, why open up a process that at best reaffirms what should be obvious, at worst, opens up another chasm and more bad press? I seriously doubt anybody would actually vote against the motion, simply as a function of loyalty and the obvious optics. However, we all know Liberals love to talk, and we would surely get some juicy quotes when the subject of Dion is raised.

If all the presidents vote unanimously in support of Dion, the press yawns, it's a ten minute story. Does anyone believe they will drop the Dion narrative because of a public relations exercise? The obvious answer, what did you expect them to say. The scenario works this way, you get no real benefit from the motion passing, but on the flip side, you create the impression that Dion is weak and needs a public proclamation. You also move into the unknown, allowing opportunity for the mischievous, with an agenda. IMHO, little real reward, outside of esoteric satisfaction, plenty of potential risk= bad idea.


Bruce Stewart said...

It is now worse, actually. The failure to have this vote indicates fear on the party's part. Having the vote has all the outcomes you specified. Not only that, but the immediate response - not the purpose of the EDA Presidents' Gathering to do this - that came out earlier today makes the Party look heavy-handed and dismissive of organizations not at the centre.

The interview with The Hill Times, coupled with Cherniak's blog post, has done the Liberal Party a lot of damage.

liberazzi said...

I completely agree. What if Dion doesn't receive almost unanimous support? The media will pounce on this like the vulchers they are. Bob Fife would be drooling over the possibilities. This also might give some of those saboteurs in the Quebec wing their golden opportunity to embarass Dion. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Anonymous said...

Steve - a great post!

Any chance you can become Liberal Leader before the next election?

Excellent comments from Bruce and liberazzi as well, and I agree with all of you. There is no upside for Dion to this. Cherniak shows his lack of political sense by even suggesting it.

"Me thinks you doth protest too much" has never been truer. There is no possible upside for Dion. Even with 100% approval, there is only short term good news until the next item goes negative. On the other hand, if less than 80% give approval, that then becomes the story, and if by chance the result is under 60% approval, now you have big trouble brewing.

Sean Cummings said...

An admission of weakness? With all due respect, that's the worst kept secret in Canadian politics right now, the media knows this and the public knows it too. The key thing to remember is that Stephane Dion is only as weak as the party itself and the last time I looked, the Liberal party has a number of old wounds to heal not to mention a desperate need to reinvent itself.

liberazzi said...

I do want to disparage JC as he has a good job with Liblogs and his work within the party, but their is an air of self-promotion within his blog that seems to creeping in a bit, that he might want to temper a bit in my opinion. Also, check out Kinsella today, he really takes Bourque to task. Good on him!

Sean Cummings said...

>>their is an air of self-promotion within his blog that seems to creeping in a bit, that he might want to temper a bit in my opinion<<

You might want to read this post on Cherniak's blog. I think he's tempered his enthusiasm quite a bit.

liberazzi said...

Grumpy, perhaps...but he doesnt seem to have slowed down since that post. I guess we will see if he stops blogging if he becomes a regional president in a couple of weeks. However, his political instincts should come into question after this episode.

David Graham - said...

Interesting post.

An Iggy-supporting friend of mine who has made no secret of his disdain for Dion since his victory last year told me over the weekend that there would be a "coup" in December to force Dion out and install Iggy, who he is convinced would automagically become leader if Dion were to be pushed out. I thought he was nuts, but at least now I know what he was talking about.

This vote is a very dangerous game but I disagree that no good can come from it. If support is in the high 80s or 90s, then all anyone has to do to answer allegations of a divided party is point at the result. If it's lower than that, Dion's opponents in the party will be more or less stating they would rather have a Harper majority than Dion as leader, which is a puzzling message for anyone to be sending at the moment.

Anonymous said...

By insisting on a resolution, it creates the illusion that Dion is weak. Even though the original intention was to reveal who the plotters are.

liberazzi said...

I think the vote is unanimous amongst Liblogs that this is a bad idea.

Sean Cummings said...

>>By insisting on a resolution, it creates the illusion that Dion is weak.<<

What illusion? Jumin' Dyin' Moses, hasn't anyone noticed that Dion's weakness is the same thing as Liberal weakness? The last time I looked, pretty much every newspaper columnist in Canada and next to nearly every news story about the Liberals has been exclusively about how weak the Liberals are under Dion. Abstaining from the Throne Speech vote, Abstaining from the mini budget vote, getting it's ass handed to it in the Quebec byelections... the list goes on. About the only place liberals aren't weak is in the Senate and as of about ten minutes ago, Stephen Harper staged a PR coup by supporting Jack Layton's call for a referendum on abolishing the Senate!

Ames Way said...

The point of the resolution would be to show the so called party insiders that the majority of the grass roots supports Dion and to try and stop the non-elected insiders from hijacking the party.
MP's would also be aware that their riding associations had voted for Dion and party unity, so hopefully that would stop any Caucus revolt.

Anonymous said...

Trouble for Jason - he's a little naive at times and weighs far too much importance in himself when it comes to the Liberal Party. Yes, he is totally faithful to the Party and to Dion, but at times he hurts them. Jason isn't really politically savvy enough.

Anonymous said...

cost benefit analysis: the potential upside does not come anywhere close to equalling the potential downsides = a very bad idea.

good post.


Anonymous said...

Man, you are just so much smarter than Jason it's almost not fair.

I think you have become the best Liberal blogger in the last couple of months. Keep up the good work.

CuriosityCat said...

Logically, two things should happen if Cherniak does indeed call for a vote on Dion's leadership:

Firstly, the vote should be by secret ballot, to ensure that those voting are not pressurized in a public forum - as the Communists and other totalitarian societies do and did.

Secondly, should Dion not achieve a minimum threshold - say 70% - then he should resign and a new leadership convention should be called for April 2008.

Now that Jason has put the cat amongst the pigeons, we should make sure things are handled correctly.

ottlib said...

"Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc, don't find it necessary to tell the leader that he should be leader, it's supposed to be a given."

Can the same be said of the Liberals?

Can you honestly say that all Liberals have lined up behind Mr. Dion in the past weeks and months?

The assertion of your post Steve is valid if the answer to those two questions is yes. Since that is obviously not the case then perhaps a public showing of support from 308 riding presidents might have an effect, even if it is only on the caucus and nominated candidates.

Of course the motion Jason is considering is just a symtom of a much deeper malaise within the Liberal Party, namely the stupidity of many Liberals who bought the "Dion is not a leader" line from the Conservatives.

Stephen Harper is the best thing the Liberals have right now and he is the gift that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, many Liberals keep giving the gift right back to him by buying his BS about Mr. Dion.

Many Liberals are looking for evidence to prove Mr. Harper right as opposed to proving him wrong and that still boggles my mind.

So although I am not certain of the wisdom of Jason's proposal I can at least appreciate the effort to get Liberals to begin to change their own mind-set about Mr. Dion.

I said it weeks ago. If the Conservatives win the next election it will not be because of them or their policies. It will be because Liberals have been too stupid to realize who is the real opponent.

I also said that if this kept up the Liberals could not count on my support on the upcoming election. That point has been past. I am already looking hard at the Green candidate in my riding.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Jason is a self centred git. He obviously hasnt been to Quebec lately and risks getting a very low approval rating for Mr. Dion. Eliminate the 25% ridings in Quebec right off the bat. That's just bad news. With other machinations going on, and there still are those, even new ones, its a really dumb idea.

Jason still thinks he's a young Liberal where he can bring forward ridiculous motions to be voted upon that make no practical sence that everyone can then just promptly ignore.

Unfortunately he got press on this one, which was his egomaniac intention, and it would have been better for everyone if he hadn't.

This idea should be kiled ASAP

Anonymous said...

Knowing Jason's past, these tactics are similar to the ones that Martin's goons were using to ensure that the former Prime Minister got almost 90 per cent support in the leadership convention.

Dissention means disloyalty and must be purged.

It failed once and we are still recovering. Trying it again means we have not learned our past lessons.

CuriosityCat said...

Perhaps an 80% threshold vote would be the right level?

And perhaps the riding presidents should consult their own riding members and get votes from them on the same issue, so that they could represent their members more clearly in the vote?

Any comments on these suggested methods to implement Cherniak's proposal?

Anonymous said...

The same thing was proposed in an Executive meeting of my riding shortly after the Outremont by-election. It was quickly dismissed. The general thought is why does the elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada need the support of the riding executives again?

Steve V said...


I like the secret ballot idea, that way people can really express themselves honestly.

BTW, this post isn't an attack on Cherniak, just his idea. We all have bad ones, this one just happens to be Jason's.