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Reflections on Dion’s win 1 year later.

Reflecting seems to be a popular theme this week in the media and the blogs about Dion’s win at the Liberal Leadership Convention a year ago. Jeff’s piece on the occasion is a very good article that more or less reflects my positions on what’s happened this past year, but I’ll throw in my 2 cents worth.

What I will say is this: as most in the blogosphere know, the reason I went from a left-of-centre progressive who was unaffiliated with any party to a card-carrying Liberal was precisely because of Dion winning and what I saw there in Montreal and the potential of the man. I’m not sure I would be a Liberal today if someone else had ascended to the mantle (no offense to any of them). I was impressed with his qualities and his policies, and I think some of that has been lost in the myriad of controversies and fake controversies generated this year. Despite all that, the Liberals and Cons. remain neck and neck within the polls, and I feel that in a 6 week campaign, if Dion (and perhaps more importantly, his advisers and handlers) can use those qualities and policies he has and properly showcase them to the voting public, he has a very good chance of being the next PM; Chantal Hebert, Jim Travers, and Greg Weston’s opinion notwithstanding. As others have pointed out, Harper and Chretien had miserable first years as opposition leader too – a point often forgotten by some of our know-it-all punditocracy – so a rocky first year does not automatically disqualify Dion from winning, despite what some would claim.

Secondly, I’ll specifically point to a part of Jeff’s piece taking aim at the OLO (Office of The Leader of The Opposition) and say I can’t disagree with what he writes about criticizing their communications strategy. I know a few of the individuals in the OLO and they’re good people, and smart people, and I’m on friendly terms with them. Overall though, for whatever reason, the message hasn’t been getting through to the public as well as it could, and the attempt at bringing aboard Liberal grassroots/netroots has not been gone at the right way, nor has there at times seemed like anyone up there is prepared to listen to constructive criticism or suggestions. It has seemed to me like a few people have taken such suggestions or constructive advice way too personally, and then dismissed or not acted on said suggestions (with the implied feeling being they know best).

I think it fair to say that the sense some of us get is that some people in the OLO would rather that the “roots” just sit down, accept a pat on the head, and parrot the party line without question (with a little venting allowed as a parent might do with a complaining child, without really seriously considering anything that is being brought up). I would hope after the recent shakeup at the top and the appointment of new advisers to Dion, things will have changed for the better, though I note that the outreach from the OLO to the roots has gone from at least courtesy listening and putting stuff out there to dead silence – which isn’t a good sign.

Nevertheless, we’re in the ballgame. There’s plenty of innings to go before a winner and loser is decided. The reclaiming of the environment agenda, and the poverty plan are encouraging signs, and I hope more progressive-minded policies are brought forth, and that efforts to reform the party from the bottom up and allow more input from the grass/netroots is looked at and embraced – and not just from Liberals identified as “Dionistas”, but from all Liberals.

Cliques within a party are a dangerous thing, as Liberals should recognize from some of the nonsense going on behind the scenes (and not so behind the scenes) this past year. Let’s hope a lesson or has been learned here by all and not repeated.


3 comments to Reflections on Dion’s win 1 year later.

  • The Fwanksta

    Good analysis, especially the point about Chretien’s and Harper’s starts. I think a hell of a lot could easily change once we actually go into a campaign. I have high hopes for the future.

  • ALW

    Well, what can I say? At least you’re being realistic, unlike Jason "Everything’s Coming Up Roses!" Cherniak.

    Your point about Chretien and Harper is well taken, but it’s not enough to say: those guys had bad first year and later got better, ergo Dion will too. All it means is he could. Of course, I’d argue the sorts of problems that have plagued Dion are more similar to Chretien than to Harper – and Chretien’s success as a leader is exaggerated, since he had the luxury of competing against a divided right, with which he coasted to multiple victories with scant more support than the current minority Tories do. Stephane Dion doesn’t have that luxury.

    I still can’t understand why Dion has behaved in such a partisan way. Isn’t the argument supposed to be that the public is sick of partisanship? When he was elected leader, I was concerned – concerned because here was a guy who seemed like an unorthodox choice for the Liberals, very well respected, never overly partisan. Then he gets elected leader and suddenly he’s talking about extreme-right wing ideologies and George Bush! What gives?

    I suppose anything could happen. But Dion is going to need a Harper faceplant if he’s ever going to become Prime Minister. His communication skills are not just bad, they’re remarkably bad for a leader of a major political party, and unlike Chretien, it isn’t "charming" in that street-fighter-who-overcame-adversity kind of way. If I were Stephane Dion I’d stop worrying about the earliest available date to pull the plug – as he has for months now – and instead make sure all my ducks are lined up first. Six months or a year isn’t the end of the world in the grand scheme of things, so what’s the hurry? It just revives one of the worst stereotypes about Liberals: that they’re so desperate to get into power, they’ll do anything.

    Of course, he’s already had a year. The die is pretty much cast. Stephen Harper got two shots at the title. Dion gets only one.

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