Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Emerging Picture - Conviction vs Bellicose

This photo of Dion was taken last night, in a small room off the main venue at Garth Turner's town hall meeting. Turner had arranged for blogger's and some commenter's on his blog to meet with Dion prior to the main presentation.

It wasn't a huge gathering, but it was a chance to ask questions and to get a sense of the man in an more intimate setting. It was a bit rushed as Dion had been swamped by media preceding the gathering, thus was running late, but I found it valuable.

While I've always know that the ridiculous image of Dion that Harper portrays had no bearing in fact, having never met the man or seen him in person, I wanted to see if my sense of the man would be borne out. It was and more. He has a manner about him that suggests confidence and assuredness that is completely absent of any arrogance. That confidence is not really always picked up on camera or in interviews. His physical presence is much more substantial than is captured on film for some reason and even with the frenetic pace his handlers employ in directing him, there is a calmness about the man. Oh, and he's funny too.

All of that to say, I was looking for what voters will see in an actual election and just how starkly it will contrast with the phony depiction Harper has put out there. The die hard Haperites won't see it, but I'm convinced that most people certainly will.

After this get together it was on to the main event. Reports have said that anywhere between 1000 and 1400 people were there. All I can say is that 1100 seats were put out on the floor and people were left standing (myself included) all around the room.

Garth began by introducing a number of local MP's including Bonnie Brown, Martha Hall Findlay, Karen Redman, and Navdeep Bains to name a few. He also introduced a full slate of candidates who will be running in the next election, the majority of whom were women.

Garth then went to a power point presentation that was well done and I was so grateful to see that within it, he points out the costs of the Conservative plan, (the $65.00/tonne estimate) and points out that it is being hidden from the public because it too will increase the cost of various fuels, but the Con's will offer no tax relief.

He then went on to introduce Dion, which you can see here, courtesy of Garth's blog.

The evening went well and was by no means attended only by Liberals. There were a couple of climate change deniers who posed questions and others who were not in denial, but still cynical about the plan. Dion doesn't flinch at any question he is asked. He moves easily from topic to topic and while in a setting like this, his answers are sometimes more general than one would prefer, he doesn't do the 'evasive' political thing that we so often see. In fact, Turner kept telling him to he was too long winded, to which Dion laughed. Nor does he molly coddle those who disagree with him. He'll respectfully tell them that they are entitled to their own view but point out why he thinks they're wrong.
I left with a sense that the Liberal party has it's platform ready and in spite of all the speculating by the media, that Dion has a caucus that is solidly behind him and his platform.
What struck me the most however, is what this election will really be about. Oh sure, the talking points will be the economy and the environment, but it really is shaping up to be a contest between how Dion does politics and how that contrasts with Harper. Harper and his team have shown no indication that they are going to do anything but play dirty and continue producing misleading attack ads, etc. Dion on the other hand is presenting a vision of Canada that is prepared to deal with what lies ahead and to be honest about what that is.
The contrast will be stark and there is no way of knowing which style will win in the end, but outside of the 30% that support Harper, I've seen little evidence that Canadians are prepared to close their eyes to the facts and not seek solutions to what is our economic and environmental reality.
Two quick final points. I, along with many other blogger's participated in a conference call with Dion this week. He was open, honest and generous with his time and responses even when strategy was asked about. It was clear that he wants to engage as many people as he can.
Then this morning, I heard him interviewed on a right wing radio program. Other than speaking over Dion, the host was initially pretty cordial and even went as far as to say that he thinks Dion has the upper hand here, because he's set the agenda, not Harper. Toward the end, he challenged Dion on his strategy of not defeating the government earlier. Not once, not twice, but in as many ways as he could find but Dion wasn't backing down and in fact, I sensed that the more you fight him, the more determined he becomes in arguing his case. I'd say that is the professor in him and while not your typical politician, something tells me that is a great advantage.
I'll leave you with a few more shots, with my apologies as to the quality of all of those I've included. Unfortunately in the rush to get there, I forgot my zoom lens and additional flash.
Blogger's Reception

Finishing up the Media Scrum


Steve V said...

Well done knb!

Omar said...

Dion might want to consider an organized visit to West Nova to help save Robert Thibault's sorry ass.

Thanks for the report.

After I post this, I am going to post a letter here that was sent to the editor of our once a week local newspaper regarding "Poor Robert". An interesting read that I think touches on the fact that the Conservatives are in no way cruising towards a slam-dunk victory in this riding.

Back in a mo..

Omar said...

Poor Robert Thibault. He has had to apologize twice, once for suggesting that Greg Kerr may be too old to serve as an MP and again for suggesting that Marjory LeBreton go back to making tea for Brian Mulroney.
Ageist? sexist? His remarks can be interpreted that way, if one chooses, so maybe they were intemperate. On the other hand, what's sexist about making tea (or coffee)? I think these are trivial issues.
Canada's New Government has become generous with us in the past few weeks, with two years of funding for the Princess of Acadia (ferry that travels Digby to Saint John), money for the Digby wharf and other bits and pieces. I congratulate the government for taking these steps. On the other hand, this is just a case of the government doing the right thing, so maybe we should not be too grateful.
I agree, too, that Mr Thibault's apparent exclusion from various events in West Nova where various Conservative MPs were on hand to bestow largesse is shabby. He is our duly-elected MP after all.
I hear that Canada's New Government is going to target West Nova in the next election because Stephane Dion's proposed Green Shift, with its carbon tax, could hurt us disproportionately. Maybe so, but I don't think that will happen.
The Green Shift will impose inconveniences on everyone, and we, as well as our elected representatives, will have to assure that the inconveniences are tolerable ones.
Ideally, we should all moderate our energy consumption voluntarily, but realistically speaking, voluntary restraint is not likely to be sufficient, and we cannot afford to rely entirely on that. A little economic pressure is likely to be more effective in convincing us of the need to live sustainably.
Stephen Harper may be right. A carbon tax my "screw" us in the short run, but climate change and its consequences are going to do the job much more profoundly if we don't give more priority to minimizing our environmental footprints.

John Sollows, Yarmouuth

knb said...

Thanks Steve.

I still have more impressions that will likely come out in other stories in the near future.

An event like that leaves you with an awful lot to mull around.

knb said...

Omar, I'd get on Thibeault's case to have Dion there for a town hall, though time is running short.

Based on the letter you included, (and granted it's only one) I think your sense of things there is correct.

The writer isn't fawning over the Lib's nor writing off the Con's.

If more accurate information is needed in your area either about the Shift or about the man, asking Dion directly is the best way the understand his vision for the country.

It obviously needn't be a 'do' of the grand proportions of the Oakville TH, but even a small one, video taped by Thibault's crew or you even and covered by the media could go a long way.

The vid then put on You Tube could help spread the message and in view of the fact that not every one even knows what it is, a friendly letter to your paper with a link included as to where to find it may broaden the exposure.

I'm just thinking out loud obviously but I really think that it is going to take traditional door-knocking stepped up with large gatherings and technology as we go forward in this country in politics.

Omar said...

Harper's biggest problem down here in the 'Old World' is that most people tend to pay very close attention to their politics. Talk around the water cooler of late has not been flattering of the government and I even heard partisan Conservatives say they may jump ship if they decide this prime minister and his administration cannot be trusted to run the country let alone have Maritime Canada's best interest at heart. I think I mentioned before that Dion should pay us a visit.

knb said...

I get that it is old world and have know doubt that people pay attention.

What has always struck me, as trite as it may sound, when I visit your neck of the woods, everyone is cordial and may not appear to be discussing politics, but they are.

I really think think the east of this country, including Quebec, is much more in tuned with politics Omar. I think as the country moved west something was lost in translation.

That's sad, especially if the East is being ignored.

Dion seems to understand that.

Get him out there man. I know you are loath to write Thibeault, but shake him up and insist.

Involve other MP's who you think might be interested by cc'ing them in your mail.

Push Omar. You can make this happen and if you do, I might even fly there to attend. Not that that would mean anything, but if you accomplished it, I'd like to shake your hand.

Omar said...

I have to wonder if Thibault isn't in Dion's dog house at the moment, but I will pen something regarding a Dion visit this weekend. To me it's a no-brainer to have the Liberal leader pay a courtesy call to this area, but who am I?

knb said...

Well Omar, who are any of us really? Oh right. We are the one's who matter.

Honestly, I've pushed myself into this thing. To meet Dion last night was great, but it didn't just happen. I stopped takng for granted what should be and went with what is. I injected myself into the process.

Do that my friend and be sure to write or copy other MP's outside of Thibeault.

From what I saw last night, Dion doesn't believe in dog houses. Training may be in store, but all dogs are welcome in the family home.

penlan said...

"From what I saw last night, Dion doesn't believe in dog houses. Training may be in store, but all dogs are welcome in the family home."

Really like that comment from you knb. It personifies Dion's desire to do what is right for this country, working with everyone as best as possible.

I've always liked Dion, even before he became leader of the party. There is that grace, strength & integrity about him rarely seen in a politician.

Thanks for the great photos! Just wish I could have been there.