Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Dion...

The release of a poll last week that pegged Dion's approval rating at 10% caused some pretty negative reaction from some fellow bloggers.

Fair enough, I understand the frustration. I don't agree however with the conclusions drawn by some , both of whom I have tremendous respect for, btw.

I'll begin by saying that I share their frustration and agree that the poll showing was abysmal. That said, my frustration lies more with the fact that Canadians, I don't think, have an accurate picture of Dion. Should they? Yes and the responsibility for that has to lie with him as well as the party.

It could be argued that the media has done little to portray him as he is and often prefer to rely on whatever the Con talking point du jour is. While I think that has been true for much of his tenure, it has to be noted that aside from the tabloid hacks, the tone of his coverage shifted when he announced pricing carbon. In other words, when he speaks to substance, he's suddenly respected.

I also considered all that he has been faced with since becoming leader and a consistent narrative that those things must be rectified before considering an election. The list was long and whether or not what we were reading was 100% accurate, anyone who thought all of that was going to be corrected in a matter of months, I don't think was being realistic.

I've never taken over a dysfunctional company, but I have been charged with putting departments in order that had years of bad habits, cronyism, conflicting goals, (personal and general), etc. Not fun work and certainly not easy. People who you think you can rely on often end up not being who you were led to believe they were. Anyway, suffice it to say that much work had to be done and apparently much of it has taken hold. Good news, but not the end of the story obviously.

I think why Dion will stand up to scrutiny really boils down to the fact that the real Dion has not yet been seen. He's not an attack dog, which is the traditional role for the leader of the opposition. He's not a gregarious guy who delights in schmoozing and raising money for the party. He's also not a control freak that must know each and every detail about what his MP's will say or do. (As an aside, did you know that when you see Harper reading in the House during QP, he's often reading his Minister's briefing manuals? He initials the bottom of each page to indicate he's read it. Shudder.)

Since becoming Leader of the Opposition, Dion has been criticised for what he is not. The Con's are exploiting that, which is fair game. What's missed though is that he never had any intention of doing politics the way it had always been done. I personally think that is a good thing and will play in his favour. Now, I'm sure many are thinking, with an opponent like Harper who eats and breathes partisan old school politics, Dion should change his game. In my view, that will get us nowhere, or precisely what we have today. A deadlock for the moment and another minority in a similar configuration to what we see today, in the future.

I say that for a couple of reasons. I tend to think the polls are showing what they are because most people are just tuning out. They are tired of the bickering and they are seeing no vision. Dion has a chance to come forward, present himself as he is to Canadians with policy that I have no doubt will be appealing to many. I also think an important factor often gets lost in these polls. That is, there are a good number of groups in this country who have written Harper off. Income Trust investors, the Arts Community, Immigration Lawyers and advocates, 'urbanites' requiring daycare, Human Rights groups, advocates for various groups who rely on Access to Information, Environmentalists, etc.

Some included in those groups may have voted for Harper in the past, others may traditionally vote NDP. In a general election, I think with Dion being on the right side of these issues, he stands to pick up from both groups. Additionally, many included in these groups have a fairly high profile and could potentially add to the Liberal voice.

On the subject of pricing carbon, obviously this has to be presented clearly and succinctly, but I do not see it as a deal breaker in the least. It may feel counter intuitive at a time when prices are climbing and the economy is shaky, but if presented as a solution to that dilema, (a legitimate one), I think it is one of many issues that will spotlight a progressive direction for this country and underscore the regressive views of the Con's.

Finally, the poll indeed showed Harper with 32% approval and Dion with 10%, but it also said that 44% don't care for either. Here's the thing about that though. Harper is a known quantity, Dion is not yet.

Also, 32% of those polled said they thought the country was on the right track, (so Harper's base). 42% thought it was on the wrong track, which is the highest number since Harper took office and 26% were not sure. There is quite an opportunity there.

Let me end by saying that no one should be pleased with the Dion number, but I think to use it as a credible gauge of how Canadians would react in a general election isn't realistic.

“Stéphane is different from most leaders,” said Senator David Smith, the party's national campaign co-director, who is moving in the direction of the Keith Davey role. “He's one of the most intellectually honest people you're ever going to meet in political life..."

I may be wrong, but I have a sense that Canadians will warm to that before they'll be taken in once again by Harper's hyper-partisanship, nastiness and lies. Oh and in Ontario, the addition of Guy Giorno.

Obviously, time will tell.


Steve V said...

Knb, there was one part of that poll that wasn't reported. Dion did poorly on all head to heads with Harper, except on the question of honesty and integrity, where he had a marginal lead, actually very impressive, when you see how low he scored on other measures. To outpace Harper on this score is actually a silver lining, because that is a primary consideration when push comes to shove. Anyways, Dion has that advantage in the bag, something to work from, and the "real" Dion will only amplify that.

The fact "neither" leads both men, by an ever growing margin, as well as the fact that negative impressions of Harper have shown a marked uptick, say that no matter Dion's predicament, his opponent is hardly someone who strike fear, hardly a towering figure. Dion doesn't have to do much to match Harper, because he is not viewed favorably, and he is also a much more known quantity, impressions have gelled, Dion is still malleable.

BTW, that is a great pic.

RuralSandi said...

You know, it would help Dion if more pictures, like you show above, were presented to the public. How Canadian - fishing. He also looks like a regular guy in the photo - takes away that nerdy image.

I think the Liberal strategists should look into this.

I believe Paul Martin polled high (51% or something like that) even during adscam - the Income Trust/Goodale issue brought them down. Also, I believe Harper polled from 19% down to 10% from April to September, 2004.

Problem in Canada - we don't have a rock star like Obama. We haven't had one since Trudeau.

Karen said...

Steve, well said and obviously I agree.

I think it's the voters who are malleable, but you re right, Dion in the voters mind has yet to be known and his incorrect perception is malleable.

Karen said...

Sandi, you're right, we don't have a rock star. I'm not sure the timing for that is right, though it looks tempting when you look south.

A rock star Lib right now would not stand the test of Harper. He/she, would be excoriated as Liberal vacuity and all the Limbaugh wannabe's would be out in force.

Honesty and vision at this point in time is what I think is needed and I seriously think that the Harper camp has underestimated here. Step by step.

As for the pic, to both you and Steve, it is great isn't it?

He looks like, (because he is), a regular person who goes out to fish and at the same time, someone who takes the time, calm moments, to think things through.

Not a bad image when you think of a leader.

Anthony said...

dion is a very very very very very known quantity in Quebec.

But I have said this before. Liberals think they can win outside Quebec with Dion, then go ahead and go for it. Just dont expect any miracles from his home province.

Anonymous said...

Liberals think they can win outside Quebec with Dion, then go ahead and go for it. Just dont expect any miracles from his home province.
With or without Dion, Quebec is lost to the Liberals.

I would prefer to see Dion take on "separatistes" and other malcontents because he is a great debater in French and on the National issue.

Would you prefer that we recognize Quebec as a Nation as sow the seeds of separation?

Karen said...

antonio dion is a very very very very very known quantity in Quebec.

Yes, I've seen you say that before...but by what measure?

Take on the separatists? My vote would be, yeah!, go. Especially now.

Karen said...

Ooops, cherniak_wtf beat me to the punch.

Aaron said...

Antonio is correct that many voters in Quebec have a negative opinion (currently) of Stephane Dion. And he is also right when he says that Dion is a very very well known quantity.

Dion became known to Quebeckers through the Clarity Act which was vigourously opposed by some especially in the media, though Dion by the end of it did manage to convince a majority in the province that it was fair despite the bad press. In the event of another referendum I think we will all be glad that this legislation exists. (Oddly, perhaps, the conservative whisper campaign in english Canada is that it was all Stpehen Harpers idea anyway). It was a difficult task. Stephane Dion took one for the team not that it hurt Chretien at all in Quebec in the following election (light sarcasm).

Although there is residual dislike of Dion because of this policy, Dion is known as a man of principle which is what attracted my (late) support. He is disliked by many, sure, but no one thinks he is corrupt. (He in fact opposed the Sponsorship program in cabinet) Ask Quebeckers whether Dion was involved in Adscam. They might dislike him, but they will say no. The Bouchard government also received dirty money from Jean Brault of Adscam fame which the PQ was forced to repay. No one thinks that Bouchard was corrupt. Martin wore it.

Adscam really bothered me. Disagree with me on policy, I don't mind. But the corruption association eventualy gets under the skin. And for a significant number of voters --enough to turn an election-- corruption trumps policy. So in my mind the first step toward rebuilding the Liberal party in Quebec was to put Adscam behind. Stephane Dion is a known quantity, disliked to a certain degree, but also known as honest even to a fault.

I came to support Stephane Dion not because he was cuurently popular which many politicians have discovered can be particularly ephemeral in this province. But Quebec politicians who stick with it are often rewarded. Rehabilitation is possible. Ask Bourassa Chretien or more recently Charest.

Ultimately, though I would agree largely with Antonio's assesment that Liberals should only expect modest gains here in the next election, at least as it stands at the moment. But even there I am probably more optimistic than Antonio about the good sense of Quebec voters when they are faced with an issues campaign.

Karen said...

aaron...thank you.

I think for the first time on this blog, you really brought it down to brass tacks.

I think it will take some time to re-gain in Quebec, but if the discussion can be raised to what is now and not revert to the past, I think there could be some movement there.

Anonymous said...

Hello..U.S. does not have a Rock Star they have a Rapper.

RuralSandi said...

Anon 8:54 - what a disgusting, bigoted and USELESS remark. Stay in hiding - your shame shows.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs down to the "every man" fishing angle. I prefer my politicians keep their habits and hobbies to themselves. To use his so-called passion as photo-op is nothing but a prop and a distasteful attempt to garner votes. Earth to Stéphane, next time you go out to the lake, leave the entourage at home.

Karen said...

Huh? Roasted, it's a family photo.

I don't expect to see it on his campaign posters.

Boy people sure do look for problems where there are none.

Karen said...

Thanks sandi. It's always the courageous anon's isn't it?