Tuesday, February 20, 2007

less of dion! yes!

Party needs more image, less Dion
Axworthy: Put convention 'euphoria' aside, focus on battling Tories, Liberal says

Juliet O'Neill, CanWest News Service February 20, 2007

An influential senior Liberal says his party should put less focus on new leader Stephane Dion and more on promised grassroots party renewal if it is to regain momentum from the governing Conservatives.

Tom Axworthy, a Queen's University professor and aide to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, made the comments in an interview after CanWest News Service obtained letters he wrote to Mr. Dion and to Liberal party president Senator Marie Poulin insisting the party follow through on a renewal process Mr. Axworthy led during the Liberal leadership campaign.

Mr. Axworthy noted in the letter to the Liberal leader that a study of the 2006 federal election results showed "the party image as a whole" was far more influential than party leader or local candidate in vote choice by Canadians.

Mr. Axworthy said in the interview he's been taken aback by the "euphoric high" Liberals have been expressing at party events he's attended in recent weeks, congratulating themselves on their successful early December leadership convention, while the minority Conservative government is gaining momentum.

"The Conservatives have shuffled the Cabinet and whacked us with a negative ad campaign and are painting themselves green and becoming a rainbow," Mr. Axworthy said.

"There's no question that there's a very concerted Conservative game plan that one is seeing unfolding because I think they were taken aback and surprised by Dion becoming leader and by the Liberals having such a successful convention."

Now, he said, the Liberals must "get on with it."

"We are facing a very formidable opponent who's got millions of dollars to spend, great strategic sense in [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper, and these folks are very good at execution," he said.

"I want us to get out of our post-convention euphoria high and concentrate on the fact that the Conservatives have had a very good two months or six weeks."

Mr. Axworthy also weighed in on an issue that has divided Liberals in recent days, saying he doesn't believe opposition within the party caucus to Mr. Dion's support for a sunset clause on two measures in the anti-terrorist act will be fatal to his leadership.

Meanwhile, members of the Air India Victims Families Association vowed to lobby MPs to extend the measures -- investigative hearings and preventive detention--due to expire March 1 unless approved by both the Commons and the Senate.

The association issued a statement accusing MPs of "political gamesmanship."

Mr. Axworthy said there were as many Liberals opposed to the measures when they were introduced by the Chretien government in 2001 as there are now threatening to vote with the government.

"This is just one of those really difficult issues because it's not black and white, it's a judgment call," he said. "This is a security issue and this is a human rights issue."

A few days after saying the Liberal opposition to the antiterrorist measures would be revisited, Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings issued a statement yesterday saying she backs Mr. Dion's support for letting the measures expire.

"The government has failed to demonstrate these clauses should not be sunset," she said.

"We're the party of the Charter and we believe the onus is on the government to prove that these powers have been an effective and necessary tool to combat terrorism in order to justify the severe rights-infringing nature of these provisions."

To follow through on renewal, Mr. Axworthy is proposing a "thinkers' conference" or a weekend policy workshop that would bring together the Liberals who led about 30 renewal studies, on everything from foreign policy to Quebec's status, with caucus critics and people who developed policy for leadership contenders.

The tendency must be to defer long-term efforts at party renewal in favour of short-term plans for an immediate election," Mr. Axworthy wrote in the letter to Mr. Dion.

"But my argument is that party renewal and success in the next election go hand in hand.


evans said...

Less of the clown and loser who can't string a sentence in english,brilliant.

greyburr said...

Love watching your other leader "Iggy" doing the talking head circuit.Gotta be difficult remembering all the past foot in mouth retoric when asked to give an opinion on grit strategy or lack of.One gets the opinion that he is just one painfull phrase away from total disaster.Do you really think the "find Waldo Dion" plan will work?