Monday, March 5, 2007

is Kennedy strong enough to advise / facilitate change

Dion’s cross-country tour designed to showcase Grit leader’s strengths
The Canadian Press March 5

Stephane Dion is taking advantage of a two-week parliamentary break to criss-cross the country, trying to restore some lustre to his fledgling leadership.

For the past five weeks, the newly minted Liberal leader has been buffeted by Tory attack ads depicting him as weak and indecisive, critical reviews of his wooden performance in the House of Commons, divisions in his caucus and plummeting poll numbers.

But the cross-country tour is designed to play to Dion’s strengths. Strategists hope it will showcase the depth of the former academic’s intellect and the breadth of his vision.

Dion travels started last Friday in Nova Scotia and will take him as far as British Columbia. He’ll spend several days in Quebec and five days in Ontario, with a stop in Manitoba. He recently visited Saskatchewan and Alberta and is planning trips to the other Atlantic provinces in the near future.

The tour will include three major speeches, the first delivered last Friday in Halifax on social justice, and may include a sneak peek at some select planks in the Liberal platform for the next election.

With Dion planning to spend as much time meeting privately with party grassroots as he does speaking at public events, strategists also hope the tour will help bind fractious Liberals into a cohesive fighting force for an election that many Grits predict will be called as early as April.

For many Liberals, the tour comes not a moment too soon. They’ve been fretting privately that Dion is wasting his time in the Commons’ daily question period, where he’s ill-suited to deliver the required 30-second bursts of hyper-partisanship.

"The attack mode is not one that I think is naturally suited to him or his personality or the mission-driven politician that he is," acknowledges Gerard Kennedy, Dion’s election readiness adviser.

"He’s a man of great conviction but we think it’s better that he be presenting those convictions."

Kennedy says the public events during the tour are aimed at showcasing Dion "in some of the settings that Canadians want to see him in, that match the kind of politician he is.

"He is not (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper and thank goodness for that. We need people to appreciate who he is."

To that end, Kennedy says some platform planks may be unveiled over the next two weeks, in addition to a major speech on the economy on Thursday. A third speech is planned for the following week but the subject matter has not yet been firmly nailed down.

Still, Kennedy says Dion is hamstrung somewhat by his commitment to consult widely with Liberals about the platform. It’s a promise Kennedy says Dion is determined to keep, even though it hampers his ability to stake out a clear agenda immediately, which helps fuel Tory charges of indecisiveness.

"We can’t take a short cut. People want today to know what the policies are going to be but if he did that today then he wouldn’t have had the benefit of having engaged as many Liberals as we’re trying to do."

It’s not so much that Dion, a policy wonk whose leadership campaign was brimming over with detailed policy proposals, needs ideas from the grassroots. The outreach effort is part of a broader strategy to renew and reunite the party after a decade of fratricidal infighting.


UWHabs said...

I'd say Kennedy is right in his assessment. Dion is much stronger in talking policy with people and with small groups than the 30 second spots in QP. Unfortunately for him, he needs to do both, as he needs to meet with people to show his strengths, but he also needs the clips to stay ahead in the news. Good time for him to take a break and tour around now, then regroup with some concrete policy in the coming weeks.

HearHere said...

I actually don't get it. Dion was elected on a policy platform. Now he has no platform and has to ask other people to develop a platform.
This really seems strange. If people elected him for his platform isn't that what the Liberal platform should be?
No wonder everybody is confused. Did he not even believe enough in his own platform to stand by it?

UWHabs said...

You still need to consult with grassroots on where to go from here. I'm pretty sure Dion won't drastically change his platform, but he still does need to talk to people to figure out some more detailed information what they want.