Saturday, December 02, 2006

Report Card and Crystal Ball

Congratulations are in order. Stephane Dion is the new Leader of her Majesty's Official Opposition, or will be when he's sworn in. Are leaders of the official opposition sworn in? They get to be honourable, right? I don't know. I don't really care. Anyway, Dion ran a great campaign, he won the hearts and minds of Liberals across the country. I look forward to helping him kick Stephen Harper's butt all the way back to Calgary. Having said that, after a seeminglessly endless leadership race we have a winner and a whole bunch of losers. Time to give out some grades and make some predictions. There was a blogger looking for what Gerard Kennedy was going to get for giving Dion the crown. I'll try to answer the question. The predictions about a Dion government are not out of arrogance but confidence. That and the fact that the last Liberal leader who wasn't Prime Minister ran against John A. Macdonald. Stephen Harper ain't Johnny Mac. Let's work from first out to the eventual winner.

Joseph Volpe:

The Volpe campaign got off to a very bad start. Well, actually about as bad as someone trying to lead a scandal plagued party could have gotten off to. The scandals seemed to keep building, and pretty soon the Volpe campaign became a running. He had a very open falling out with his campaign chair which may have cost him delegates on the floor. A disaster from start to finish. Amazingly, he came out of super weekend with delegates. Close to fifth place and looking like an influence maker. Well that didn't translate to Montreal. His delegates just didn't show up. He ended up just a little bit ahead of Martha Hall Findlay. The only positive thing he did was drop out Friday night. However, he backed Bob Rae, another set back. By the time of the last ballot nobody knew or cared where Volpe had parked his ship. All in all a miserable run for the former cabinet minister. He fails in my books but gets some credit for dropping out early.

Grade F+

Crystal Ball: I don't see much in Joe Volpe's future. He will continue to represent Eglinton-Lawrence and collect a pay check in Ottawa. A cabinet post? It doesn't seem likely. A parliamentary-secretary role to the Minister of Immigration? Maybe he sneaks into a minor cabinet portfolio. He retires to little ado.

Martha Hall-Findlay:

Dion was being called the little campaign that could. Really that honour belongs to Martha. To many Liberals she represented the best that the Liberal party could offer. Unfortunately, she was completely unqualified for leadership. She had great ideas on renewal but not much else. In a moment of candor, Martha might admit that this was at least partially about positioning for her future and that looks quite bright. More on that in a second. She came out of super weekend with a few delegates, which was a few more than people expected her to get. Her convention, by all reports, was a complete success. She made a speech to standing ovations. She then got a big boost from ex-officio who wanted her to get ahead of Joe Volpe or Scott Brison on the first ballot. Finally, she chose the right horse to back, being the first leadership hopeful to endorse Stephane Dion. Really she couldn't have hoped for much more.

Grade B+

Crystal Ball: The future is bright! I see a retiring Bill Graham and MPP George Smitherman raising her arms in victory on election night in Toronto-Centre. Cabinet? Depends on when the Liberals get back in power. If it's the next election I'd guess Parliamentary-Secretary to someone big. I'm seeing Treasury Board or Ministry of Finance. If the Liberals lose the next election and win the one after that, I'm thinking Minister of Industry. When Stephane Dion decides to call it quits (2016? 2020?) I see a big red bus with a lot of Liberals on it. Candidates are going to be going to her camp after the first ballot.

Scott Brison:

The member from Kings-Hants was the picture of class throughout this campaign. Four decisions made this a bad day for Brison. Number 1: He began his career in the Progressive Conservative party. This dogged Rae as well. Brison was seen with trepidation especially by the left wing of the party. He was also viewed with trepidation because of decision number 2: that stupid e-mail. He wasn't thinking and in retrospect it wasn't that big a deal but it certainly did not help Liberal fortunes last winter. Liberals remembered that. As a result, he came out of super weekend with a whole lot of Nova Scotia delegates and few others. At the convention, he made two more bad decisions. He first backed Bob Rae and then when he fell off backed Michael Ignatieff. I don't think Stephane Dion will hold it against him but it's not going to help him either.

Grade: C

Crystal Ball: There is great potential here. Brison proved himself in the last parliament handling the brunt of the sponsorship questions with intelligence and class. Next time around, I see Treasury Board. I don't know why. It just seems to fit. If not, maybe Dion remembers his convention speech and gives him the environment. Then again I wouldn't be surprised if Dion took that one himself. Mr. Brison may finally have the gravitas to be considered for federal leadership when the next convention rolls around. I really don't think he wins though. Just a gut feeling. I really don't know why. And no, this has nothing to do with him being gay.

Ken Dryden:

With a little money and a little charisma and... eh forget it. I've figured it out. Ken Dryden is like the guy in high school that all the girls are friends with but none of them will sleep with (I doubt Ken Dryden was that guy when he was in high school, by the way). Do Liberals like Ken Dryden? Absolutely. Did he ever have a chance to be leader? Absolutely not. His performance on super weekend (a distant fifth) was disappointing. His performance at the convention verged on embarrassing. First, he runs out of time for his speech. Not as badly as Dion but still he ran out of time. Then he starts ranting at reporters in the post-speech scrum about how he didn't have any money but gosh darn it he's still second in popularity polls. Then as everyone else is clearing the deck so that we can move on to the big four candidates, Dryden stays around with less than 5% of the vote. Finally, he endorses Bob Rae. Okay, a lot of people backed the wrong horse, and yes Ken got it right eventually. He still backed Rae which helped Rae, well not at all because Kennedy came in after him and backed Dion. A ballot after endorsing Rae, Dryden was on the move again. All in all a shame. And it's such a shame because he's such a good guy...

Grade D+

Crystal Ball: Dryden may have plateaued. I see ministry in a Dion government. Minister of Justice? He was a lawyer. Maybe make him the front man for the feds on the 2010 games? I don't know. In the next race, candidates will be seeking his endorsement, but well before the convention.

Gerard Kennedy:

Kennedy either ran a brilliant campaign or a horrible one. I lean towards brilliant. Here are the cases:

Case 1: A provincial politician with three years of experience at the provincial cabinet table draws support from all across the country where he was completely unknown. Sticks with his convictions and takes a controversial position on the nation question earning the support of Justin Trudeau among others. He goes to the convention, gives an excellent speech and becomes the king-maker securing a bright political future.

Case 2: Top tier candidate completely wipes out in Quebec during super weekend and his campaign stalls. Last ditch effort to appeal to hard-line federalists fails and he is force off after only the second ballot.

As I say, I favour the first interpretation. Kennedy was doomed by his Quebec result but he ran one hell of a campaign. He talked about issues, the other candidates ignored. He challenged academic wisdom. He grew the party out west. Andrew Coyne, of all people, was even impressed by his convention speech. As I say, too bad about that Quebec result.

Grade: A- (maybe a little high? I'm biased, I still think he's great.)

Crystal Ball: He will go as far as long as his wife takes him. Am I getting oracular? What I mean is Jeanette has a job if she wants her husband to continue moving up the ladder: teach him French. Regardless, he goes into Dion's cabinet. Quite possibly as deputy PM. I'd give him Immigration as well. If Dion takes one thing from GK's platform it should be immigrant success.

Bob Rae:

Bob Rae believed this campaign wasn't about ideas. The last politician to say that in this country was Kim Campbell. In comparison, Bob Rae did brilliantly. Realistically, Bob Rae never got the momentum he needed. Endorsement after endorsement came his way. Six former leadership candidates on his side and his support seemed to barely move. Some people attribute this to the fact that he was a disaster in his term as NDP Premier of Ontario. This is part of it. I think it was a huge strategic mistake to run the entire campaign on "I'm Bob Rae!" He needed something more. Months of campaigning and I still don't know what Rae wanted to achieve as Prime Minister. Maybe he thought it was a bad idea to make promises after what happened during his premiership, but something tangible may have lit the fire of this campaign in the ideas of the average voter. Is Bob Rae a good politician? Yes. That doesn't qualify you to be Prime Minister or leader of the Liberal Party. His convention bid seemed doomed from the beginning. You knew if the Kennedy/Dion alliance played out as expected, Rae was toast. It played out, Rae was toast. Did he do the right thing in staying neutral on the last ballot? Maybe. I think he did it because he couldn't in good conscience endorse Michael Ignatieff but Rae's personal affection for Iggy wouldn't allow Rae to Iggy's leadership bid. All in all an unimpressive run by someone with such a big name and so many big names behind him.

Grade B-

Crystal Ball: Does Bob Rae really want to schlep back and forth to Ottawa every week at this point in his career. I don't think so. Unless there's a ministry that he really wants and knows Dion would give him, I think he finds a way to get away from trying to run in the next election. Rae is perfectly suited for the Senate. He could go out and talk to people and present his findings on the issues of the day. He stays in politics but doesn't have to worry about the burden of constituency work and reelection. If I were Dion, he'd be my first choice for the senate when an Ontario seat opens up. That is assuming we're still appointing senators at that point.

Michael Ignatieff:

Ah the prodigal son. Yes, the father forgives the son and takes him in. It doesn't mean that the son goes on to lead the country, particularly when he keeps making mistakes. Yes, the gaffes did it. I think Liberals would have gotten past the whole not really a politician or a Canadian thing if he acted like a politician and a Canadian. Even the gaffes might have been forgiven if he wasn't so damn arrogant about it. He may be smarter than most of the country, but acting like it is not a way to get elected. He alienated everyone in the race. No one was willing to go to the front-runner. That says a lot. There wasn't just an anyone but Iggy campaign, it was an everyone but Iggy campaign. Ok. Scott Brison picked him second, but give me a break. Sen. Smith and his back room boys tried, but Ignatieff defeated himself. It took him four ballots for him to get past the 35% barrier which is team was trumpeting as a first ballot result. Here I'll put in terms Mr. Ignatieff would understand. He blew up too many bridges and didn't make enough bricks (read Empire Light if you're confused). Sure he was only a couple hundred votes shy of victory but there was never a chance that he was going to get there. Almost only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.

Grade: B

Crystal Ball: Can you say Minister of National Defense? I can. Here's why. The Defense Minister is allowed to be a little hawkish, it's his job. It would also send the message to the Americans that the government was serious about security. Failing that, how about ambassador to either the US or the UK?

Stephane Dion:

All hail the conquering hero. Seriously, all hail. We need to unite around Dion and we need to do it now. Stephane won and he won the right way. One of the things that always impressed me about the Dion campaign was his focus on small contributions, his "$100 revolution." This is exactly the kind of thing we need to do as a party. We need to grow our base in order to compete with the Tories. Dion began the campaign as a dismissed long shot and ended up as the consensus of the media and Liberals. He got endorsements from my other two favourite candidates in this race: my candidate, Gerard Kennedy, and Martha Hall Findlay. He used that momentum to overcome both of the establishment candidates. This is a victory for ordinary Liberals. Rejoice!

Grade: A+

Crystal Ball: All I see is an address and a slogan: 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa ON and "It's the environment, stupid!"


firerfruze said...

I'm pretty sure that there isnt an actual swearing in ceremony, he just gets a major seat change and a nicer address.... I could be wrong on this also but I think once you become an MP you're "Honourable" for life.

VW said...

Actually, you only get to put an "Honourable" in front of your name if you're sworn in as a member of the Privy Council, and you hold that distinction for life.

Dion already has the "Honourable" because he was sworn into the Privy Council when he became a Cabinet minister.

He only becomes the "Right Honourable" if he becomes Prime Minister. "Right Honourable" only applies to the PM, the Governor-General and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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