Sunday, October 19, 2008

"You can't turn off the big red machine; you just shut it down for maintenance."

And so it appears that the machine is going for an overhaul on Monday. Call it ongoing renewal (I mean, we're obviously not done yet are we?)

Stephane Dion will have packed a lot of experience into the year and a bit (correction: two years) at the helm of the Liberal party. From a heady and improbable fifth-to-first victory in the leadership race, to the distinction of being the target of at least two unprecedented off-election-cycle attack add campaigns launched by the governing Tories, to the agony of defeat and finally the victim of an ignominious push by Liberal party members who are perhaps a little impatient in their desire to get back to winning.

I hope he doesn't take it too hard. He fought the good fight, with a better than expected showing in both debates, and only one minor gaffe which unfortunately accentuated his only weakness, that of his English language skills. Too much time was spent trying to gloss over or defend this chink in the armour. Consider it this way, political leaders whose primary language was English but had a poor grasp of French have always been seen as liabilities (usually for the NDP or some Reform/Alliance leader). Yes, Chretien had his own language difficulty, but in hindsight he also had decades of experience in the trenches of the bloodsport of Canadian politics.

In the end, Mr. Dion's intelligence and integrity couldn't necessarily translate itself into the kind of withering attack that would be required to take down even a bumbling Stephen Harper (who truly did bumble-away a majority that was finally within his grasp), nor could he galvanize public opinion in such a way as to draw out the required support from an increasingly politically apathetic populace.

That raises a good point: was it Stephane Dion, or was it an election that just couldn't bring out Canadians to the polls? Three elections in six years is a bit much (correction: three elections in four years? worse); if the next one falls anywhere within a winter season, be prepared for an absolutely appalling turnout (provided there isn't some sort of scandal or trigger that inflames our less than glowing hearts).

Denied the second chance that even Turner was given, Stephane Dion will be relegated to one of the brief chapters in Liberal party leadership history. He wasn't my first, or second choice for leader, but once chosen he did grow on me, and I personally would have supported him for another campaign at the very least. But this is Canadian politics, and the Liberal party prefers less and less to twist and dangle in opposition.

Warren Kinsella has called it: "The Liberal Party will win the next election: that's my prediction. I'll put money on it."

We'll see, just hopefully not too soon.


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