08 March 2007

Where is M. Dion?

Last Thursday I put out a plea for information regarding the whereabouts of Stephane Dion's appearance in Halifax. It went unanswered. Now it's likely that nobody really cared enough to fill me in (after all, I apparently sold my Liberal soul to become a Tory....thanks JBG!), but there's also the possibility that nobody else actually knew.

I've seen in a couple places, no less than the top headline at Bourque, that all of Dion's appearances on this cross-country tour (the ones that aren't sabotaged by the heavy hand of Stephen Harper) are being kept on the down-low. The story that Bourque links to in the Post begins with this simple introduction: "Stephane Dion was in Toronto yesterday. Somewhere."

Needless to say, this is highly problematic for a leader that is having excessive difficulties establishing himself and diffusing Tory attacks that proclaim Dion is "not a leader." If the people can't access Dion and hear what he has to say, the only message they will have about him is the caricature created by his opponents. The mildly-Liberal-friendly media can only do so much to highlight his positives (he was the Liberal architect of the Clarity Act, an important piece of legislation, absolutely, but one that came out almost a decade ago and probably something that nobody who doesn't take constitutional law classes has ever read), and sometimes even that gets boring. The Globe today, for example, has a story about Dion's former Cabinet colleague and Environment Minister at the time Chretien signed on to Kyoto pointing out that M. Dion wasn't exactly the best champion for selling Kyoto to the provinces when he was Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. Christine Stewart says, "I think what I am saying is he wasn't against [Kyoto], but he was not a champion. But then he wasn't unique. If you can find a champion [in that Liberal cabinet], let me know." Ouch.

So in the few glimpses that the public gets of Dion, it's leaning strongly towards the negative. The Tory message is clearly working to this point, and that is reflected in the sharp drop in Liberal popularity since December 2006 when Dion took the helm. If he wants to meet with small groups of grassroots members, fine, but shutting out the broader public and keeping everybody, the media included, in the dark as to his whereabouts will do nothing to expand party membership or support.

As I said on Thursday, I would not have gone to Dion's event in Halifax (turns out it was in Dartmouth) to do the cheering thing or grab myself a membership form at the end of the speech. But I would have listened and made a report here so that people could hear about it from a source that is neither pretending to be neutral (i.e. the media) or a partisan supporter. I would have given props where due and been critical where appropriate. As it is, all we got in the local press was a couple of really uninspired recaps and the establishment of a secret tour that everybody knows about. He was here. Somewhere. That is not good enough. I'm not a Tory member but I learn, usually a day in advance, where the Prime Minister will be on any given day. That is the upshot of signing up for the PM's mailing list, I guess. You can do that too by following the link on the right. Availability is key. Access is crucial. When Stephen Harper goes out and about to meet Canadians, they have a reasonable idea of where he will be and when he will be there. The same does not appear to apply for the Leader of the Opposition, and that will ultimately cost him face-time with potential voters.


Carrie said...

You've met Martin how many times? Two or three?

But have you ever met Harper? If you have... What's he like?

RGM said...

As I go through the records, I have 3 pictures of former PMPM. I met him in October 2002, November 2003, and September 2004.

I've never had the chance to meet with Harper, though I was involved in that protest in Kelowna in June 2004, right before the election. The other Liberals and I showed up (my idea...the other folks thought it was really a stroke of brilliance when I suggested we be there to make ourselves known), and I ended up being in the background of a picture that appeared on teh Internets and probably in a newspaper or two. Check back in my archives to January 2006, there's something in there I think.

RGM said...

Also, I've read a couple anecdotes of people who have met the current Prime Minister, and they say he's a pretty nice guy. Chucker? Are you here? You've met him right?

Carrie said...

Oh yes I remember when you did that thing before the election and I think I've seen that picture too. But it's been a long time so I don't really remember it all that well.

Candace said...

Well, I spoke to PMSH for probably 2 minutes at a BBQ before he was PMSH. He seemed (in that tiny moment) to be a regular-kind-of-guy. For the record, I'm a recruiter so can usually read someone pretty quickly.

There was no slime or ooze or need to urgently wash my hands that I've experienced with some other politicians (who will go unnamed).

I saw him on Thursday in Edmonton, but wasn't in the right spot for the quick handshake "Thanks for coming out" non-conversation.

My (unrelated to this post) opinion? No election soon, at least not engineered by the CPC or Harper. There were no exhortations for cash for the coffers to fight the evil Liberal horde, just a "Here's what we've done, here's what we WANT to do" kind of speech.

And, yes (see BBQ above), I HAVE seen him in full "let's call an election" mode, so from my (admittedly limited) perspective, we'll only have an election this year if the opposition parties want one. (unlikely)

RGM said...

Thanks for the insights on Harper-in-person. One of the other things I've heard about him is that he's pretty good with the self-deprecating humour, which is a sign of having two feet planted firmly on the ground.
And I definitely agree with you when it comes to the prospects of an election in the short term. A couple of people I've spoken to are adamant that he's hellbent on having an election that "only he wants" but I just do not see that happening. It would mitigate his credibility on fixed election dates and the opposition would hammer him for calling "the third election in three years," which they've already been trying out. IMO, no election in 2007.