William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

thoughts on the Liberal leadership speeches

I didn’t work on any of my term papers today, and spent way too much time in front of the TV following the Liberal Leadership Convention.

Overall, I was really impressed by almost all of the candidates (I slept through most of Joe Volpe’s speech after his video which was basically a glorified PowerPoint presentation).

I came into today thinking that I didn’t like Bob Rae because of his defensiveness concerning his time as Ontario premier that he exhibited during early media interviews. But it seems that now he’s this congenial, charismatic, driven, and gifted speaker. Being from the Maritimes, I guess I don’t know Rae as much as I should like.

He impresses me because he seems really good with people, and when he was congratulating his competitors on their speeches, he wasn’t just politicking – you could tell that he meant it. And he has a great sense of humour. For me, his speech was the best overall, striking the perfect balance of rhetoric and spontaneity. He was also the only one who dared tell a joke:

“Stephen Harper took his Cabinet out to dinner. The waiter asked what he’d have, and he said ‘Steak.’ The waiter asked, ‘What about the vegetables?’ ‘They’ll have steak, too.’”

What I think I would like to see is a you-steer, I’ll-work-the-gas-and-brakes arrangement with Bob Rae as the mouthpiece. But maybe that’s not what is needed most for the Liberals right now.

Martha Hall Findlay: She had a really sharp presentation and deserves future consideration. Just take Stronach and add personality. You’ll notice that Stronach is a brunette this weekend.

Scott Brison: I hope he sticks around for the second ballot. I had no idea he was such a good speaker. CBC just about forced me to write them a nasty e-mail when they put on the screen that Brison was twice elected as a “Conservative MP” in 1997 and 2000, had stepped down for “Conservative leader Joe Clark” and had run for the leadership. No, “Progressive Conservative,” and I’m always ready to draw the distinction. CTV got it right though, as anyone who follows politics more than once a decade would.

Gerard Kennedy: Appeals to Western Canada, said in his speech that he would win seats in Alberta and that “Canada is counting on us to win the next election, and we won’t let them down!”

Ken Dryden: I could live with any of these candidates as Prime Minister (the only Liberal leader to fail to become Prime Minister is from the nineteenth century: Edward Blake, the second leader of the party), but Dryden would be an inspired choice. He has a lot of fire in him, and I like how he said he’d stick around tomorrow. He talked a lot about how he’s distressed that the “small-thinking” Conservatives are undermining his vision of Canada. He said to a reporter, “I want my Canada back!”

Dion: He would be a highly respectable choice, though I worry about how he’d perform in election debates and in Question Period. But if he’s suddenly thrust into a position where he has to speak English almost every hour of every day, he’ll improve very quickly. It’s all nitpicking anyway, he was eloquent and decisive, and it’s easy to forget that he missed a few words here and there.

BTW, I have an idea for a Liberal Drinking Game: Take a drink every time you hear “social justice.” Stéphane Dion will have you under the table in no time.

Still on Dion, was it he that said, “The NDP doesn’t understand the market economy, and the Conservatives don’t understand social justice?” I know he did say that he’d like to take those two traditional piers of Liberalism and add environmental sustainability. Take a drink every time the environment is mentioned; if a candidate says “climate change” or “global warming,” take two.

Okay, who’s left… Ah! Michael Ignatieff! If he becomes leader and eventually Prime Minister, the delegates at this convention will be cursed by millions of future history students who need to look up the spelling every time they refer to the 40th Canadian Parliament.

But seriously, he is one of the greatest intellectuals we have. If we want a Philosopher king, here he is. He’s got lots of new ideas about a green economy, and he’s got a great way of explaining high concepts in layperson’s terms. (Paul Martin had this talent as well, which I feel he didn’t employ nearly often enough. You don’t often find yourself wishing that a political figure would talk more, but there you have it.)

I also like that Ignatieff said, with regards to post-secondary education in his ideal Canada, “If you’ve got the grades, you get to go!” We’ll hold him to that.


- Joe Volpe put himself into irrelevance shockingly fast. He did make some good points about making things easier for new Canadians, and I’m definitely with him there as far as things like credential-recognition go. But his time at the convention was short, as he crossed over to Rae before the first ballot was even counted. It was obviously staged, and it makes a bit of a mockery of the process: You’re a Volpe delegate who has yet to vote, and you have Volpe’s name automatically checked off on your ballot. Wouldn’t you then feel that voting was a bit of a waste of time?

- Ignatieff got less than 30% on the first ballot (29.3%). Rae got 20.3%, so Dion at 17.8% is perfectly positioned to leapfrog over the two of them if he gets enough outside support. I think getting outside support is going to be a struggle for Rae, even with Volpe coming over to his camp. Dion will roll down a hill like a snowball in a cartoon and accumulate hundreds of delegates. Kennedy will be an interesting Kingmaker.

- Findlay’s votes, though the smallest in number, will carry some extra suasion to whomever she takes her votes. She won’t be the next Liberal Leader, but she will have an important role, at about the same magnitude as Brison’s. I say this both because she is the the only woman candidate and because she has a certain poise and drive that is not reflected in the voting results.

Oh, and there’s good news concerning Twelfth Night. Looks like I’m playing Malvolio. This will be Yet Another Malcontent™ among the roles I’ve played over the years, and sometimes I’m alarmed at the frequency with which I play argumentative, opinionated characters. I wonder who is playing Sir Toby Belch, my favourite character, the festive drunk? Anyway, I need to think about what I can bring to my role as the outcast, the puritan, and the only (or nearly the only) single person at the end of the play who doesn’t get married. I hope I don’t end up becoming the character!
Tags: bob rae, candidates, conventions, jokes, liberal, plays, politics, school, smuds, speeches, theatre, tv

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