William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

thoughts on the Liberal leadership vote

Stéphane Dion is the new Liberal leader, a francophone technocrat who came up from fourth place in committed delegates to third on the first ballot, gaining a little on the second, and leading after the fourth.

It’s scary how easily it could have been Gerard Kennedy. It’s apparent that they had a deal to support whoever came in ahead, and Dion beat Kennedy initially by only a few votes. Just a few votes could have altered the course of Canadian history.

Anyway, Dion pulled off an amazing feat, though he was helped by the polarization of Ignatieff and Rae. I said Rae would have a hard time pulling in outside support, and he did, but Ignatieff had it even worse, relative to his initial lead. None of the other candidates came his way…

Volpe: Gone to Rae almost before it began. Gone to Dion after the 3rd. “Who’s that? Oh, I remember now!”
Findlay: Gone to Dion after being forced off in the 1st ballot.
Brison: Gone to Rae after the 1st ballot. Gone to Dion after the 3rd.
Dryden: Gone to Rae after being forced off in the 2nd ballot. Gone to Dion after the 3rd.
Kennedy: Gone to Dion after the 2nd.
Rae: After being forced off after the 3rd, released his candidates and “voted with his conscience.”
Ignatieff: By custom, called for “unanimous” acclamation of Dion after the 4th.

Most of them “released” their delegates after they withdrew, leaving them free to follow their former candidate or not as they would. It was largely a symbolic gesture in my opinion, since all the delegates were free to vote however they wanted post-1st-ballot anyway.

After the 2nd ballot it seemed like Rae had all the momentum, but the factions that headed in his direction were just too small. Kennedy was wise to make Dion king, because if he had went to Rae or Ignatieff, the two remaining candidates would have gotten together, and the front-runner he didn’t choose could have easily won. But he probably knew Rae and Ignatieff had too much at stake to do anything but shake hands with each other. It’s reminiscent of Crosbie and Clark in ’83, when Mulroney came through to take the Tory leadership in that historic convention.

Ignatieff probably recruited his spin-doctors from the Hussein Information Ministry. While none of the other candidates came to his camp, his handlers continually proclaimed the defections of minor-league party organizers the Rest of Us have never heard of, along with all their delegates, and every ballot was a bellwether of great things. And the Republican Guard crushed the Infidels, and had them begging Allah for mercy.

This turn of events may have implications here in Halifax West, where our own Geoff Regan, who held the Fisheries portfolio under Martin and who is known as a hard worker, came in (and presumably was left) supporting Ignatieff, which a few days ago looked like a shrewd position. Now the question is, does he return to Cabinet in the inevitable Dion Liberal minority government? All the signs point to this being a far less fractious convention than 1990 or 2003, but he’s still going to have his work cut out for him. Still, if he’s survived this long through both Chrétien and Martin, he’ll probably stick around.

Dion made a few pretty good jokes in his acceptance speech. “I guess you all wanted to hear the rest of my speech! … When you’re the leader, they don’t cut off your mic!” he joked, referring to his running out of time in his speech last night.

Give Dion credit for doing what had to be done to squeeze out every possible vote, which he had to do before Kennedy came over to seal the deal. He tried really hard with his speech, and today he came in like an expectant hero, with Findlay in tow and new green shirts and hats and posters, symbolizing a fresh start as well as his purported enviro-economic awareness.

So let the battle begin! There’s only one thing left that I have to complain about, and that’s how the convention organizers draaaaaaged out the wait for the 4th ballot results. Peter Mansbridge (probably correctly) supposed that this was being done to hit the Eastern Time supper-hour TV slot, although they were doing it at the expense of their current viewers, who like me were probably fuming at Yet Another Liberal Propaganda Video™. Even John Manley said that this was positively inhumane to Ignatieff, who was sitting there knowing he was going to lose and probably wanting to just get it all over with. I quote, “If they think this is going to get them one more vote, they’re living in a Technicolor dreamworld.”

They dragged it out like children who don’t want to go to bed, taking what seemed like two hours to count the simplest, two-way ballot. Chrétien’s speech was rousing and memorable, and I’m glad they put him in there. But it got ridiculous at 20 minutes to the hour when everyone was ready and the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum duo of MCs came out and announced that everybody needed to pull back from the stage for “security reasons.” Then they played more music. Then they announced a bunch of housekeeping items. They kept it going so that they opened the envelope at like 6:58, then went through the total votes and votes required in both English and French, making sure to pause for at least five seconds between the French lead-off man and the English backup who was completely unnecessary except perhaps for the six year olds in the audience who haven’t yet learned to count in French. Finally, at 7:00 on the dot, they put up Dion’s numbers.

I imagine the networks were irate, and while I don’t know what CTV did, Global rewarded this time-wasting by going back to regular programming as soon as Dion’s votes were announced. CBC, to their credit, stuck around until Dion was about 1/3 of the way through his speech, and the rest could be heard simply by switching to CBC Newsworld.

Let this be a lesson to any political party in any country: Don’t piss off the networks.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this new political era. It’s becoming wide-open, and minority governments will probably be the norm for some time to come. We’ll probably see a smattering of independents and Greens elected next time around, and we can expect more voices like Garth Turner’s in the blogosphere (check out his LJ feed at garthturnerblog). The technocrats will share space with the media magnates, and backbenchers’ days as pack animals are numbered. Mind you, this is all wildly optimistic of me, and it has little to do with the Liberal Convention itself. But I have this feeling that we’re turning a new page. We’ll see how things play out.
Tags: candidates, conventions, ignatieff, liberal, politics, stéphane dion, tv

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