Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

LPC(O) AGM - Leadership Impressions

Here, in no particular order and without much forethought, are the impressions I gleaned over the course of this past weekend. I had more of a chance with some candidates than others, but I feel generally that I have solidified my understanding of most.

I think it is unfortunate that our (mine and his) politics are as disparate as they are, because on a character and leadership qualities level I was considerably impressed. To corroborate a point that Steve made in a very recent post, Brison is presenting the most tangible and carefully conceived platform of any candidate. In a campaign thus far soaked in banality, Brison is able to answer just about any question he receives with a specific and detailed policy proposition. He demonstrated this particularly on Saturday afternoon, when he spoke to young Liberals in a smaller forum. On these grounds I find him to be considerable ahead of his competition. To be clear, I don't like his policy platform, but I like that he has one. On top of that, he is witty and genuine.
It wasn't all good, though. He came closest to criticizing the rest of the field than any other candidate. That alone doesn't bother me, but his criticisms missed considerably. He repeatedly emphasized that he didn't feel leaders should be locking themselves in to a right/left ideology. He essentially paraphrased Ignatieff's "plant the standard of liberalism in the centre-left" line in illustration. He said that this was an ideology of the 1960s, and that the world is more complicated now. The latter point is, obviously, utterly ridiculous. Making policy is complicated, yes, but one wonders what has changed that makes it particularly so. The criticism particularly falls short when addressed to Ignatieff. This is a distinctly leftist individual who has come out in support of what are received to be right wing initiatives. In other words, no candidate seems less likely to become locked in to one ideology rather than approaching policy on a pratical case basis.

An excellent barn burner of a speech on Friday night. I thought his and Ignatieff's were the best (with Hedy Fry close behind - and I absolutely mean that). He began with a focus on the Kelowna Accord and spoke exceptionally well. Say what you will about his record as a premier, he did take some strong strides with the First Nations people of Ontario.
He was also impersonable and shockingly rude, for one who is seeking support. I'm not terribly bothered by that, though. I'd have trouble feigning interest in me if I were in his position.
Right-hand man Greg Sorbara, on the other hand, was more than willing to engage me intensely. He told me, via some convoluted baseball analogy, to stow my idealism and understand that picking a leader is about picking someone who can win an election. Michael Ignatieff, he told me, can not win. "Electability" talk always drives me crazy anyways, but it's particularly hard to receive from a Rae supporter at an Ontario convention.

Over the course of the weekend, he both near-impressed me and near-cast me from his cause with a vengeance. His French, firstly, is really very bad. I'm with Geoffrey Simpson on that one. This "fluently bilingual" stuff is utter mythology. He's not much better than Brison, and Brison has been killed for language ability. That should be a major concern for any Kennedy supporter. Secondly, he has a very sexy voice.
So how was I near-impressed? I didn't think much of his Friday speech at all, but on Saturday afternoon he said some very interesting things. He announced his intention to create a cohesive national plan for engergy production and consumption. In doing so, he actually came within an eyelash of saying something very positive about the old NEP. With seeming deep pride he told the gathering that he had been present when the NEP was signed. This takes courage. He also, at that same Saturday afternoon address, announced that he did not want to see government reduced in any way, shape, or form. He took this a step farther, saying that he was not afraid to raise taxes if he had to. Given the vast task resources the Tory government has just forfeited, this is a conversation we are going to have to have. Again, a courageous statement.
Having said this, my previous frustration with him remains. To once again paraphrase Geoffrey Simpson, there just isn't much substance there. He still relies on rhetoric. He still has yet to present anything in the way of actual policy. He still tends to say things like "I follow a philosophy of respect for people." When asked about environmental policy, his response ran something along the lines of "We should strive to meet objectives." It is often difficult to glean from him anything beyond that he is in favour of Canada, and opposed to evil. That isn't enough for this Liberal. The bottom line is that I feel I share with Kennedy some basic values - I'm told repeatedly over the weekend by one rabid supporter that he is the candidate of the "little guy" - but I need to see substance before I would begin to think about support.

Great speech on Friday night. I thought he represented himself well. He has developed an icy glare, with which he scours his audience. He is an orator, unquestionably. On Saturday I was able to attend a private audience that he held for bloggers. I looked forward to this intensely. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to ask him for particulars, about settling First Nations land claims, about Federalism, etc. It wasn't - although through no fault of his. Instead, the discussion became quagmired on the issue of blogging itself as an evolving medium. An interesting topic, perhaps. But not surprisngly, Ignatieff had little insight to offer (whereas I believe he would've had some pretty serious insight about Michael Ignatieff). Although he looked a little bored (and I was right there with him), he did his best to respond to what was asked of him. He has an underrated sense of humour.

He did this thing in his speech where he alternated dynamics. He'd start out speaking softly and lull you into complacency, and then he'd say something loud and emotive. It wasn't very effective.

She has that husky, throaty voice that I associated with sorority girls on Saturday morning. But I think she's an underrated candidate. It's unfortunate her organization isn't larger than it is.

Ditto on the underrated comment. She delivered a damn good speech, and I afterwards she really impressed me when we spoke one-on-one. If that opens me up to ridicule, so be it.

Not charismatic in the traditional sense, but he is able to invoke sympathy.

I didn't see enough of the others to glean any sort of impression.


Blogger Vincent Riccio said...

I was at the LPCO AGM as well, sorry I missed you!

Great recap!

11:25 PM  
Blogger jane said...

I just read Hedy Fry's speech on her website -- pretty powerful stuff!

11:56 PM  
Anonymous The Northerner said...

Good recap of the LPCO. I am still leaning to Kennedy. The French issue I differ with you on. He speaks much better than Brison and understands fully. He never said he spoke fluently, only outside sources claimed that. He will be functionally bilingual to take on Harper.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It just amazes me that so many seek to criticize Gerard Kennedy yet it appears this is the only guy in the race talking ideas, policy and possible solutions. I give him full credit for opening up the debate and starting to engage discussion on important issues.

I note your summary from LPC(O) was very skinny on what the others had to say because in effect, they didn't say much at all. I'd really like to know the "specifics" that other candidates are talking about...hmmm...

The race is very early and Kennedy is just warming up.

8:40 AM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

Yeah, it's too bad we missed each other Vincent!

8:47 AM  
Blogger Cerberus said...

Nice summary. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it beyond Friday but your thoughts were uncannily pretty close to my own about the candidates actually:


9:31 AM  
Anonymous rob in toronto said...





9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have said it before...I am a huge supporter of Hedy over the years living in her riding...
I have always thought when is she going to get the recognition she deserves.....
the cross thing so long ago...she was new....
she is very passionate and strong....
and I think people are going to see the side of her that so many of us in Vancouver love and support.....

she could just come out of no where as I said befor and shock everyone

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your impressions re the various candidates. Obviously in a leadership race there is a certain element of preaching to the choir but the bigger picture is how will the voting public receive them? Each candidate should take note of what's being said about them whether they agree with the commentary or not. One thing I learned about criticism as a writer is this little gem: if you keep hearing the same thing from different people, you need to pay attention. If you're not communicating the message you want to communicate you need to revisit "how" you communicate. It's important to be clear and specific. If you spend a lot of time defending your views from misinterpretation, you're wasting energy that's needed to deliver your message.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Zac said...

I think your assesment of Kennedy is very apt.

Like a few other candidates, he relies on rhetoric. I have yet to see anything significant on the policy front.

Kennedy is very good at arousing passion within those who hear him speak. He sells himself well, but not his ideas. He's still in my top 5, though.

I didn't see much of Rae over the weekend. I saw him in the elevator at one point and instead of doing the usual politician move of shaking everyone's hand and welcoming them, he just kinda stood there. People said hello to him and he said hi back, but that was it.

I had a chance to speak with Martha a few times, I must admit I was impressed, as I had known little of her before. Her organization is very, very, very small. When I mentioned that I would be interested in attending a Martha event if she came to Hamilton, her campaign team asked me to organize it for them, a bit odd. Either way, a very nice lady.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Sholdice said...

Ha ha - rabid supporter...

4:59 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

I promised you mention, Sholdice.

9:52 AM  

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