First off, all the candidates have certain attributes which I find attractive and I believe this is a relatively strong field. Endorsing one candidate doesn't translate into blind bias, nor does it mean you can't be positive about others. Deciding who to support tomorrow has been a complicated exercise, with many factors to weigh. With that in mind, I have ultimately decided that my vision of what the Liberal Party should be is best articulated by Gerard Kennedy.
I must say, I don't sense the urgency with many Liberals moving forward, as I think there should be. Make no mistake, Canadians have overwhelmingly rejected the Liberal brand and I suspect the damage would have been greater (ala Mulroney) if the alternative was more palatable. I approach this convention as though the Liberals need a radical facelift, simple tinkering woefully inadequate. Paramount to this belief, a fresh start that lacks baggage and ties to the old guard. I want someone who doesn't have to defend the old Liberal government, effectively giving Harper an unnecessary escape valve (i.e the environment). I want someone who isn't sidetracked by past experiences, so much so that it detract from the future. I want someone who is fundamentally progressive, exhibits the energy to enact real change and believes we need to do things differently. I want someone who speaks to western Canada beyond soundbites, and appreciates the fact that alienation is real and festering. I want someone who isn't afraid to make bold promises and has shown an ability to get things done. IMHO, Gerard Kennedy fits all the criteria.
Much of this debate has surrounded the idea of experience. I find it particularly partisan to paint Kennedy as some inexperienced rookie who needs seasoning. Do people forget who was the star minister, with the key portfolio, in our largest province? Do people disregard Kennedy's proven ability to bring people together, despite the institutional challenges and deliver real change? Fair point to speak to foreign affairs, but equally fair to point out that most American Presidents come to office with no experience on this file, yet are expected to essentially lead the world. The question for me, how do you gauge Kennedy's natural instincts on international matters? In my opinion, Kennedy's was quite shrewd with his accurate assessment of the Afghan mission and where we need to go moving forward. Kennedy has also demonstrated that he understands Canada's place in the world, or at least where it should be.
The candidates with the supposed experience are also the ones with the sizeable baggage that is hard to reconcile. Dion has an impressive resume in dealing with Quebec, yet that very experience is a real sore spot for many people. Dion has experience on the environment, yet as we saw yesterday, his past tenure opens him up to easy criticisms about past failures- "we were about to do something" seems incredibly weak to me. Rae's experience is equally ample, but also just as problematic. Please point to one recent article on Rae that doesn't reference his turbulent tenure as Premier. I don't want to rehash the past in the least, I want to move forward. Are these two men the best choice if this is the consideration? So, in my mind, experience, or at least how it is characterized, seems a double-edged sword, with Kennedy the best positioned to present a fresh start.
With regard to the central criticism of Kennedy, that being his French, I think this perceived weakness is overplayed and decidedly temporary. Does anyone dispute the fact that Kennedy's French hasn't improved in a relatively short time? I easily see a scenario where Kennedy's French is on par with Harper in short order. On policy, Kennedy is a natural fit with a relatively progressive Quebec. I don't buy the scaremongering that suggests Quebec is lost with Kennedy at the helm. Does Kennedy enjoy much support in Quebec within this leadership race? Clearly no, but that doesn't translate to damnation in the aftermath of this convention. If Kennedy improves his French further, and I see nothing to suggest he won't, I believe Quebecers will ultimately be open to his agenda, particularly as it is contrasted with Harper's.
I also think it important to recognize that Kennedy seems to be the only candidate that puts a premium on reaching out to Western Canada. You can sense that this reconciliation is a priority when Kennedy speaks- the fact that he starts from a position that almost defends the west, as opposed to the usual mental afterthought that is completely alienating. I have lived in western Canada recently and am convinced that the alienation is real, potential dangerous and demands an urgent understanding. The Liberal Party must re-build its image in the west and to my mind Kennedy is leaps and bounds ahead on this score. I don't even care if it immediately translates into seats, so long as there is a sense that perceptions are changing.
Another criticism of Kennedy seems to be that he is "boring" and "uninspiring". I recommend a viewing at this link, because I don't think anyone with an ounce of objectivity can't help but be impressed. Kennedy has proven that he can motivate people in the past, I don't see how that is no longer the case now.
I want to win the next election and I truly believe, when all factors are included, Kennedy presents the best opportunity. The Liberal Party house doesn't need a fresh coat of paint, it needs to be gutted and rebuilt. For anyone who embraces a fresh start, backed up with progressive ideals with an eye to the future, Kennedy seems the natural fit. Ultimately, I can support whomever wins, I just think Kennedy is our best choice.