Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dion hints at Spring election

Liberals won't keep propping up the Tories that is unless the Tory polls are too high. The garbage about Canadians not wanting an election is a red-herring that has nothing to do with Liberal strategy but with the polls. If the Liberals were over 40 percent in the polls there would be no mention of Canadians not wanting an election. There are two high profile losers in waiting, waiting to knife Dion or tear the leadership mantle from his back if ever the opportunity arises. I am happy that I don't have to choose between Liberals and Tories. If I really did I am fortunate because I have already lost my sense of smell.

Dion hints at spring election; says Liberals won't keep propping up Tories
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2007 | 12:49 PM ET
Canadian Press: Joan Bryden, THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA - A tough-talking Stephane Dion appears to be setting the stage for a spring election, warning that his Liberals won't continue propping up the minority Conservative government for much longer.

Throughout the fall, Liberals have abstained on key confidence votes to avoid toppling the government and plunging the country into an election that the Grits would be hard-pressed to win.

Stephane Dion waves to delegates following his victory speech after winning the Liberal leadership in this Dec. 2, 2006, file photo in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz/File But, in an interview with The Canadian Press marking his first anniversary as Liberal leader Dec. 2, Dion predicted the survival strategy won't be necessary in the new year.

"2008 will be another ball game," he said. "You cannot keep alive forever a government who wants to die."

Dion said the decision to abstain this fall was taken because Canadians didn't want a third federal election in three years. He didn't mention that many of his own MPs, reeling in the wake of humiliating losses in three Quebec byelections last September, didn't want an election either.

However, Dion said Canadians are now paying more attention to federal politics, are becoming increasingly disenchanted with Stephen Harper's Conservative government, and are increasingly eager for an election.

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Some Liberal MPs and strategists are touting the idea of trying to bring down the government as early as February, robbing the Tories of the chance to woo voters with a tax-cut laden budget. Dion did not directly endorse the idea, but he didn't rule it out.

"I think each week I feel that (the public mood is) warmer about the idea that maybe we should revisit the kind of choice we have made in (the) 2006 (federal election). And we'll see if it's still the case in February or in March or in April."

Dion seemed remarkably upbeat for a leader whose first tumultuous year has been marked by vicious Tory attack ads depicting him as weak and indecisive, sniping from within Liberal ranks, party staff upheaval, an exodus of veteran MPs and potential candidates, and plunging leadership approval ratings.

He conceded it hasn't been an easy year, that he sometimes worries he's losing the battle to define himself to the "caricature" perpetrated by his critics. Indeed, he acknowledged that being leader of the official Opposition is generally a lousy job.

"I'm told that your best day in the Opposition is not as good as your worst day in the government," he quipped.

But Dion's situation is hardly unique in the annals of Canadian Opposition leaders. He pointed out that few occupants of his magnificent wood-panelled corner office in Parliament's Centre Block have gone on to become prime minister.

"The ones who succeed - and I intend to be one of them - have never had a free lunch, never."

Lester Pearson, he said, was three times less popular than John Diefenbaker, before winning the 1963 election. Jean Chretien trailed behind Kim Campbell shortly before winning in 1993. And Harper himself was deemed the least popular choice for prime minister before winning in 2006.

"If you think it will be easy, you will be discouraged. I knew it would not be easy. But I know that the ones who succeeded, it's because they had the conviction and they were focusing on the final result and it's what I will do, it's what I'm doing."

In some ways, Dion argued, he's better positioned than some of his predecessors. Despite his rocky start, the Liberals remain within shooting distance of the Tories, who continue to fall short of the polling numbers they'd need to win a majority.

After only two years in office, with the economy booming and unemployment near record lows, Dion said the Tories should be above 40 per cent in the polls. They aren't enjoying a honeymoon, he contended, because Canadians simply don't trust them.

"The want to pretend that they are a reasonable, centre-right party. But once in a while they cannot hide their colours."

The Tories' "lack of sincerity" is apparent, Dion maintained, on a range of issues, from their foot-dragging on climate change and their refusal to seek clemency for Canadians on death row abroad, to their denial of reports that Afghan detainees are being tortured.

While exposing the Tories' shortcomings is part of the key to victory, Dion said Liberals must also present voters with a "credible alternative." He said he's been working hard to do that, proposing an alternate climate change plan, a plan for reducing taxes, refurbishing cities and eliminating poverty - all of which he maintained have been well-received.

As the probability of an election increases and Canadians focus more closely on federal politics, Dion predicted: "The hard work we have done in 2007 will pay off."

Privately - and occasionally publicly - many Liberals contend that Dion will be dumped instantly if he loses the next election. It's a scenario the leader refuses to contemplate.

"We'll win," he insisted.

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