Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dion and Harper: No Comparison

This is from the Star.
Many Conservatives complain constantly about the Star's bias towards the Liberals. Perhaps this article will show that at least sometimes Harper is treated positively and the Liberals or at least Dion negatively. I agree with much of what the article has to say. In fact more could be said. The article does not even mention Dion's weakness as an opposition leader in refusing to vote against Conservative motions. Also, it would seem that sometimes Dion did listen to others in his caucus. He wanted to confront the Conservatives even if it forced an election but others held him back. As a result Harper got to say when the election would be held. I am not sure that the Green Shift was just Dion's idea. I expect it was formulated by a number of Liberals even though obviously some others found it a bad policy for fighting an election.
What Harper has positively achieved for the Conservatives is well described in the article. The party is not about to dump him in spite of his not achieving a majority. He has a strong minority and a very weak Liberal opposition.

Dion and Harper: No comparison

Oct 19, 2008 04:30 AM
Angelo Persichilli
Since last Tuesday, I have been asked two questions by friends.
First, why was former Liberal leader John Turner given a second chance in 1984 despite winning fewer seats than Stéphane Dion?
And second, if Dion is such a bad leader, why has no one challenged the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who wasn't able to go beyond another minority government despite facing the worst Liberal leader ever?
Let me start with the first question.
Looking at the numbers, it appears Dion hasn't been treated fairly. But the political reality is different.
Turner had to go into a federal election campaign just a few weeks after his election as party leader and didn't have the time to prepare properly. Furthermore, he had to cope with unfair comparisons to his charismatic predecessor Pierre Trudeau while, at the same time, inheriting all the negatives of a government that was facing a bad recession and saddled with patronage accusations.
Another difference is that Turner, unlike Dion, worked diligently with his advisers. He was a team player.
Dion, on the contrary, essentially ran his own campaign, disregarding the advice of his friends, experts, party executives and most of the people who put him at the top. He considered the campaign a personal affair, jeopardizing the credibility of many good people associated with it.
Dion, unlike Turner, also did not have to carry a government record on his shoulders because he was in the opposition. Yes, the effects of the sponsorship scandal still lingered, but he also enjoyed the credibility of previous Liberal governments that, as he liked to say, had a good record of managing the economy and eliminating "the huge deficit created by the Conservatives."
He has been stubborn, politically incompetent and ignored the educated opinions of whoever was not in sync with his plan, the infamous Green Shift carbon tax. Add his lack of charisma to this mix and it's easy to understand why no one is willing to go through this nightmare again.
The context of Harper's campaign was completely different.
Dion had a party behind him – the brand name of the Liberal party is still solid and it was that brand that has saved him from even greater humiliation.
Harper, on the contrary, is still rebuilding a party brand destroyed in the disaster of the 1993 election. He gathered a fragmented party in his hands while on his back he bore more than a decade of negative labels created by effective Liberal propaganda. When he began, the Conservatives had been destroyed in Ontario, were non-existent in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and were barricaded in the West. It was a party ideologically split between a right wing led by Preston Manning and the Red Tories led by the quixotic Joe Clark. Harper has also been saddled in English Canada with whatever happened 15 years ago between Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber, and in Quebec was even considered responsible for the defeat of the French troops on the Plains of Abraham.
Unlike Dion, Harper didn't have a brand name behind him. Harper was the brand and the party. In five years he has been able to put together this divided group, bringing it back from the edge of obliteration to the opposition benches, then to a minority government and now to a government that is still a minority, but stronger.
Of course he has made mistakes, but more in message than substance. I wouldn't for a moment compare his political resumé with Dion's.
Both are intelligent, but while Harper complements intelligence with pragmatism and a good dose of reality, Dion resorts to stubbornness and hubris. In politics, that is a lethal combination.
Angelo Persichilli is the political editor of Corriere Canadese. His column appears Sunday.

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