I had a very nice Chinese food lunch today with Ken Dryden, Briony Penn, Anne Park Shannon, Keith Martin and many other Vancouver Island Liberals. I arrived fairly early, seated myself at a table and listened attentively to the chatter. Not surprisingly, the buzz around my table was all about Dion and May. Reaction to the Dion/May pact from the Liberals at my table was 100% positive. People seemed quite pleased the arrangement had managed to tick off the NDP and the Cons believing this to be a sign of good progress. I had a few people inquire about the response to the agreement on my blog and I had to confirm that it appears to have really irritated NDPers. Briony Penn also commented on the positive vibes coming from constituents in her riding; she was excited and pleased about the initial response to the agreement.
Ken Dryden gave a speech and indicated there is lots of speculation that we will be going to the polls sooner rather than later, and likely before the summer. Dryden believes Liberals need to get ready because the stakes are enormously high in this election. He noted that when it was the Progressive Conservative’s (PC) in power, the differences between Liberals and PC’s were quite small, negligible even, but this is no longer the case. The differences between the Liberals and the Conservatives are now vivid and vast; a deep chasm exists that is difficult to overcome.
Dryden sympathised with those that have been hardest hit by Conservative funding cuts, including: child care, the environment, aboriginal people and poverty groups. These large, important, powerful, and once highly vocal groups have begun to fall strangely silent, hoping that Con direction will change and their funding will be restored. Harper’s derision of them through funding cuts has deeply and wrongly affected their sense of self- importance.
Harper tries to control them, by promising small token amounts. The message is “this is a Prime Minster you don’t want angry at you” and as long as they keep their mouths shut and stop complaining, perhaps they will be lucky enough to have some funding returned. What these groups need now is substantial and significant funding, not thin tokens offered for good behaviour. Just when they need the most support, less is coming out. Quiet voices will not return significant funding to these groups. Without their voices, we will always get the same result and it just doesn’t work. We need to help them find their voices again.
If you examine where we after 2 Con budgets on the environment, child care, education, poverty and aboriginal health/wellness; we can see that the Conservative economic plan is going to damage Canadian competitiveness. If we consider what this could look 5-10 years down the road, we should all be deeply concerned. The Conservative plan for Canada is just not good enough and the Liberals can do better. We are an immensely successful country and we have an opportunity to be a more important country.
Dryden calls Harper a tactician. Political parties need tacticians, but Canada needs a leader, a Prime Minister. Harper has acted as a divider; he picks sides and he is not a gatherer. A leader is supposed to lead for all Canadians, not just some Canadians. I don’t accept the premise that Harper is a leader. The concepts are very different. Do we really want a tactician or someone who is serious about their platform?
Harper’s approach is your either in or you are out. Can Harper win with that? Yes, but can Canada win? No. We have only to look South to see what the politics of division can wrought for a country. Has it worked for the United States? It doesn’t work. This is our challenge.
Dryden described Harper as a man that likes to talk about himself as a leader who is decisive; but how useful is it to be decisively wrong? Then Dryden used his golf game as an analogy, explaining that when he plays golf he can hit the ball really hard and very far, but he can’t hit it straight. All that results from this effort is hitting the ball further into the woods. Canada doesn’t want or need a PM who is adept at hitting the ball in the wrong direction.
Dryden says the Liberals will win as people start to become fully cognisant of the differences. We don’t want someone who can hit the ball far into the woods, but I see the Canada the Cons are building and if we emphasize the contrast in vision, we can show what Canada is and what is can be.
Keith Martin finished out the speeches by thanking Dryden stating its going to be a tough battle but Liberals can succeed if we are together.
At the meetings conclusion, two interesting Q & A’s were asked. I am going to save the answer to the “how do you convince an NDPer voter to vote Liberal” for another post.
A liberal asked: Is the party really behind Dion? Because we keep hearing through the media that not all Liberals are behind Dion and it is causing a great deal of anxiety for Liberals all across the country.
Dryden explained that Liberals were 100% behind Dion for many reasons, but the most important is they know they cannot win unless they are 100% behind Dion. There is nothing like needing a win to generate loyalty to the leader of a team. Dryden believes Dion has rightfully earned the opportunity to lead the Liberals. Dryden also believes Dion is underestimated. He explained that Dion has been knocked down many times but he has never seen anyone more capable of getting back up. He was written off for most of the leadership campaign but Dion wouldn’t lie down. He is a real competitor and he will be everywhere.
PS: I did take a picture of Anne Park Shannon with Dryden but it’s too blurry to post.