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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Insights from the Edmonton forum

So here I am, watching a repeat of the Liberal Leadership forum from the comfort of my own couch (special thanks goes out to the telecom companies for advancing the quality of broadband technology). There were no "knockout" blows in this thing, but then again, the format didn't call for it, and rightfully so. This was, first and foremost, an opportunity to hear from the candidates themselves. Some, I've heard from before. With others, this was my first chance to hear them speak about their visions for Canada and the Liberal Party.

I found all of the speeches to be interesting. Godfrey's speech was particularly insightful and stood out the most in my opinion. I had no idea he had an eleven year old son. It certainly gives me a better appreciation of why he's chosen to pursue the leadership. After all, he's generallly perceived to be an underdog, based on his age and low profile. My gut tells me people may be underestimating him, though. He has experience in politics, academia, media and other pursuits. Keep your eye on him, he's one to watch...

I was impressed with Bob Rae's wit, eloquence, his call for civility and his readiness to take on his so-called "baggage" head on. As he mentioned afterwards, one person's baggage is another person's experience. It remains to be seen how well he'll fare among longtime Liberals who may be weary of his shallow roots in the party and his perceived unelectibility in Ontario. As I've stated in the past, I think he's a far better politician than many of us give him credit for. Others, including respected Liberals Eddie Goldenberg, George Smitherman and Greg Sorbara (who was a member of the Peterson government defeated by Rae's NDP in 1990) seem to think he can connect with voters in my home province of Ontario. I would tend to agree, but I'll leave it to Mr. Rae to prove it for himself.

Brison definitely showed why young people across the country seem to be jumping onboard his campaign. He presented as young, energetic, passionate, modern and optimistic. He talked about representing a "new generation of leadership and a new generation of ideas." He talked about "engaging youth" to build stonger communities and a stonger world. I can't wait to see his specific policy proposals. No doubt, they will be innovative and will inspire much debate within the party. Of all the candidates, I think Brison, along with Kennedy to a certain degree, can best connect with the youth of our party. He appeals to our sense of optimism, to our belief that as a country, we can do more and should do more. If youth, enthusiasm and a spirit of "generational change" is what the Liberal Party is looking for (my guess is it is), then Scott Brison should be at or near the top of our list.

I was impressed with Kennedy's talk of a new Liberal value of "enterprise." I see no reason why liberalism and entrepreneurship in Canada should be mutually exclusive. Business definitely has a role to play in improving the lives of Canadians, and I'm glad Mr. Kennedy agrees. Again, this speaks to the general sense of "forward-lookingness" we seem to want. I was also impressed with his talk of "redefining Liberalism." It's hard to go before the Canadian people and ask for their votes when all of our positions, even those most fundamental to our purpose as a party, seem to be subject to debate or negotiation. I've been talking to friends about this for a while, and I'll probably have something more to say in a future post. Suffice it to say, I'd like to see Kennedy flesh out his ideas on this issue. He's on the right track.

Findlay definitely should not be counted out. I really like her. She presents as genuine and honest, and is also very funny. She did not seem at all uncomfortable on the stage. In fact, she was forceful at times, which really impressed me. Overall, she demontrated why we should all be taking her seriously. Her support can only grow, in my opinion. Another one to watch carefully...

The others generally performed as I expected. Dion, as always, was passionate, particularly in French. Ignatieff, as always, was smooth and academic, although I worry his efforts to look and sound sincere will be perceived as being the total opposite. Bennett was fiery, as were Fontana and Volpe. Dhalla, McCallum, Bevilacqua, Fry and Zed spoke well, but did nothing much to impress me. I'm not sure what to make of the gentleman from Montreal, Mr. Blais. I've never heard of him, and I wasn't aware he was a candidate. In any case, he spoke at length, in both English in French, about the status of Health Care in Canada.

All in all, an insightful watch. If you get the chance, check out the CTV website for video from the event.