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Monday, September 18, 2006

Job ready

The fourth (and perhaps defining) leadership debate took place last night. This will probably be the last official opportunity for Liberals to compare the candidates side-by-side before the Delegate Selection Meetings.

What did we see?

We saw a fantastic performance from Scott Brison. He is a dynamic speaker, solid on the issues and passionate about taking on Stephen Harper (I loved his "Stephen Harper is so far right, he's wrong" line). However, I fear his French, while greatly improved, is not quite up to standard. The Liberal Party needs a bilingual leader. Scott Brison is close, but he's not job ready.

We saw a good performance from Stephane Dion. He was spirited, as always. However, his English was surprisingly weak (perhaps even incoherent at times), and he seemed quite nervous and unsure of himself. It may just have been a bad day for Stephane, because from meeting him in person, I've always felt that he exudes pep and confidence. That being said, he doesn't seem to be able to channel that confidence effectively as a communicator. Stephane Dion is good, but he often has trouble getting his message across. He's not job ready.

Ken Dryden is something else. At times, I'm amazed at the passion with which he makes his arguments. His attacks on Stephen Harper (the "write'em off" line is fantastic) are always sharp and convincing. I think Ken understands what's at stake. I think he understands that beating Stephen Harper is our most pressing task. Despite what the Gandalf poll may lead us to believe, I don't think Ken is the best person to accomplish this task. His speaking style is heavy, and he shows little depth when addressing specific issues. Perhaps he'd be a great national campaign chair, helping to shape the overall Liberal message in the next election. But as leader, he's just not job ready.

We saw another compelling performance from Hedy Fry. I think she's fabulous. She's the most motivational of the bunch. Feisty, intelligent, quick on her feet, I see no reason she wouldn't be good for the top job, other than the fact she doesn't speak French. Hedy Fry is a leader, but would not be a good Liberal leader, because as I've said before, a Liberal leader needs to be bilingual. She's not job ready.

Joe Volpe needs to stop interrupting people for no reason. It's annoying. He's not job ready.

We saw another good performance from Martha Hall Findlay. She speaks intelligently and refreshingly about the issues, and at times brings up points that some of us wouldn't otherwise consider (a complete review of the Indian Act, for instance). However, Martha needs to stop introducing herself to us. We know who she is, we know that she's new, and now, apparently, we know that Stephen Harper is afraid of her winning. I don't buy that last one. She lacks the experience needed to be leader. Give her some time in Parliament, and I think she'll grow. But for now, she's not job ready.

Gerard Kennedy did a good job. He seems to be getting into his groove as it relates to policy, showing more depth last night than I've seen in a long time. His closing speech was a barnburner. I still think he needs more time to grow into federal politics. On the issue of the Kelowna Accord, for instance, his response drifted back inevitably to the question of education. While he's made some great progress, Kennedy still has lots of room to grow as a federal politician. He's not job ready.

I don't trust Michael Ignatieff. I don't trust a person who continues to be disingenuous about his reasons for supporting the Iraq war, or who continues to speak out of both sides of his mouth on the question of national unity (regionalism is bad, but a Quebec nation is good), or who insists that he's not running to be the next Pierre Trudeau and yet invokes his memory at every opportunity. I just don't trust him. He's not being honest about his record nor is he being consistent in his pronouncements. In short, he's not job ready.

Which brings me, finally, to Bob Rae. What did we see from Bob Rae?
  • We saw a man would not have brought us into Iraq. He would not have voted for Stephen Harper's Afghanistan extension. He would not precipitiously reopen the constitutional debate. We see a man committed to Kyoto, committed to Kelowna, committed to child care. On a range of issues, Bob Rae shares the goals and values of most Liberals. Bob Rae is job ready.
  • We saw a man who is able to speak substantively about every issue presented to him. Why? Because he has substantive experience on virtually every issue facing the country today. Bob Rae is seasoned. Bob Rae is job ready.
  • We saw a man who is able to get his message across effectively, compellingly and fluently in both official languages. Bob Rae is a good communicator. Bob Rae is job ready.
  • We saw a man who understands which issues are really important to Canadians. An independent Canadian foreign policy is an important issue. Senate reform, within the context of a greater discussion on constitutional reform, is not a pressing issue. Bob Rae understands Canadians. Bob Rae is job ready.
  • We saw a man who understands that all this talk of "nation building" and "bringing hope to Canadians" means absolutely nothing if Stephen Harper remains Prime Minister. Nice words aren't enough. Innovative policies, while great to have, aren't enough. It's about having the experience, the levelheadedness and the communication skills to bring people together, to get our message across and to convince Canadians that the Liberal alternative is better. Bob Rae knows what's at stake. Bob Rae is job ready.

For me, that's what it comes down to. Sure, I'm biased. I won't pretend to be a neutral observer, because I'm not. But more and more, I'm getting the sense that others are beginning to feel the same way. Bob Rae. Job ready.