Randall Denley, Ottawa Citizen - I've just met Liberal leader Stephane Dion for the first time and I have to say, it was a frightening experience. The thought that this fellow could become the prime minister of Canada ought to alarm us.
Everythingabout Dion seems soft, from his handshake to his policies. His appearance at the Citizen editorial board Friday confirmed the fears I had when the Liberals chose him as their leader. Dion is a verbose, mild-mannered academic with a shaky grasp of English who seems unfit to chair a university department, much less lead a country. Don't takemy word for it. You can catch the interview yourself at ottawacitizen.com.
The Liberal leader is probably very smart in an academic sort of way and quite a decent person, but his ideas reflect the full, knee-jerk left-wing spectrum, and he can't even articulate them well. Nuclear power? He's against it because of concerns about the waste. At the same time that he's against this clean source of electrical power, the Liberal leader is for a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases.
He's snidely un-American, in the way that the Liberal elite so often is. Canada's failure to meet its Kyoto commitments was partly due to the Americans' election of Kyoto-unfriendly George W. Bush, Dion would have us believe. Dion doesn't seem to have learned much from the mistakes of his predecessor, Paul Martin, the man who thought American-bashing would get him re-elected.
Dion is, of course, opposed to an increased private sector role in health care and thinks the federal government would play a useful role by identifying best health care practices, so all the provinces can follow them. Here's a best practice: having enough doctors and nurses. That means having enough money. What's his plan?
Dion tries to tie every issue back to the environment, since it's the one area where he's supposed to be strong. Unfortunately, he's a one-issue candidate with no coherent position on that issue.
Dion can't say often enough how unfortunate it is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has wasted a year by not immediately enacting the Liberal environmental strategy. That still compares favourably to the seven or eight years the Liberals wasted. Greenhouse gas emissions went up under the Liberals' watch, but now Dion is attacking Harper for not fixing it all at the last minute. That just doesn't make sense.
Hopeful Liberals have suggested that one of Dion's strengths is that he's not a slick politician. But it's tough to make an asset out of that. Dion isn't one of those down to earth guys like Ralph Klein. He's more like the wooly-headed professor next door. He simply cannot give a clear, succinct answer to a question. It's a necessary skill for any politician at his level.
Harper just wants to build up the military and cut taxes, Dion says, and it's clear that any right-thinking, sorry, left-thinking, person would realize how ridiculous that is. While these priorities may not galvanize Canadians, what is Dion offering us? He wants to make Canada a world leader in "water management."
I'm not a natural consumer of the Liberal brand, but as a voter, I like to feel that I have two valid choices. With Stephane Dion as Liberal leader, that's simply not the case.