03 October 2006

Gerard Kennedy in Quebec

Well, my guy Gerard Kennedy got clobbered in Quebec. It makes me wonder a few things:

Firstly, is his French that bad? I'm not fluent and therefore not a good judge, but his wife and kids speak French so I'd be surprised if it's worse than Dion's English. Maybe the French are just snobbier about that sort of thing. If someone has a link to a French language speech he has given I'd like to check it out.

Secondly, what does this Quebec problem really represent? It had always been my simple Ontario vision of Quebecois that they were either sovereigntists or liberals. Even assuming Steve and the tories can make a real dent, how many NON-BLOC ridings are there? Because we're not fighting over the whole province, just those ridings. Obviously I'm speaking here of the Liberal party winning the next general election, and not Gerard's prospects in particular, but I'm sure you can see the connection.

Thirdly, BC and Alberta combined are more populous and more wealthy that Quebec, and this difference is trending up. I don't quite understand why the same people who constantly obsess over qhat Wuebec thinks and how Quebec will vote are often people who are completely willing to toss off the entire Western half of the country as being undisputably blue. The new Cosnervatives are not quite the old reformers, and if they want to really be a national party they will have to ultimately accord the west the status it deserves: important, but not dominant, in the federation. I think we can win plenty of seats out there if we have the right leader and policies.

Finally, and completely unrelated to Quebec, Calgary Grit posts a pretty interesting chart here. It's the first round results from the last Ontario leadership convention, and if the results don't strike you as being eerily similar, then you probably don't understand the phrase 'eerily similar':

Gerard Kennedy 30.1%
Joseph Cordiano 21.8%
Dwight Duncan 18.1%
Dalton McGuinty 17.6%
No one else over 6%

19 Comments:

Anonymous MississaugaPeter said...

Gavin,

Quebec does matter. And that is why Gerard is there doing what he does best. He is adding capable supporters to his team in Quebec that will change the negative perception he is receiving for the poor Quebec results.

Gerrad's poor results are not because Quebecers are against him. Gerard's poor results are because Quebecers do not know him.

When Quebecers get to know him they will realize that of all the politicians out there, he best can identify with them. That is one of Gerard's greatest strengths, and something that can't be taught in a book or classroom.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Alter Boys said...

Dear Gavin,
I'm a Dion supporter from Montréal, so keep that in mind.
I think that Gerard's main problem in Québec is that we were told by many pundits, when he entered the race, that he was perfectly fluent in French. So when it turned out not to be the case, many were disapointed (well that's my theory anyway). Maybe expectations were too high?

Other than that, is French is not all that bad, but he does need to work on it - a lot. And don't forget that the other big three all had very good organizations here in Québec; so there was very little space for Gerard to make inroads.

Take care.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Skip said...

Wow, I think you've really missed the point regarding Quebec. But I'll do you the favour of responding to your post so that you can better understand.

To answer your first question, yes, Kennedy's french is that bad. Moreover, his not showing up in Quebec City for the first (not the second) debate made him look bad - car trouble or not. Moreover, the fact that he has marketed himself as fluently bilingual, and then turned out to be anything but, probably also rubbed people the wrong way.

Your second point is the one that bothers me. You ask why it is so important to focus on Quebec, if we might not necessarily get a lot of votes, or lose a lot of votes to the Conservatives there. Well, I'll explain it to you. First, there is the obvious, perennial focus, on keeping this country together. Electing a Liberal party leader who doesn't have a strong backing or resonance in Quebec, might spell certain doom for the future of a united Canada, if there were a referendum.

And you know what - most sovereigntists aren't "hard sovereigntists" - but are actually softer in their views. Like Bob Rae said, most Quebeckers are concerned about the same things as other Canadians, such as access to good health care, jobs, education, etc. If we elect a leader that can resonate in Quebec, then we can take a lot of seats from the Bloc, who don't actually effect any positive change for Quebeckers by sitting in opposition.

Also, the Liberals aren't going to win strong majorities without significant support in Quebec. To me it seems as though you are essentially advocating just writing off Quebec, and leaving it for the Conservatives and Bloc to deal with. To me, that's a ridiculous suggestion, given the importance of a unified Canada, and the Liberal Party's history in Quebec.

But, all that being said, I understand your point about the importance of the West, and the associated problem of "western alienation." While I don't think that Albertans and British Columbians are about to up and leave the country, I do agree that they shouldn't be omitted from a serious discussion about the areas that Liberals should focus on to beat Harper.

I was going to immediately follow this by advocating my preferred candidate, Bob Rae, but I will hold off, and let you draw your own conclusions about which of the candidates can raise Liberal fortunes across the country. Not everything should be Quebec-centric, but at the same time, because of the nature of the debate in Quebec, it does need to be shown a special concern.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger DivaRachel said...

There is no reason why Gerard's French language skills cannot equal that of Harpers, in due time. It may not happen by Febuary 2007, but its a continuous process.

Futhermore, how many seats are up for grabs in Quebec? Really. The Bloc seats are spoken for. Maybe some Conservative seats may go Liberal, but the total is not that great. If GK did well in the West and in Ontario, it won't take a wave of quebecer seats to secure a minority govm't at the next election.

Compare that to the other contenders who will assure a conservative majority through 2014.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger DivaRachel said...

Uzurper,

First of all, GK's French is not that bad!

Secondly, it won't matter how many seats the Liberals steal from Le Bloc in the next election if Bob Ray alienates THE MOST important province -- Ontario. Bob Ray is the reason Ontario went overwhelmingly conservative in the first place! With him as leader, you're guarenteed a repeat -- and Harper as PM.

When you compare both, yeah, its better to accept temporary short comings in QC than to lose Ontario alltogether.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger fragmunt said...

How's this for a funny scenario - Kennedy whips Selfservative ass in AB and BC while Selfservatives make no gains in Que?????

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Skip said...

Divarachel,

First, his name is Bob "Rae" (not Ray). Second, he's not going to lose Ontario if elected. If you were from Ontario you would know two things. First, how to spell Bob's name correctly; and second, that Rae "days" were way better than Harris "years." That's a fun way of putting it, but the truth is that yes, Ontarians remember the continental recession the NDP fumbled on. Then, they remember the Conservatives under Harris practically destroying the province. If given the choice, Ontarians will choose Liberal. Polls have said so. Now I'm saying so.

Second, I'm sure you're right about Gerard's french being able to improve to the level of Harper's. The problem is, that we can't elect a leader, and then wait four years for his french to get up to shape, and then try and win an election. We need someone who is ready now, and that's why I think Bob is the man for the job. But don't feel obligated to get upset at Bob for that - I don't hold Gerard's lack of fluency against him in a personal way. In fact, I think he has a bright future in federal Liberal politics. At 46 he has a lot of time left to get the top job.

And to say that we would suffer temporary losses in Quebec is a vast understatement. If we elect a leader that Quebeckers have outright rejected, especially in light of the fact that Charest might not form the next provincial government, we may be looking at another referendum. Do you really want Gerard leading that fight, or would you rather have someone with the know-how to do so successfully?

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Altavistagoogle said...

Kennedy's French is worse than Chretien's English. Do I need to elaborate?

The combined population of Alberta and BC is less than Quebec and the seat distribution favours Quebec. But more to the point, it would be foolish to write off an entire province when you have three other capable candidates who are fluent in French!

Kennedy: maybe la prochaine fois.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger WestmountLiberal said...

Gavin
Until I moved to Quebec my thought process was very similar to yours.
Unfortunately, it is dead wrong.
Quebec is extremely important to the resurrection of our Party.
Of a total 308 seats in Parliament, Quebec and Ontario have 181 seats, BC has 36 and the Prairies have 56.
Now ask yourself this question. For the Liberal Party to form a MAJORITY government, where must we focus our attention? If you are not sure, ask Mr Harper because I know he has the answer.
I like your guy Kennedy. He is the Future of our Party. Unfortunately however he is not our Present.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger DivaRachel said...

"If you were from Ontario you would know".

Guess what, Skip: I'm from Ontario. Been here 30 years minus 2 yrs in QC. I made a typo.... But it doesn't change that Bob Ray/Rae/Whatever is HATED here. And I know cuz I'm from Ontario, you goof!

October 03, 2006  
Blogger DivaRachel said...

Alta, I understand the importance of QC. I wish we had a better st of candidates to choose from so we didn't have to pick b/w these non-fully-bilingual candidates. But there's nothing we can do about that now.

Do you have any numbers as to how many seats are up for grabs in Quebec to begin with? The Bloc voters are quite solid. Many of the Conservative seats in QC are in French-speaking ridings. They were just mad at Martin/Chretien for the sponsorship scandal. They don't really believe in Harper's agenda.

Given the chance, with a new face on the party, these people would come back.

The French speaking thing is not a fatal flaw. Far from it. Its an opportuniy to re-introduce a cleaned-up Party.

Kennedy: t'suite!

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Peter - I didn't say QC wasn't important, I asked how big the Liberal problem there was and compared it to our problem in Western Canada. I think BOTH are important, of course, but I noted two differences (Alta + BC larger and growing; QC voting heavily on sovereignty rather than the other raft of policy considerations) that suggest to me that there is more to gain out west and less to lose in Quebec.

October 04, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Uzurper - With respect, I don't think I missed the point. As a party, we have lots of problems, and several of the leadership contenders personify those problems. For example, you support Bob Rae. Ontario has more seats than Quebec by a long shot, and zero percent of them are held by sovereigntists who will never support a liberal candidate. On the other hand, we can potentially lose every seat outside of the 416. We have more to win and more to lose in Ontario than in Quebec, and so basically I think your candidate's electoral problems are bigger than my candidate's. Not that having negligible support in Quebec isn't a big problem, it's just not the biggest of the problems we get to choose between.

October 04, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Westmount - you beg the question by lumping Ontario and Quebec together. They are as different as chalck and cheese. To be fair your question should have noted THIS distribution:
Ontario - 103
Western CDA - 88
Quebec - 74
before asking where we should focus our energies.

October 04, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Skip - the conservatives went from practically zero too a full quarter of Ontario's seats in the last election. Did Ontarians forget Mike Harris in February? And if so, what makes you think he isn't an even more distant memory now?

October 04, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Sorry, used stale numbers for seats, should be:

Ontario 106
West 92
QC 75

Conclusion, of course, remains the same, although this does emphasize my point that the weight of the west is not only greater than QC, but that the gap is increasing.

October 04, 2006  
Blogger DivaRachel said...

I think GK has a bright future in federal Liberal politics. At 46 he has a lot of time left...

I'm sorry, Skip, but I reject that argument. Should you sit on a winning ticket because you can cash it in anytime? Should the Democrats have slept on JFK because he was young enough to become leader 10 years later?

The LPC has a chance to renew itself NOW. The LPC has a chance to get back into 24 Sussex NOW. Why would we put an unelectable-type (Stockwell Day, anyone?) as our leader, therefore giving away any potential votes?

If the LPC picks the wrong leader, Harper will win. If the LPC makes a fake 'renewal' w/o washing away the bad seeds, Harper will win.

I would hate for the LPC to realize too late, like the 90's CPC did, the error of their ways. Is 10 years in Opposition what is gonna take for ppl to see the light?

Do you really want Gérard leading that fight, or would you rather have someone with the know-how to do so successfully?
Why is it either or? With GK as leader, he'd be surrounded with good people -- including Stéphane Dion. He would not be rebuilding the QC wing alone. There are plenty of good ppl left the in the party with the 'know how' who can share their experise with GK, just as they would if English-deficit S.Dion if he were leader.

October 04, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

BTW, thanks Rachel for stepping up here while I was at work!! Drop me an email some time I'm curious about your story...

G

October 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not so much that voters in Quebec didn't like Gerard Kennedy in particular... they just didn't like Liberals in general.

October 06, 2006  

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