Sunday, September 21, 2008

Golden Boy Gerard Kennedy Not Really So Golden: Response to "The Star" today

In The Star today, the brief synopsis of Parkdale High Park contains a number of questionable assumptions. First, there is the contention that "high-income people in the large houses" didn't form part of the broad base of support that elected incumbent Peggy Nash. I'm not so sure. I would think, in the absence of a strong Conservative candidate, long time Conservatives would just as easily cast their vote for a person they perceive as honest and principled, even if misguided (NDPer), as a person they perceive as an opportunist and an eternal rival (Liberal). In any event, high income people in large houses shouldn't be decisive in this election, but if they were it shoudn't particularly hurt Nash, who is certainly well liked and respected in Swansea, Bloor West, and the Humber River.

Second, there is an assumption that the increased affluence in the riding favours the Liberals. Again, I'm not so sure. We saw a year ago, a riding that voted resoundingly for Cheri DiNovo and the NDP. If the sign war is any indication, as Chantal Hebert notes, Nash's support is strong and holding. In Parkdale High Park, it's not only about gentrification and affluence, it's also about an educated, intelligent and progressive electorate. This was the riding that soundly rebuked a nasty Ontario Liberal smear campaign against DiNovo in 2006. It should not be missed be that Gerard Kennedy himself participated in the mudslinging.

This leads to my third issue with the article. The Golden boy himself, Gerard Kennedy. In my previous post, I argued why Peggy Nash not only does not deserve to be punished, but in fact, deserves to be re-elected. Similarly, it should not at all be self-evident that Gerard Kennedy will reclaim the seat for the Liberals. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Kennedy. First, he abandoned the riding, and doesn't really have roots in the riding (he doesn't live or work in the riding). Kennedy has shown that he's not above gutter politics. Kennedy participated in the Liberal smear of DiNovo, and he was implicated in anti-semitic slurs against Bob Rae during the Liberal leadership race. Gerard Kennedy is obviously a consummate opportunist. In supporting Dion for leadership, he cast his support in a way that would best position him for a future run at the leadership rather than with a candidate that could actually challenge Harper in forming the next government. Hebert is right in saying that "Kennedy put us on this path".

A rich white boy of privilege who's failed to complete even a BA (although he's quite content to insult all those who have laboured tirelessly to complete a doctorate by accepting a post as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson). A white boy who's worked his way up the political ladder through sheer opportunism and privilege. Never have I seen a politician advance so far on so little. Sitting as executive director of a food bank is hardly the same as devoting life and career with sleeves rolled up among the poor and disenfranchised, changing lives one by one, as DiNovo and Nash have done. Maybe Golden boy is not so golden.

The Liberal Party of Canada may reward opportunism, but discerning voters will not reward the party (nor the candidate singularly responsible for Dion becoming leader) whose infighting, bungling and incompetence have ensured that Harper returns to government unimpeded.

I just can't believe the Liberals have the gall and audacity to ask for votes from "progressives" in order to stop the Conservatives. If the Liberals really wanted "progressives" to unite against Harper, why would they run Kennedy in Parkdale High Park, and not a riding where he could have used his "star power" to take out a Conservative incumbent? Also, notice the Liberals are NOT at the same time asking "progressives" to cast their votes for the NDP or Greens in ridings where those parties have a chance to beat a Conservative candidate. Lastly, if the Liberals were at all concerned with the "progressive" vote, they would run on "electoral reform", and they aren't!

Kennedy put us on this path

If the abundance of NDP lawn signs in the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park is any indication, it is not a foregone conclusion that Liberal Gerard Kennedy will beat incumbent Peggy Nash and enter the House of Commons next month. But even in his absence, the next Parliament would very much bear his indelible mark.

As the kingmaker at the convention that crowned Stéphane Dion, Kennedy is the person most responsible for the dynamics of the 2008 campaign.

His decision to bypass the two front-runners in favour of a Quebec dark horse has changed the shape of the election race among the five parties.

Had Kennedy made a different choice, the election might already have come and gone. When they entered their convention in December 2006, the Liberals had the wind in their sails. With his government running afoul of public opinion on core issues such as Afghanistan and climate change, Stephen Harper's minority regime looked destined to be a mere interlude between Liberal regimes.

Instead, the Liberals peaked shortly after Dion's victory. Since then, not a week has gone by without more evidence of the unintended consequences of the convention outcome.

One of them has been to shut the Liberals out of the biggest shift in the Quebec paradigm in 40 years.

At a time when Quebecers were poised to put the unity wars behind them, bringing upon the party a leader most Liberals from Quebec were adamant that they could not sell was, to say the least, presumptuous.

Another has been to help achieve what scores of past NDP leaders could not, by giving the New Democrats an opening in Quebec. A Léger Marketing poll published yesterday showed the NDP to be a growing threat to the Liberals in Montreal, their last stronghold in the province.

Since the convention, Kennedy's decision has been shown to be the product of two ill-informed miscalculations.

Among the candidates, he took the most vocal stance against the Quebec nation resolution. That and future leadership considerations led him to Dion, a Quebecer and a unity warrior, rather than to a fellow Ontarian.

But if Kennedy thought he was supporting a like-minded federalist or that he was advancing Canadian unity, he was mistaken.

When it comes to federalism, Dion and Kennedy ultimately have precious little in common.

The latter belongs to the school of Liberals – largely Ontario-based – for whom the Fathers of Confederation erred when they designated health care and education as exclusive provincial responsibilities.

Dion is of a different persuasion.

Under Jean Chrétien, he would not go to the barricades for the Millennium Scholarship Fund, on the basis that it was an unwarranted federal intrusion into a provincial jurisdiction. Under Paul Martin, he argued in favour of an asymmetrical agreement on health care with Quebec.

Far from sharing the sense that the term nation, when it is associated to Quebec, is a bad word, Dion goes out of his way to use it on the campaign trail.

And well he should. The nation resolution has cut the legs from under the sovereignty movement and accelerated the decline of its influence.

It has also lifted Conservative fortunes in the province.

Whenever he is in Quebec, Harper mentions the resolution, always to heartfelt applause. Every time that happens, it is hard not to think that but for Kennedy playing the apprentice sorcerer at the convention, a Liberal leader would be getting credit and Quebec votes for bringing the nation issue to the fore.

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