Friday, September 05, 2008

Notes on Dion at U of Alberta

Dion spoke for about an hour, beginning with a short and clear campaign type speech to much applause, followed by a long question and answer period with the audience. The prelims introduced the Edmonton area Liberal candidates, and Dion's opener was all about the Green Shift. This is clearly the major policy issue they'll run on.

Overall, he appeared confident, well spoken, most definitely passionate, and approachable. I'd say handled himself very well, standing in utter contrast to the character assassinations coming from the Cons, let alone Harper as a person dead fish crooked pine 2x4. Definitely an A grade on form.

Q&As with serving politicians, especially during election time, tend to annoy me because their answers will range from the non to the fairly complete, with everything reduced to neat little soundbites. It's a sales pitch and salespeople are dodgy types. Ball park I'd say Dion was about 2/3rds within what I would call a full to partial answer to audience questions, and the remainder qualifying in the non category. However, of these, one or two were policy queries diverted with a "will be announced during the campaign" so it was not possible to glean a complete policy picture from the talk. Provisional B there pending what comes out over the next few weeks.

Some notable Q&As were (paraphrased/interpretted - I'm dealing with notes jotted on the fly):

Q: Foreign policy?
A: Multilateralist. Avoiding US "model" of global interaction. Advocating coalitions, negotiations, etc. [iow a return to classic liberal int'l relations]

Q: Climate and other change in the Arctic?
A: [money quote here!] "We can't win against the Russians and we're too civilised to shoot the Danes!" Not against a military presence in the Arctic but military should not be centre of Arctic policy. More emphasis on working multilateral organisations like the Arctic Council, not a "jungle" approach.

Q: Affordable housing, rent limits etc?
A: Help students. Will revisit some of the stuff the Conservatives cut such as the retrofit program.

2 Q's: What if the Cons win another minority? Coalition? [The preamble to one of these questions dealt with the Con lack of respect for parliamentary institutions.]
A: Will respect parliament. [Non-answers on idea of another Con victory and coalition portions other than "fight the good fight" or something like that.]

Q: How does the tax shift in Green Shift help low income Canadians who do not pay income tax?
A: Refunds.

Some questions/comments on Afghanistan policy would have been helpful, but I don't recall any explicitly about that - more in line with general foreign policy/relations stuff.

The talk was held town-hall style in a lecture theatre filled to overcapacity and I think they may have had a video feed hooked up to the lobby. This is a very engaging format, allowing the public a good deal of control over the direction and content of the questions - not something the Harpercons might be into. It is also a way of neutralising some of the negative Conservative propaganda. In anycase I think this works for Dion. I made the comment to a friend afterwards that I was left wanting to corner Dion and pick his brain over coffee or beer. If he can stimulate that sort of interest in the broader public, perhaps he's on to something.

No comments: