Sunday, September 21, 2008
Dion Makes His Case as a Leader
Ever since his ascension as Liberal party leader, one of the Conservative party's criticisms of Stephane Dion is that he is "not a leader".
The Conservatives played and re-played footage of Dion's embarrassing breakdown onstage during the Liberal leadership contest when he complained that now-deputy leader Michael Ignatieff's criticisms of the Liberal party's performance vis a vis climate change -- and ergo Dion's as Environment Minister -- were "unfair".
With more than a year of these ads -- and necessary interventions by Bob Rae into the Liberal campaign -- erroding the Canadian public's perceptions of Dion as a leader, it's only natural that Dion needs to re-brand and re-assert his leadership qualities during the 2008 campaign.
Thus, the introduction of this new ad.
In it, the Liberals document Dion's leadership at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. As the spot claims, Dion's efforts, despite the incooperativeness of "one country" (guess who?), the Liberal leader secured an agreement among 182 countries to fight global warming.
It seems like an impressive accomplishment -- the very thing that should help to improve impressions of Dion's leadership skills.
Of course, the agreement reached at the UN Climate Change conference seem less impressive once one realizes that so little action was taken by Dion to satisfy Canada's obligations under the agreement afteward. To that end, it seems that Dion is able to assert leadership as it pertains to how other governments are supposed to act. Toward his own? That has, to a certain extent, already been seen.
The spot also plays to an anti-American constituency that the Liberals and NDP have each sought to harness on a regular basis over the past few decades, and particularly over the past eight years.
In noting the alleged incalcitrance of the American government, the ad seems to take on a dramatic note -- Stephane Dion standing up to the goliath of the global stage. But it hardly asserts fresh leadership to follow the same course so often tread by Liberal leaders ever since Pierre Trudeau made it fashionable.
As a further weakness, this ad is merely an election-time reworking of an ad ran by the Liberals in response to the "Not a Leader" ads run by the Tories.
It plays to the necessary frugality of the Liberal campaign -- such an ad can be produced fairly cheaply. But if such an ad failed to improve Canadian impressions of Dion's leadership skills before an election, one has to wonder if it will do so now.
In the end, such questions are largely irrelevant. After the sustained attacks on Dion's leadership abilities, re-branding was necessary one way or the other. Whether or not it succeeds will only be told in time.