Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drawing Conclusions: Stéphane Dion Must Go

Sketchy Dion

Okay, enough is enough. It’s time for Stéphane Dion to face reality and pack it in. Seriously. And if he can’t bring himself to acknowledge the blindingly obvious, then perhaps more forcible means of persuasion may need to be employed by those within the party who exercise influence over such matters to effect a coup.

According to the latest Toronto Star/Angus Reid opinion poll, Dion’s approval rating has sunk to its lowest level yet, with nine of 10 Canadians now saying they disapprove or are not sure of his performance as the head of the party.

Polling since the convention in Montreal almost a year and a half ago has consistently indicated that the new leader is failing to create a positive impact with the Canadian public. Had there been any hopeful signs of improvement in this regard perhaps my opinion would be rather more sanguine, but the incontestable fact of the matter is that things are actually getting progressively worse: an ever-increasing numbers of people are forming a distinctly unfavourable impression of Dion — and not, it has to be reluctantly admitted, entirely without reason.

Update: MoS highlights the most salient challenge regarding Dion’s leadership that should be apparent to everyone following the roll-out of the Liberal policy on carbon tax (or “tax shifting”). As he says: “The carbon tax has a problem. It’s not so much a problem with the merits of the idea itself or the political hurdles it poses. Its main problem is the guy who says he’ll stake all to make it happen — Stéphane Dion.”

This is a complex, highly problematic issue by any measure. It would be a hard sell at the best of times, but even more so when energy prices are soaring, the U.S. economy is verging on the brink of a full-blown recession and the short-term prospects for many average Canadians are worrisome at best. Dion simply doesn’t have the masterful sort of communication skills needed to champion something as potentially divisive and inherently unappealing to the public as a carbon tax. The fact that the detailed policy has yet to be released by the Liberal Party means that, once again, the Conservatives are being given a free hand to frame the issue to their advantage.

As MoS says, “The carbon tax initiative is too important to be put to a referendum by a leader who can't even sell himself.”