Thursday, September 28, 2006

GK all the way!

Per harrap's request, here is a post explaining why I am supporting Gerard Kennedy for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

From the West

There is no disputing that Gerard is from Western Canada. He grew up in rural The Pas, Manitoba, then went to prep school on a hockey scholarship in Winnipeg. He did his first year of university in Ontario but then moved to Edmonton, Alberta where he did three years of studies and worked for three years feeding the hungry with the first real food bank in Canada.

From age 0 to 26, he spent 25 years in Western Canada. Even for those Westerners who hesitate to call Manitoba part of the West, his roots in The Pas, in Western, rural Manitoba, surely qualifies.

From Ontario

Notwithstanding strong Western Canadian roots and, more importantly, the ability to truly understand and relate to Western alienation, Kennedy also has politically matured in Ontario.

Recruited to run Toronto's struggling Daily Bread food bank in 1986, he turned it in to a lean, mean feeding machine. Despite offers, he refused to accept one red penny of government funding. In the meantime, he was involved both in Alberta and Ontario in pressuring the government to change policies which caused people to need the services of food banks.

In Ontario he became something of a celebrity. When he entered the 1996 Ontario leadership race, despite having only been elected to the legislature months before, his reputation and star power made him the frontrunner.

Experience in politics

He was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1996 in a by-election to replace none other than Bob Rae. This was in a district that had never elected a Liberal before. Ironically, in the by-election to replace Kennedy it returned to the NDP perhaps suggesting that he has a real ability to attract the NDP voters that we have bled over the past two elections.

He served for 7 years in opposition to a neo-conservative government. As the high profile critic first for Health and then for Education.

Following that he served for 2 and a half years as minister of education. The Ontario Ministry of Education has a budget of $17 billion dollars. That is a larger budget than 6 of our 10 provinces. That is a budget greater than every federal government department except for Finance and Human Resources & Social Development.

So, though Kennedy does not have federal cabinet experience, he has experience in the cabinet of a province with 40% of the nation's population and overseeing a department larger than any department in the federal government save two. I think it is fair to say that Kennedy has de facto federal cabinet experience.

Roots in the Liberal Party

Kennedy is literally a life long Liberal. According to his declaration speech, his first Liberal memory is at the age of 7, holding Mitchell Sharp's brief case as his father, ironically named John Kennedy, toured Sharp around a crowd of Liberal's in a campaign stop for the 1968 Liberal leadership.

Despite living in Alberta in the post-NEP era, he was an active Liberal and was a delegate to the 1984 leadership convention.

Despite his involvement in the food bank community, which I would imagine is a hot bed of NDP support, he, as far as I can tell, never had anything to do with them.

A star in Liberal circles in Edmonton, he seems to have been the same in Ontario very quickly. Despite being there less than a year he was approached by David Peterson to run in the 1987 Ontario election and, I believe, was again in 1990.

Outside of party fighting

Kennedy was a Sharp supporter in 1968 (sort of) and in 1984 supported neither Turner nor Chretien. I don't believe he went to the 1990 or 2003 conventions, I can't find any record of it in any event.

Support in Caucus

Despite having never been elected federally and despite having not been very actively involved, at least recently, in federal Liberal circles, he has more support from MPs and Senators than all of the other candidates combined save Ignatieff.


I don't know if you have heard Kennedy speak but if you haven't, get out to an event near you soon.

He reminds me a lot of Frank McKenna. Not so much in delivery, but in practical optimism. He talks about making Canadians do better by giving them to tools to do so.

Despite his left-leaning credentials from his food bank past, his campaign's central theme is "enterprise". He wants to encourage the growth of the economy. He understands from my talking to him that the reason there are food banks is because there are problems with the economy. He wants that to change.

Contrast with the other candidates

Now if all of the above wasn't enough to make you sign up, here is a bit of a contrast between he and the other candidates on each of the points I make above:

  • Western Roots: No remaining candidate in the race can make any claim to Western roots but Kennedy. I am not naive enough to think that there is going to be a huge Liberal breakthrough in the West in the near future but there is no reason why we can't win more seats in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba, parts of Saskatchewan, Edmonton and all over BC. Kennedy is best positioned to do this.

  • Ontario Roots: No one else I think would have as much name recognition in Ontario, except Rae, the province that kept us in power for 12 years and a province that holds over 1/3 of the seats in the House of Commons and well over half of Canada's current Liberal MPs. As for Rae, his name recognition in Ontario is probably more of a bad thing than good.

  • Political Experience: In Ontario, the same ridings are used federally and provincially. He has been elected 3 times to a federal riding which elected a New Democrat in 2006 and a provincial riding that elected New Democrats before and after Kennedy. He knows how to take votes from the NDP. He is the only candidate in the leadership race that has experience sitting in opposition to a neo-consvervative government and, following that, defeating it. He has more government administrative experience in terms of size of the administration than any other candidate but Bob Rae and Ken Dryden. It might be fair to add Stephane Dion to this list because of his 9 years in cabinet, though 7 were heading Intergovernmental Affairs (less than $1 billion annual budget) and 2 years were heading Environment (also less than $1 billion annual budget)

  • Roots in the Liberal Party: I don't think anyone as strong as roots in the Liberal Party than Kennedy except for Volpe and, arguably Ignatieff. Rae was an elected New Democrat as recently as 1996 and joined the Liberal Party only in 2006. Dion was not active in politics, as far as I can tell, before he was drafted to the Chretien cabinet in 1996. Brison joined the Liberal Party in 2003 after a life as a Progressive Conservative. Dryden was mentioned as recently as 2003 as a potential leadership candidate for the PCs, how serious this would have been I don't know, but obviously shows he wasn't a known Liberal. Hall Findlay, I believe joined the Liberal Party in the 2000s (perhaps as recently as 2004?). Michael Ignatieff was active in the party in his college years and can't really be faulted for not being a member in recent years because due to his non-residency he was not eligible.

  • Party Infighting: Kennedy's leadership campaign is a strong blend of those who were on the Chretien and Martin side of past feuds. I have heard complaints that Kennedy is a Martin candidate from people I know in BC and a Chretien candidate from people here in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia due to who is backing him. That sounds like he has a pretty good national blend. Rae is widely viewed as a Chretien candidate and Dion, though he has warmed up to and enjoys strong Martin support, was definitely on the Chretien side of the feud up to 2003.

  • Caucus Support: Kennedy enjoys the most support of any candidate but Ignatieff. Ignatieff who is an MP and has from day one been painted as the frontrunner is expected to do well in caucus. But Kennedy trumps the media's other favourite candidate Bob Rae by an obscene margin as well as all of the other candidates who are members of the Liberal caucus.

  • Vision: As far as I can tell Kennedy has released more policy than any other candidate save Dryden, though Ignatieff and Dion are fast on his tail. I like his policy, it is solid.
So, in summary, Kennedy is a great candidate in general and specifically to this race he is the best candidate by far.


Anonymous said...

Great write-up. Good points. Kennedy stands a good chance to be the next leader. He will make a good leader and Prime Minister.

You should be his campaign manager.

Anonymous said...

No education, weak french, poor public speaking abilities. Kennedy ends up in fourth or fifth place.

Why he would even run for leader without having a university degree is beyond me.

nbpolitico said...

Anon at 3:22..

Education - he is 3 courses short of a degree because he went to save lifes and feed the hungry. Not a negative.

French - I have spoken to him in French and read many articles that indicate his French is not weak. The stories of weak French are the result of spin.

Public Speaking - Have you heard him speak? Impressive charisma. It is one of the reasons I was attracted to his candidacy.

Harrap said...

Great post, thanks! I wanted to post my Gerard Kennedy post so that we could compare notes (but blogger is giving me a difficult time with posting it last night! I was busy all day but am making another attempt to post it now).

We have alot of the same points -- though you gave me a few new ones to think of as well.

Harrap said...

I was finally able to post it!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster who said you should be his campaign manager. Or at least his website manager.

I hadn't given him much consideration but will pay more attention now. I don't think it matters that he doesn't have a "degree" or that he is not francophone. What counts is that his heart seems to be in the right place, and that is what voters are craving for. It's what the Liberal party needs.