Well, it may seem like I'm flip-flopping, and I suppose kind of am. As someone who does change his mind on occassion, in the world of politics I could easily be labelled as such.
Nevertheless, I do wish to retract my previous endorsement of Scott Brison; in September, I will be voting for Stephane Dion. This has nothing to do with a dislike of Brison - I was one of the first Libloggers to endorse him, and still have the greatest respect for him. I do genuinely hope he becomes the leader of the Liberal party, and prime minister, someday. But I do not believe that now is his time. Indeed, I think next time out, he will have a great deal more success than he will this time, as I've seen a great many Liberals expressing the same opinion - that is, that next time is his time. I have a two major concerns which led me to this decision - the first is that I do not believe he can win in Quebec at a time when we desperately need to; the second is that I do not believe there is enough distance between now and his support of the Iraq war and Afghanistan extension that it won't hurt him at the ballot box.
It is specifically the first concern which led me to rule out Kennedy (one of the reasons, anyway); so given that Kennedy's French is apparently better than Brison's, it's only fair that I apply the same standard to Brison himself. Also, it is this concern which leads me to endorse Stephane Dion. Of all of the candidates, Dion is the only one positioned to make gains in Quebec. At a time when we face not one but two strong challengers in Quebec, it is vital that the Liberal party have a leader who is both popular in Quebec and has a strong grasp of the French language - strong enough to be able to match Gilles Duceppe, and exceed Stephen Harper - in the French language leaders' debate. I believe that Dion is the only candidate which fits that description.
Also, going up against someone like Harper, it would seem vital to me that the leader of the Liberal party be at least a match for Harper intellectually. This is no easy task - Harper is a smart man. He has been described as a "policy wonk." Coincidentally, so has Stephane Dion. I've always been an advocate of the idea that the smartest guy, or close to it, should get to be in charge. Dion certainly fits this bill. I also ruled out Kennedy based on this - charismatic he may be, but from what I understand, I have more professional education than he does, and that worries me. Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Ken Dryden, and possibly Martha Hall Findlay are also intellectual matches for Harper, but I've ruled them out for various reasons.
Bob Rae is too much of a risk. As much as I like him, and would gladly follow him into an election, I fear that the Tories would be too easily able to exploit his unfortunate time as premier of Ontario - and we absolutely cannot afford to lose any more ground in Ontario than we already have. I have already made a lengthy post on why I think Ignatieff should not be leader. Ken Dryden is a good choice, I feel, but his French is too weak. As for Hall Findlay, fantastic candidate, and I've no doubt that if she won against Belinda in 2004 she would be considered a serious candidate today. But lack of political experience is not something I can live with.
An incidental concern is that I honestly don't think Brison will win - which means that, as I will likely not be going to the convention (I will be moving in September, which will make it doubtful that I would be able to get elected in my new riding, AND somehow raise $500, within less than a month), I would be leaving the Brison delegate I (presumptively) helped elect would be free to vote on later ballots for any candidate, including those I don't support. (I fear, specifically, that they would vote for Ignatieff.) This is the main reason why I support Belinda Stronach's proposals on party renewal. But anyway...
So, what does Dion have that makes me support him? Aside from his high IQ and his bilingualism, he also has ten years of federal political experience behind him - more than any of the frontrunners besides Rae - and eight years of federal cabinet experience, as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Environment, more cabinet experience than any of the other candidates. He has dealt with premiers and representatives of other countries, he has written letters articulating his ideas and defending the position of the federal government to the provinces in general, and Quebec in particular. He was responsible for the Clarity Act. To sum it up, he is the Jean Chretien (1984 and 1990) of the race - the experienced veteran who, while not as flashy or "new" or "fresh" as the other candidates (1984; 1990), can provide a stable, viable alternative to a Tory government that leaves much to be desired (1990). If anyone is capable of convincing Canadians that he has the experience and the record to lead, it's Stephane Dion.
He's also shown in the leadership "debates" that he's feisty. That's important when it comes to getting the message out, as well as debating Stephen Harper. While everyone is looking for the next Trudeau, really, what we should be looking for is the next Chretien, someone who combines experience and a certain comfort-level with his record, with a fighting spirit that's just as admirable as it is bankable. Really, the next Trudeau is a risky prospect - Trudeau himself was quite risky. Flashy and new, after all, are also words meaning untested and risky, and while the Trudeau gamble paid off beautifully, there's no guarantee it would net the same results again. Dion has that winning Chretien combination. Put it this way - this is a man who challenged Stephen Harper to debate him one-on-one about same-sex marriage. Not only is his smart and knowledgable enough to debate Harper, he's gutsy enough to issue the challenge in the first place. That's what we need. (For the record, Harper declined.)
Finally, and this means nothing to you (or at least it shouldn't, since one shouldn't base decisions on what other people "feel"), Stephane Dion gives me a good "feeling," the best of any of the candidates. I look at him and see a winner - not a guaranteed winner, but someone who has the best chance of winning. Over these past few weeks, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are, at present, two realistic outcomes to the convention - a Kennedy victory or a Dion victory. The more I thought about that, the more I realized how much I wanted it to be Dion. And the more I thought about that, the more excited I became at the prospect, to the point where I am now unable to support anyone else.
So, good luck M. Dion. I wish you victory in December!