Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wynne-ing Like It's 2006...And Losing Like It's 2008

Today Ontario Liberals chose their next leader, but if 2006 is any indication, they might have just chosen their next loser.

Similarities between Stephane Dion winning the federal Liberal leadership in 2006 and Kathleen Wynne's recent victory in the Ontario Liberal race suggest she may be facing a similarly troubling electoral future.

The similarities:

Old, Tired Parties: It was over six years ago that the federal Liberals, after a long tenure in government and facing lagging poll numbers, held a leadership race with a crowded field of candidates. It was just October of last year that the Ontario Liberals did the exact same thing.

Nerds: Both Stephane Dion and Kathleen Wynne are fairly academic; both have long educational transcripts, bookish if not nerdy appearances, and, from what one can perceive, the personalities to match.

Delegates Decided: The leadership conventions were both delegated allowing for momentum to build and huge swings of support.

Kennedy, The Crowner: Gerard Kennedy in 2013 just as he did in 2006, dropped off after the second ballot to support the eventual winner, bringing most of his delegates with him.

Rage Against The Smugness: In the final votes Ontario Liberals, just as federal Liberals did six years earlier, rallied against the perceived favourite (Ignatieff in 2006 and Pupatello now) who upon coming into the convention had the most delegates and support from the party establishment.

One Issue Leadership: And in both leadership races, the winner had one prominent selling feature, Stephane Dion had the environment and Wynne has being gay. It is truly a sign of how progressive Canada has become when not only do we have an openly gay premier, but that being gay can actually rally support. And though Wynne's sexuality shouldn't be a consideration, her supporters in social media touted it even more ardently than the Dionista's with their candidate's environmental plan in 2006.

Even with all of this, Wynne is not doomed to be Dion; in fact because they share so much in common, knowing what not to do and preventing a Dion disaster should be easy

As both she and Dion weren't the majority's favorite, Wynne needs to incorporate more of her opponents into her team. Not just bringing other candidates into her cabinet, but ensuring their organizers and their supporters receive prominent positions within the party. This is something Dion failed to do in a big way, which only strengthened internal divisions within the party and lost entire supporter networks that are pivotal during elections.

Public perception is also important, while weak attempts were made to make Dion look less like a brain, barely any were made to make him look like a brain who can relate to average Canadians. Like a certain Calgary mayor, Wynne shouldn't play down her nerdy characteristics, instead she should play up being genuine, because though most Ontarioians aren't academics, it's fakeness they can't and won't relate to. Of course going out of her way to show she cares about blue collar workers and families wouldn't hurt.

And to the dismay of many of her supporters, being gay like Dion's green plan, shouldn't be a talking point or a foundation for policy. Though such a social issue is one strongly and rightly supported by Liberals, just as the environment is, the Ontario Liberal Party needs to broaden its appeal, not narrow it while unnecessarily turning off potential voters. Wynne should do what Dion didn't, and steal ground from her rival political opponents.

Kathleen Wynne and Stephane Dion have a lot in common, recognizing those similarities can prevent Ontario Liberals from sharing one more, losing.

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