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Lipstick mafia flees

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Even though I'm a stalwart Liberal party supporter, I just can't bring myself to vote for Stéphane Dion. I really don't want a Conservative majority, but I can't support the current Liberal leader. A new Harris/Decima poll says that although female support for the Tories has slipped to 34 per cent from 40 per cent, Dion's numbers remain at 27. The lipstick mafia has fled to the Greens, the NDP and the Bloc. Here's why I'm just not that into Dion:

1) He's myopic: Dion has no original planks to call his own. It's as if the Liberal policy wonks were relaxing at the cottage this summer instead of forging an election platform. Dion has one signature policy: the Green Shift. This is a similar policy to the one he cannily borrowed from the Greens to defeat the more bankable Michael Ignatieff at the Liberal leadership convention. Since late 2006, Dion hasn't removed his celebratory green scarf or developed any other new policies.

2) Empty coffers: I'm on a Liberal party's e-mail list and every day I get another dirtbag request for money; their insolvency does not exactly inspire voter confidence. Perhaps they need to consolidate their debt or look for a payday cash advance instead of hitting me up. Isn't there a sizeable stack of beer bottles from the last Liberal convention Dion can cash in?

3) Off guard: Harper's election call caught the Grits unprepared. During the last federal election, Harper in opposition had a fresh new policy announcement almost daily. Harper seized control of the discourse, showed leadership and won over some new voters. When you're in a minority Parliament, you have to be prepared to go to the polls every Monday morning.

4) Marble mouth: Jack Layton sounds like Barack Obama compared to the mumbling Dion. The head Grit desperately needs a language coach and some podium confidence. Learn to annunciate. It's all part of becoming a great speaker. How about screening some vintage Pierre Trudeau or Tommy Douglas tapes for inspiration?

5) Bland identity: I know what Stephen Harper stands for: Arctic sovereignty, NHL hockey, Bing Crosby fireside sweaters, the $10 haircuts and the party-is-over for the Adrienne Clarkson-hugging, artsy demographic. What does Dion stand for? A carbon tax, nationalism and a coy, get-to-know-me newcomer stance that's really only befitting to Green party Leader Elizabeth May. Enigmatic does not play well in the West. The man is bland. He lacks personality and is forgettable and that won't change upon closer inspection.

6) Our national shame: Jack Layton rightly targeted the carbon-spewing tarsands during the first week of the campaign while Dion just mumbled about his Green Shift, which sounds more like a wrap-around skirt women wear on their Hawaiian holidays.

7) The price at the pumps: You don't propose a painful and unpopular carbon tax scheme unless you have a clear majority. Leaders do not get elected on taxation platforms. They are a huge disincentive to the minivan and Ford F-350 set. Yes, we need to stem our destructive appetite for Big Oil, but first Dion needs to introduce baby-step incentives for car addicts -- ride sharing, public transit, telecommuting, dusting off the bicycle and letting the kids walk to school.

8) Weak: Dion has proven a weak and threadbare opponent to the more savvy and in-control Harper government. Hell, Dion couldn't even trigger an election. The job of the Official Opposition is to keep the minority government in check. Dion has proven incompetent and unwilling to stage a non-confidence vote on any Tory bills. If Dion can't even cajole the Bloc Québécois and NDP into a temporary coalition to oppose Harper, he'll never be able to lead the country. If Dion were a CFL coach, he'd be looking for work this month instead of campaigning.

9) Non-compete deal with May: Dion's misguided decision to not oppose Elizabeth May in her Nova Scotia riding, and vice-versa, just confounded me. Dion might feel guilty for copying from May's Green party playbook but he still needs to contest all comers in every riding. Politics is a blood sport, not a co-operative "stitch-and-bitch" where May and Dion knit green socks and complain about Harper.

10) Not brawny: Who can forget that iconic image of Pierre Trudeau in his fringed-sleeved leather coat while he gleefully paddled his own canoe? Watching the awkward Dion tromp self-propelled in the woods like a lost winter camper does not endear him to redneck Western piston-heads who prefer camo-painted, gas-guzzling sleds and quads to snowshoes.

Patricia Robertson is a Saskatchewan journalist and political pundit.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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