Opening Statement



Sunday, 4 November 2012

Draft Kennedy?


Saturday was cold and wet in Toronto. The last burst of colourful leaves lining the streets of High Park were falling and piling up on the ground . I was headed for the Draft Kennedy meeting at the corner of Keele and Dundas streets, all bundled up for winter. I am ready. Small ice pellets fell at 3:50pm Friday, but no snowflakes so far. It was miserable outside but otherwise the change of seasons now has an edge of certainty to it that can even be invigorating.

After parking my car at the Dundas Subway station, I then stopped to look at the colourful graffiti sprawling all along the full length of the back wall facing the parking lot. It's well planned and organized unlike the street gang scribbling, tags and all sorts of nasty stuff further along the tracks. A lift is parked under a new work in progress. In the middle of the panorama there's King Midas, the motif for the auto shop named after him out front on the street. It's their wall. Somebody is using their noggin. The otherwise bleak grey urban landscape at the subway station now looks very positive, creative and upbeat. It's pop art culture and extremely well done at that!


An older gentleman is also looking for the Draft Kennedy meeting. We know it is somewhere near the corner. We finally find it downstairs in a small strip mall with a little sign taped to the door. Rather clandestine perhaps but also counterproductive if you are a supporter and can't find the meeting. It never fails to amaze me that so many people can't figure out the obvious. Anyway Gerard Kennedy is hardly a big secret in High Park Swansee. He's very popular. Indeed a crowd of about 70 supporters eventually find their way into the medium sized meeting room. The CBC and Global cameramen find it later. They set up in the back, then stand listlessly texting on their cellphones, I would suppose lying in wait for Gerard Kennedy to arrive.

Kennedy was not there. Nor did he show up. A bad sign? We are told the meeting is just to gauge his support and sign up more members from different home ridings. Maybe they can get elected to go as a delegate to the leadership convention. Either that or vote for other delegates who are Kennedy loyalists and want to go. The reasons given for why Kennedy doesn't show up are conflicting. Either he was sick and not feeling well, or he was in Ottawa lobbying Liberal MPP's for support. Regardless, I would guess he needed to avoid the media who would want a statement on whether he was going to enter the OLP leadership race.


The audience was very representative of  Toronto. Young, old, newbies,  a multitude of different ethnic groups and then the political junkies like me looking for our news fix. It was very grassroots which is typical of Gerard Kennedy's Toronto support, especially here in his home riding. Still one had to wonder how many interested political operatives were there. They will be very essential for a successful campaign.

As it turns out, the meeting was organized by David Fleet. He created and sent out the Draft Kennedy notices for the meeting. With him was Peter Speed. They are both former local MPP's. Why them? The scuttlebutt in the hallway and around the snack table is that Kennedy's campaign manger and a lot of his staff are in Ottawa to help Trudeau in the upcoming federal leadership race. Gerard Kennedy and Justin Trudeau both know each other well. They are tight. However, Trudeau is apparently the golden boy, the second coming. It looks like he has the best chance of reestablishing the Liberal brand. That speaks a lot, none of it too good for Kennedy. He has pretty much been left high and dry without his strong experienced and well organized campaign team.


During the Q+A I asked if Kennedy was still considering the race for mayor in 2014. I don't know how many ways you can say no, but David Fleet certainly figured out quite a few! He insisted that Gerard had talked to his father, who was once the mayor of the Paw in Manitoba. He told Gerard that there's nothing in it for him being a mayor, so don't bother. Of course, David Fleet would deny the mayorial run, but I did find it rather interestingly how adamantly he did so over and over again. I replied that I like Gerard and would want to see him best placed for success. I tend to think a race against Rob Ford would be good, even if not necessarily for Kennedy himself, then for the greater well being of Toronto, if he wants somewhere to serve.

Our local hardcore political fringe is a fairly small group. I recognized some faces in the crowd. We gathered to talk in the back of the room, out of the way. The scuttlebutt is that Kennedy thinks he can maybe come up the middle as a compromise candidate, just like McGuinty did to defeat him in 2006. Presently a poll shows Kennedy in the lead for public name recognition among all the possible candidates. However, that's not necessarily the best way to start a campaign. Everybody will be after him as the guy to beat. Furthermore the polling numbers will probably keep changing once the race goes into high gear. It's better to have nowhere else to go but up, rather than down. The poll is rather mixed news for Gerard Kennedy. Good or bad he needs to figure out pretty darn fast what he plans to do in the next few weeks before nominations close.

David Fleet stared curiously at me as I left after their presentation. I know the routine quite well. Ostensibly the meeting was just for getting names and providing a mix and mingle afterwards to engage more helpers and support. Oh yes, and to get them to join the Liberal party if they haven't all ready.

David had said that they need policy people to help Kennedy develop his platform. I don't know how true that really is. Still a teacher politico could jump right in and keep bringing up Bill 115 and the MOU, but it won't be me. I wish him well but I'm afraid Kennedy is a long shot at best. Quite possibly the OLP is in for a terrible beating in the next election and there is nothing even he can do. The damage has been done.


Kennedy doesn't have much support at Queens Park since he left to run federally. He is known for thinking independently and not always being a team player. Broten and Bentley were good team players, but look what's happened to them. I admire these qualities in Gerard. Perhaps I am often like that myself, for example with this blog. There are plenty of team players at provincial and at TSU who would like nothing better than to wring my neck right now, for sure. I don't care really. I poll well. I've got my blog and a pretty large audience. I can only say and do what I believe is right in principle within the awful political scenario OECTA now faces. Poor Gerard! He is principled too but he is in a very tight situation, and he needs to care about getting some solid experienced back room Liberal support very quickly if this draft is to work. It looks doubtful he is going to get much from either Ottawa or Queen's Park.


There is still a lot of Liberal anger in Ottawa for Kennedy endorsing Stephan Dion during the federal leadership race. It was close. Justin Trudeau was there too but all is forgiven. He wasn't as decisive. Now he shines! Kennedy? No. He needs an election win or his political shelf life could be over.

Gerard Kennedy's local supporters are numerous. He is very popular in his own home riding. The Saturday meeting showed that for sure. He is well known across the province. The poll shows that. Even still one  needs to consider whether it is now too late for him to jump back into provincial politics from out of the blue? Can he even put together a strong experienced campaign team on such short notice? Finally, will Gerard  be wasting away the last of his political capital and good will? He gained a lot during his years as our popular and charismatic Education Minister. That was awhile ago. He needs an election victory.Without it he is politically finished. We badly need a good mayor in Toronto, someone who can take on Rob Ford another populist .Consider all of Kennedy's talents and assets being put into this high risk make or break OLP leadership race. Quite frankly the 2014 mayoralty race is a much better bet. I wish Gerard good luck but I plan to sit this race out. However if you want to help him, please go ahead. You  can contact David Fleet and his Draft Kennedy team at http://liberalvision.ca

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gerard would make a great candidate for mayor of Toronto.

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