Stephane Dion is much taller in person. He still looks like a mouse but only in the cute sense. In fact, he’s so unintimidating up close, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than maybe your second favourite uncle. Not the one who gets drunk at Thanksgiving and offends your mom (he’d be the favourite) but the quiet intelligent one who always gets just the right birthday gift.
Even at seven in the morning Dion turns down coffee, opting instead for a second glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. He should have taken the caffeine. His speech, Tuesday, in front of the Vancouver Board of Trade was just too low key for someone with his agenda.
The “Three Pillars,” as he calls his plan, is “the economy, social justice and the environment.” Instead of the usual pro-business rhetoric, he managed to explain why a national healthcare program is really important to a healthy modern economy and other novel ways of looking at social programs. The tired neo-liberal trap of warning about our competitiveness with United States never came up, instead he mentioned success stories within western European countries and asked how we could better emulate them. This is in front of a big-business audience too.
He also did part of his speech in French which elicited snarky comments from some stock broker looking types in the back row: “What the hell is he doing speaking French, this is BC!” What struck me most about the speech was how formal and bland it was. Maybe it was the language barrier but he seemed incapable of being off-the-cuff. Chretien had trouble with English pronounciation too, but all I remember of him are wiseass remarks and innapropriate cracks; pepper spray anyone?