1) Dion’s Achilles heel is his English. He must continue to improve it if the Liberals are to have any chance.
2) Dion needs to introduce some new policy. Dion’s unwillingness to introduce new policy has meant the media have focused on the negatives when they have focused on the Liberals at all. Furthermore, Harper and crew have painted Mr. Dion as weak, indecisive and as “not a leader”. The Liberals lack of policy focus has played right into their hands.
3) The Liberals need to explore various hot button issues. Dion has chosen to focus on the big issues, global warming, the loss of the manufacturing jobs and poverty. However, there are no easy solutions to any of these problems and the public simply lacks the ability and more importantly time to tackle or understand the complexities involved. As the SSM debate and the debate over funding for faith based schools demonstrate, what galvanizes the public and the media alike are hot button issues. If the Liberals are to succeed they are going to have to tackle the big issues, but they are also going to have to push the envelope on various hot button issues. With regard to both they are going to have develop clear well thought out policy that is not watered down by political calculation. Good policy is good politics.
4) Dion has to break with the past both rhetorically and policy wise; this is vitally important when it comes to Quebec. Under his direction the party has too many of the hall marks of the Martin/Chrétien government. The Liberal government’s environmental record is bound the hurt his credibility during the next election. Dion is going to have to acknowledge the failures of some predecessors and promise to do better. In any such mea Culpa will have to attack Liberal’s previous reliance on an intensity based emission plan. This will then free the Liberals up to attack the Conservatives intensity based plan. Such admissions will help him put his stamp on the party.
5) Dion should under no circumstances try to appeal to soft separatists, or try to immolate Martin’s asymmetrical federalism. Rightly or wrongly Dion is viewed as a strong Federalist and the party lacks the resources, time and people to chance that perception. Besides, such a campaign would be dismissed as desperate pandering at this point. It would also undermine what his appeal in English Canada. The Liberals only hope of breathing life into their flagging Quebec fortunes is to appeal to socially democratic and socially liberal strains in Quebec society.
6) The Liberals need to rediscover universality. Until they do, major policy initiatives, such as Liberals early childhood education plan, are bound to fall flat on their face. Indeed, as with early childhood education, the more the Liberals talk up the need for such a program the more inadequate and lackluster their proposal will appear and the more attractive the Conservatives thousand and one ways to dress up tax cut or rebate, a la the universal baby bonus, will seem. Access to affordable child care was certainly a more attractive option than anything the Conservatives were offering. However, many voters hedged their bets. They figured that a $1200 bird in their hand was better than 15% chance of nailing two in the bush.
7) If they Liberals are going to continue to paint Harper as the second coming of Bush, they better inact some polices that are going to leave Harper and Bush on the same side. Stephen Harper has long since become wise to such talking points and has gone out of his way to distance himself from Bush and the Americans have been helpful in this regard. Moreover, Harper has all but put a stop to nut bars, such as, Gallant waxing poetic on issues near and dear to social conservatives and he has not openly courted the social conservatives in the way that he did before becoming PM.