With less than a week to go in the campaign, Stéphane Dion has a bounce in his step, thanks to a bounce in the polls. Four points? That's what now separates the Conservatives and Liberals? Wow.
I don't know how Stephen Harper is feeling at this moment but I'm willing to put good money on "a little freaked out."
Dion was in Toronto today. He addressed the Canadian Club. He sat down with the country's other PM – Peter Mansbridge. And he even skipped over to Queen Street West, to visit – wait for it – MuchMusic.
It was 5 p.m. and Dion was the guest on the station’s Much on Demand flagship broadcast. Election Fever readers who are tweens, teens or 20-somethings are no doubt familiar with the format. For the rest of you, think music videos mixed with giddy chatter mixed with random questions mixed with a live audience that's prone to sudden bursts of deranged applause.
In other words: Not the best environment for someone who last month disclosed a hearing problem. So when he told interviewer Hannah Simone, "I have no idea what you’re saying!" it was not because she was speaking gibberish but because he could not simultaneously hear the words that were coming out of her mouth and the claps that were coming from the kids' hands.
As these things go, the interview was fine.
Dion emerged from a back corridor, a microphone in his hand. Then he took a seat on a large glass cube that appeared to be filled with trinkets. From here, he was peppered with serious questions and ones that were not serious at all: "When you were a professor, were you a hard marker or an easy marker?" "Have you ever illegally downloaded music?"
(Answers: "I was fair" and "No.")
Dion stressed the importance of voting (for the Liberals). He itemized all the things his government would do for young people, including low-interest rate student loans, extended grace periods for repayment, new bursaries.
He called the environment the "most important issue of our century." He did a hard sell on his Green Shift: "It's good for your wallet. It's good for the planet. Let's do it!"
He took a few shots at Harper, calling the early Conservative commercials "low-blow attack ads." At one point, he sounded like an NHL enforcer when referring to the wedge issue known as Canada's artists: "I will support them! And I will not accept that anyone try to intimidate them or impose censorship, as Stephen Harper has done!"
He pandered to the youth vote when talking about student loans: "I know that you will use all your loan for your studies but, once in a while, to go to see a concert or a good movie."
And for good measure, he even did an unintentional impersonation of that guy from the ING Direct commercials: "Your income! Your savings! Your investments!"
Sure, there were moments when the youngsters looked ready for a nap. There were moments when Dion's hearing appeared to be severely compromised. And there were moments that can only be described as weird, as when he introduced music videos: "Here is a video premiere from Katy Perry – Hot n Cold!"
But, overall, Dion did better than he has done with grown-ups this campaign. For whatever reason, he finally looks like he believes this contest is not already lost.
|Rick Madonik / Toronto Star|
|"That man has not won yet! I believe Canada wants a Liberal government. And I believe Paul Martin just stole my plate of grapes."|