Monday Nov. 26, 2007   BACK | NEXT

Angelo Persichilli

Confucius, China’s most famous teacher, thinker, philosopher, and political theorist 551-479 BC, once offered this timeless advice about friends and friendships.

              “Speak truthfully and guide them in good ways. If they do not agree, then stop and do not disgrace yourself for them.” According to federal Liberal sources in high places, many friends of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion are doing exactly what Confucius suggested, and after “speaking truthfully” and trying to “guide him” for months, they have stopped, mostly in an effort “not to disgrace themselves” with him.

              At the present time, Dion is a lone man who has isolated himself from the people in charge of his campaign and from the people in his office, Liberals say.

              A couple of Liberal MPs told The Hill Times last week that they have “approached him many times offering our support since his election last year in Montreal. He did not call once.” One Liberal strategist who once supported Dion told The Hill Times last week that Dion “is alone. He is a person who hears you, but doesn’t listen.” The former supporter says that a conversation with Dion is “like being in a restaurant talking to the person sitting in front of you who, instead of listening to you, looks continuously to the guest seating in another table or at the clouds outside.” Another Liberal strategist, again who did not want to be identified and who never supported Dion, told The Hill Times that “even his close friends are fed up and have left him alone.” Another Liberal MP, who did not want to go public either, said that Dion “pays attention only to his wife and his dog Kyoto,” and completely disregards advice from the people working with him “and the results are those we see every day at Question Period.” Nobody has ever questioned his integrity or his academic credentials “but that’s exactly the problem: he is still an academic who failed to become a politician.” According to the strategist there is a big difference between the two roles: “A professor doesn’t have to listen to the students.

              He preaches and he lectures. In politics, it’s different: you have to learn to be a team player, you have to listen to the people around you, and, together prepare the strategy and implement it.” Unfortunately, said the strategist, “Dion doesn’t listen because he believes he knows everything, just like a professor talking to his students.” So where does the party go from here, I asked to the strategist who has never supported Dion: “We know that nothing is going to happen before an election. We can’t do anything to stop him leading this party in the next election. We only hope that we are going to vote pretty soon.” Talking on background with The Hill Times many Liberals admit that the chances to form the next government are very slim considering the political environment.

                “The only question,” said one Liberal MP, “is the degree of the defeat. We hope it’s going to be like 1988 but many fear that we could go through another 1984 debacle, if not worse.” In 1984, the Liberals won 40 seats and in 1988, they won 80 seats.

                The same source told The Hill Times that Dion “doesn’t pay attention neither to his campaign team, nor to the people in his office. This is very serious mistake from a person who has never run a campaign in his life but believes he can do everything because he’s an academic.” Listening to the people who spoke to The Hill Times last week, it looks like that, finally, Liberals are going to be united again, but it is the kind of unity that Dion would never enjoy.

                At the beginning, Dion tried hard to unite the party giving away titles and positions to his former “enemies.” It was a magnanimous act, but definitely not a smart political move.

                Many believed that he was giving away the barn abdicating his leadership.

                According to what we hear lately, it looks like it was much worse: he gave away titles and positions but never the power. He changes people in his office or the structure of his campaign, but the end results is the same: he doesn’t pay attention to anybody.

                I started with a quote from Confucius about friendships and friends, and I want to conclude with one on leadership.

                Someone asked the Chinese thinker and philosopher about government. Confucius said, “If those nearby are pleased, those far away will come.” Obviously, if those nearby leave, soon those afar will run away from you.

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