Richard from Manitoba here,
Many a discussion out there in the blogosphere is trying to relate each candidate's qualities to potential electability. I'm glad people are keeping the next election in mind when talking Leadership considering we aren't electing the president of our own pointless social club. Thus far, bloggers and a few pundits have been focusing exclusively on inherent qualities (language and location specifically) as if these were the sole determining factors in an election; there is so much cynicism built into this view. No one can deny that demographics of a leader matter to people; people look for ways to personalize and relate to a leader to the "world" they see and live in. Yet, you can apply the economist model to voting: people are looking to maximize their benefit to their lives. And, I still believe some people are genuinely interested in the common good in this country.
We fail the second two motivations unless we start discussing ideas and visions as vote-moving instruments. Does Stephane's French accent, or Kennedy's hard French, or Dryden's charisma matter to the every day lives of Canadians? no, surely not. Accents don't pay bills or taxes, educate children, bust crime, or clean up the toxic site next to the playground. Governments and politicians exist to make the everyday lives of citizens more manageable, to take advantage of the common good; ideas and programs accomplish this. Put any candidate's personality foibles against two fewer hours spent waiting in an emergency room, or a cheaper bill at the pharmacy, or news of carbon emission reductions; the tangible benefits matter so much more.
If Stephen Harper, cowboy-hatted, leather vest-wearing man of the west can pick up seats in Quebec by promising to fix the fiscal imbalance, then any person with a relevant idea can win anywhere. Even the Liberals have an opportunity in the West with support for the wheat board and ethanol production.
Debating electability without discussing the candidate's planks and their regional impacts is a half hearted and fully arrogant nod to Canadian voters. We dismiss this reality at our own peril. This issue isn't necessarily about any particular candidate, its just a reminder that ideas matter. It just can't be helped that Stephane is a man of ideas.