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Stéphane Dion says that part of his challenge in the Liberal leadership campaign is to overcome misconceptions about him: that he is an excessively rigid federalist, that he doesn't speak English and that he is a cold fish.

The leadership contender is set to outline his economic agenda in a speech today, but yesterday he said that in addition to putting forward a policy vision, his campaign will dispel false impressions.

Some believe that he cannot speak English, others that he is so unpopular in Quebec that he cannot win there. And some say he's "unable to deliver a speech with emotion and conviction," Mr. Dion told reporters from The Globe and Mail and CTV News.

"I need to show that it's not true," he said. "Up to now, I have not had a lot of difficulty showing that it's not true. But I need to meet the people, to do that."

Mr. Dion, recruited to the Liberal cabinet in 1996, gained a reputation as a hard-line federalist when he travelled Quebec as former prime minister Jean Chrétien's point man on federalism after the 1995 referendum.

Recent polls have indicated that he has left many Quebeckers with strong views -- making him one of the names most often suggested as a potential leader, but also someone for whom a substantial number say they would not vote.

Mr. Dion believes that's because he campaigned for federalism in Quebec and bears the scars. "I paid personally, because I've been through the fight."

He insisted that he is getting a good reaction to his campaign in Quebec but does not propose shaping Liberal policies around regional pitches for the province. Instead, he will sell the same message -- making the environment a key priority, along with the economy and social issues -- to create a shared mission for Quebec and Canada.

"There is no better vision than to be the leading country to reconcile humanity with the planet," he said.

He scoffed at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promises to settle the so-called fiscal imbalance as he attempts to build for a majority government by focusing on Quebec. Mr. Harper is trying to respond to an undefined concept because it has become "a kind of nationalist slogan" but has so far cut money for provinces.

"Up to now, the fiscal imbalance has been a device to reduce transfers to the provinces," he said.

Mr. Dion, a former environment minister, has outlined a campaign to create "three pillars" of Liberal policy, adding environmental sustainability to the chief goals of economic performance and social justice that he said marked the Liberals in the 20th century.

He said his platform will include calls for tax reforms, investment in research and development, policies for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and revamping the immigration system to attract immigrants to bring skills to Canada.

Several of the other Liberal candidates are focusing on similar issues, as environment, immigration and tax policy appear to be among the most common focuses of most campaigns.

Last week, Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison proposed that Canada adopt the most generous tax credits in the world for businesses that invest in clean energy projects, while former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy called for Canada to eliminate what he called the "immigrant success gap" so that immigrants would have the same standard of living as native-born Canadians after 10 years.

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