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The Liberals reboot
December 2, 2006 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Stephane Dion has been elected Canadian Liberal Party leader at a convention in Montreal. Barely third (by two votes) on last night's first ballot, Dion gained support today through each of the next three ballots he needed to reach the 50%+1 level. An Quebec academic known for his federalist writings, he was originally recruited by former PM Jean Chrétien to fight Quebec separatists in the mid-nineties. He served as intergovernmental affairs minister for several years under Chrétien, then later organized the UN Climate Change summit as environment minister. He now goes to Ottawa as Leader of the Opposition, in hopes of soon replacing current PM Stephen Harper.
posted by bowline (121 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Dion spoke in our faculty a few years ago, and while I respect him and think he's a smart guy I think this is a mistake. I have doubts about his charisma. Ignatieff would have a better chance against Harper. Rae screwed us by not supporting him.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:48 PM on December 2, 2006


ah damn, just beat me to it. Here's a few of the links I had collected.

Interviews with Mr. Dion: 1 2 3 4

My favorite news article about Mr. Dion.

And, finally, just because I love it so, the famous Pierre Trudeau fuddle duddle clip.
posted by Kattullus at 4:50 PM on December 2, 2006


Dion is too much of a political insider and Liberal insider. He bears with him the taint of the party's recent past even if he isn't guilty of anything - just because he's been prominent in the recent past. Guilt by association.

Ignatieff as leader would have showed Canada that the Liberal party was listening, and was changing and moving ahead. Dion as leader means they're not listening and they're stagnating. Or something. This is my take on the thing.

Also I would have loved to see Ignatieff dealing internationally with other world leaders. Man that would have rocked.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:04 PM on December 2, 2006


Hilarious. Watching the real leaders of the Liberal party giggling while sending any one of these clowns into the certain defeat that will be the next election was good fun this weekend. Reminded me of old Reform party convetions. Dion is unelectable in Quebec, unelectable in Ontario and unelectable in the West. He even looks like Preston Manning! But fear not Liberals, the next leadership race will feature all or some of the giants that sat out this time - Manley, Tobin, Rock, Stronach - maybe even a Trudeau!! Not Americans, hockey players, socialists out of office for 15 years and various other no-names. Election in a year, Conservative majority for 4 more, another Liberal dynasty for the 15 or so after that is my call...
posted by loquax at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2006


You Canadians crack me up with your self importance in your electoral process...
posted by Eekacat at 5:07 PM on December 2, 2006


Also, Dion is screwed in Quebec for being Chretien's toady and I can't imagine him playing well in the west either because of his association with Quebec. They're so sick of everything being about Quebec and Ontario. So he's a losing proposition.

on preview - what, loquax, they don't even like him in Ontario?! What have we done. D:
posted by fleetmouse at 5:09 PM on December 2, 2006


He will be competent. He will not sweep to victory, perhaps, but neither will Steve. If the period of Liberal regeneration is only entering its middle phase - rather than ending - then it will play out in the context of competent leadership and, at worst, a continued Tory minority.

Besides, wasn't Harper an uncharismatic, wonkish unknown too?
posted by bicyclefish at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2006


Ignatieff would have a better chance against Harper.

Oh, please. Harper woulda beat Iggy like a rented mule.

You do know Harper and the rest of his Refoooormers have read the part of the Rove/Cheney playbook about smearing opponents as effete, outta-touch elitists, right? With Ignatieff, that's not an allegation, that's a description.

None of Iggy's attributes come without associated negatives. His record as respected academic comes with too many too-clever-by-half writings with ambiguous phrases that can be turned to political advantage by his opponents. His time at Harvard? Proof he's outta touch with Joe and Jean SixPack, a man who hasn't lived in Canada since bell bottoms were haute couture. His brainstorm on Quebec? Evidence he's more interested in ideas as ways to showcase his braininess, not proposals to pragmatically improve the country.

I'm not convinced Dion can win. But if the Liberals did anything right today, it was to send the Turner/ Martin/ Iggy wing of the party into the ignominious retirement it deserves.
posted by docgonzo at 5:30 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


fleetmouse - perhaps I was being a little too hard on him - although he didn't have much success in Ontario during the leadership campaing (coming in 5th). Also I'm not sure what the appetite is in Ontario for yet another Quebecker PM after Chretien and Trudeau (and Martin and Mulroney). His English won't help him in the province either, I don't think.

Harper and the conservatives have proven themselves quite politically adept in the last few years I think (a little too adept, I don't think I'll be voting for them in the near future). I don't think they have much to worry about from Dion if he heads into an election with the platform he's outlined thus far. They were worried about Rae, likely the only candidate that was well-connected politically and smart enough to beat the conservatives at their own game (not that the Liberal establishment had any desire to see Rae win). Dion needs to win back, what, 50-odd seats in order to win back a Liberal majority? How on Earth will he accomplish that, barring a total collapse by Harper (clearly not out of the question)? He was probably a good choice for temporary leader, and won't get killed by the Conservatives like Ignatieff would have been. And he was lucky to win anyways coming up the middle - Kennedy only supported him because he's not a former resident of Queen's Park like Rae, thereby maximizing his own future chances within the party.

Also, I agree with docgonzo.
posted by loquax at 5:38 PM on December 2, 2006


I have to agree with docgonzo. I'm not overly impressed with Dion, but Ignatieff would have been an enormous mistake. His history is somewhat clouded and despite his intellect, it would have been easy pickings for the conservative cabal come the next election.

Dion is a fairly stand-up guy with a solid political history that is not as closely tied to the Chretien government at first glance. His opinions on federalism are aligned with (what I believe) the majority of Canadians and aside from possibly further upsetting Quebec, he will be a welcome relief to the province once they've realized that Harper has just been patronizing the hell out of them from the start.

I'm surprised that Dryden made such a strong showing.
posted by purephase at 5:38 PM on December 2, 2006


Fundraising is also a major issue for the Liberals these days - last I saw, the Conservatives had about $16mm in the war chest compared to the $4mm the Liberals had (even after a major campaign to pull the party out of the red). Is Dion going to be able to make a major dent in that deficit before the next election?
posted by loquax at 5:45 PM on December 2, 2006


I don't have any favourite hypothesis about What This Means. Part of me thinks Dion is just a place holder until Tobin, Manley or McKenna takes over the party. Part of my thinks Dion isn't done surprising us.

I do think it's a mistake to look at him only through the lenses of electability and regional affection. Does he have Trudeau's (or even Muldoon's) charisma? Clearly not. But neither does Harper; I think too much stock is put in charisma by people who scribble about politics. What Dion does have is brains, sincerity, conviction and credibility.

He also has a Killer App. He owns Kyoto and climate change. Like Gore, he feels it in his heart and knows it in his head, it appears. He's not Johnny-come-lately to this file.

More importantly, it's a political winner. Canadians consistently report -- since the 1970s -- that the environment is a top issue. But when it comes to why they vote the way they do, the environment is not a commonly-cited reason. I suspect this is because environmental issues have, until now, never been a day-to-day issue for middle-class Canadians.

But that is changing. We feel in our bones that something is wrong with our world, and it is being caused by climate change. With every mild winter, unusual storm, changes in local flora and fauna, summer heat wave we are reminded that the weather is not the way it was when we were children.

Dion owns this issue. Maybe more importantly, it is Harper's big weakness. He has not only punted the file -- it will be hard to rebut Dion's charged that Harper broke Canada's word over the protocol and made us a pariah -- but installed a political joke as minister. Kyoto represents all of Harper's negatives. It is Dion's winning strategy.
posted by docgonzo at 5:48 PM on December 2, 2006


I suspect this is because environmental issues have, until now, never been a day-to-day issue for middle-class Canadians.

The problem with environmental issues is that they're extremely hard to communicate to an electorate. It's not as simple as Dion being "for" the environment and Harper being "against". Harper and the conservatives will be able to make at least plausible enough arguments for jettisonning Kyoto and its replacements within their environmental legislation to muddle the issue for voters. There is no current environmental issue that Dion can blame on a government that has been in power for less than a year, and no way that he can condense the science and arguments around climate change into the appropriate sound bytes and debate clips that will resonante with voters. Certainly nothing with the impact of issues like taxation, separation, the fiscal imbalance, crime, etc.

And if the conservatives are smart, they'll avoid the debate entirely and leave Dion as the only candidate discussing the environment while they're addressing the issues that face "real Canadians". Dion and the Liberals already have Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and most other major cities sown up, that was never at issue - if they want another majority they need to take back the 30-40 odd seats they lost in suburban and rural Ontario and Quebec and stop the bleeding to the NDP. I can't believe that the environment will be the issue that does it.
posted by loquax at 5:59 PM on December 2, 2006


eekacat: you americans crack me up with your self righteousness in the world...
posted by winston smith at 5:59 PM on December 2, 2006


I like Mercer's take on it.

Dion will be fine - he's put in his time, and he's got spine. He needs a charisma injection for sure, but he comes off stronger than he looks. He's hardly a Liberal insider: the Liberals themselves were surprised this guy ran, and they weren't expecting him to win. Quebec doesn't love him but honestly he's otherwise inoffensive all around, which is what got him the race - he's not disliked. I myself like the surprise element, I mean, Dion isn't thrilling me but a dark horse is intriguing - now to see how he polishes up at the front line. I think he may shape up quite well - he's a hard worker and he came off straightforward and no-bullshit - there's definite potential there.

Ignatieff - watching his campaign video and speech last night - laughable. Getting his brother on the video to attest that he "seems shy but he's warm on the inside!" Comedy gold. The stiff gestures during his speech, that Sweeping Pointy Finger, the scripted smiling - you want to talk about awkward, hah, there it was. Him against Harper would've been like Robot vs. Robot. And yeah, Harper would've taken him down. He's got the Canadian political gills that Ignatieff lacks.

Kennedy's one to watch - he got over 90% of his supporters to throw in for Dion, that was a coup. He's got pull, and it's him backing out and tossing in with Dion that snowballed the momentum there - smart strategy for his own career politically. He needs some federal time in - and I'm sure he'll run at the next shot - but he'll be up and coming.

Dryden's speech - at least the second half of it - was easily the best of the night. Surprising, but good stuff.
posted by Melinika at 6:06 PM on December 2, 2006


Heh, good link, Melinika, thanks. Gotta quote the end:

At the end of the day though, watching Dion on stage, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his physical presence. The Liberals went into this convention with a host of choices. They could have gone with a battle-tested politician, a former athlete, a world famous academic or a food bank founder from the West; at the end of the day they choose the nerd.

That’s pretty Canadian.

posted by docgonzo at 6:12 PM on December 2, 2006


I was hoping for a Rae win. I would have voted liberal for the first time if he'd won. But from the beginning I feared it was impossible, and I was surprised he did as well as he did today. At about noon I saw the writing on the wall; it would have to be Dion. But that was mostly just denial that anyone would actually let Ignatieff win. I'll never forgive him for bringing up that racist "Quebecois nation" business. And Torture? Not okay. Looking fondly at us from Cambridge MA all those years is not the same as living here. So I feel a great sense of relief that Dion won.

Actually, I gave him a second look when Martha Hall Findlay went to him. I respect her judgement, and I'm relatively satisfied that we ended up with Dion. We'll see what he can do.

I mean, he is, by all reports, a really, really nice, honest, genuine guy. That's gotta count for something. (Hopefully.)
posted by Hildegarde at 6:14 PM on December 2, 2006


I'd have to agree with docgonzo on this one. I think that the environment as a voting issue has turned a corner in the mind of the public; although it hasn't yet had a chance to be a proper election issue. Last January's vote was entirely overwhelmed by adscam, and before that you'd have to look back a few elections to find one of consequence. Dion is going to bring the issue to the fore, as it's his main weapon against Harper right now.

Remember, if he renegs on the environment he'll have to explain why he named his dog Kyoto.
posted by Adam_S at 6:18 PM on December 2, 2006


He also has a Killer App. He owns Kyoto and climate change. Like Gore, he feels it in his heart and knows it in his head, it appears. He's not Johnny-come-lately to this file.

I'm reserving judgment, but that's pretty close to my hope: that the Liberals are smart enough to devour Harper's exposed flank on climate change, and that Dion's got the guts and/or skills to make it the issue of the next election and cripple him on it. Public opinion has been moving at stunning speed on this issue, and Harper's stone-dumb play on it - via Rona Ambrose, who I'm sure he thought he was giving a "minor" cabinet portfolio - is strong evidence of that. No way they thought she'd be front page news every other week with her abundantly evident ignorance.

I'm not saying Dion is the guy to pick up the "it's the green economy, stupid" ball, but if he is, he just might convince me to vote Liberal for the first time in my life.
posted by gompa at 6:28 PM on December 2, 2006


My post from the begining of the campaign: Canada's Next Prime Minister

As it turns out, I was completely wrong, it was decided on December 2nd.
posted by Chuckles at 6:31 PM on December 2, 2006


Besides, wasn't Harper an uncharismatic, wonkish unknown too?

Yes, and now he's an unknowable, wonkish cabalist who has turned the PMO into a dictator's bunker-tomb. His meager election was the first symptom of utter madness in our public politics, and the completely incomprehensible debate/self-flagellation among Liberals (large and small) regarding Israel's war on Lebanon cemented the total irrationality of our current politics and politicians.

It's pretty hard not to tune out after otherwise apparently rational human beings fell over themselves to defend or at least avoid criticizing a deadly cynical and terribly destructive war by a state that should be an international pariah but isn't because everyone needs the Jewish vote. A war which, from start to finish was a travesty of international law and human decency which, we must remind ourselves, included the terribly deliberate targeting of a team of peacekeepers that included one of our own. When the content of our politics is this poisonous, how can I do anything but pretend they don't exist?
posted by kowalski at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2006


Why can't American politics be as interesting/intelligent/fun as this?

That's a rhetorical question.
posted by wendell at 6:36 PM on December 2, 2006


What docgonzo said. And remember, people have a habit of underestimating Dion. That's why he won today, and why he'll beat Harper.
posted by Zinger at 6:37 PM on December 2, 2006


When the content of our politics is this poisonous, how can I do anything but pretend they don't exist?

That's nothing. His cabal also lied when they promised not to touch income trusts. Though I suppose it evens them out vis a vis the Jewish vote.
posted by loquax at 6:38 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


That was supposed to be
As it turns out, I was completely wrong, it was decided on December 2nd.
posted by Chuckles at 6:39 PM on December 2, 2006


Echoing some earlier comments, I believe Dion to be un-electable -- certainly the soft nationalist Quebec vote (and in their hearts, most francophone Quebecois are soft nationalists) don't like the guy.

Having said that, if Dion promises a carbon tax and cap-and-trade scheme for carbon, I'll join the Liberal party and stuff envelopes for them.

(By the way, and totally anecdotally only, Dion plays very well in the lower mainland.)
posted by bumpkin at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2006


After Ignatieff's showing last night, I'm pretty happy with a Dion win. Ignatieff's never come off as particularly genuine, and his vaunting buzz word speech last night sealed the deal. The whole iraq/torture stuff doesn't help him.

In general, I would have been happy with either Rae or Dion. I think it turned out well.

I'm really not that worried though. Maybe I shouldn't think so, but it seems like the Liberals taking power back is a foregone conclusion. I sort of assumed that whoever won today would end up running the country some time next year.
posted by Alex404 at 7:26 PM on December 2, 2006


The problem with environmental issues is that they're extremely hard to communicate to an electorate.

I really don't think so. We in BC are looking at having forestry wiped out because we don't get winters cold enough to kill the pine beetle any more. Everyone on the Prairies is well aware that there's a lot more drought (less snow = less groundwater) these days. Everyone in the Arctic is in a panic because the permafrost is not so permanent. Ontario and Quebec are polluted with acid rain, unswimmable lakes, and dense smug. The East Coast knows its fish stocks are likely beyond salvation.

The entire country is alarmed about the environment. All we need is someone with the brains and balls to get us organized and on-board.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 PM on December 2, 2006


I always thought it hilarious when people mentioned that Dion "wasn't liked outside Quebec" before. Frankly, he was never much liked inside Quebec either. Basically he was one of two intellectual non-politicians (along with Pierre Pettigrew) parachuted into safe seats because Chretien felt his government needed more intellectual gravitas. The assumption was that his seat (St-Laurent) was so safe he'd never have to be a good politician in order to survive.

This is not good news for the Libs. I just hope there's a marijuana-themed party candidate in my riding next election, although frankly I have a feeling that those tend to miss filing deadlines more times than most candidates...
posted by clevershark at 8:05 PM on December 2, 2006


Echoing some earlier comments, I believe Dion to be un-electable -- certainly the soft nationalist Quebec vote (and in their hearts, most francophone Quebecois are soft nationalists) don't like the guy.

I am intrigued -- how did you get such insight into the hearts of Quebecois/e? Is there a website, a toll-free number, a brochure?

I kid, but barely. I don't think such sweeping generalisations can be made mere hours after Dion takes the race. After all, it was received wisdom that Chretien and Trudeau were said to be poison in Quebec. They did okay, no?
posted by docgonzo at 8:05 PM on December 2, 2006


I think the convention delegates were wise to choose someone they liked, rather than choosing the candidate they felt was most electable. They choose the candidate of their hearts rather than their heads - someone they liked best rather than trying to choose someone they thought someone else would like best.

The latter course is like the man who chooses a wife he thinks his parents and friends will approve of, rather than the woman he loves. It leads to John Turner, and John Kerry.
posted by bowline at 8:21 PM on December 2, 2006


I can't help but think that this is exactly the result John Manley was hoping for. At least Kennedy has a few years to learn French now.

I think, in fact, Dion is quite vulnerable on the environment. He was a well meaning, but not terribly effective minister. It was under his watch that we failed to develop a Kyoto strategy. Anderson, his predecessor, had a plan starting under Cretien, but Dion sat on it for two years. Most of the greenhouse gas programs were shut down during his tenure, probably to meet Martin's budget targets.
posted by bonehead at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2006


docgonzo -- Dion has never been one to spare insults when it comes to talking about sovereignists. He's burned a lot of bridges here very early in his political career. This wasn't supposed to matter, because as I said he represents a riding which has a very large immigrant non-French speaking population, and so this wasn't supposed to matter... until he went and got himself elected party leader.

It's a bit strange, because if truth be told his English is not very good. Frankly the only people who should rejoice tonight are the Conservatives. They now have a pretty good chance of electing more MPs in Quebec...
posted by clevershark at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2006


I've got a soft spot for Rae and the whole Rae days mess. I always figured that a couple unpaid days off was better than laying off people. But I'm glad, and not so surprised Iggy lost. He said a lot of silly things that he probably believed.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:33 PM on December 2, 2006


So, how long before Iggy resigns and goes somewhere he really wants to be, like Britain or the US?
posted by clevershark at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2006


Dion is too much of a political insider and Liberal insider. He bears with him the taint of the party's recent past even if he isn't guilty of anything - just because he's been prominent in the recent past. Guilt by association.

Ignatieff as leader would have showed Canada that the Liberal party was listening, and was changing and moving ahead. Dion as leader means they're not listening and they're stagnating. Or something. This is my take on the thing.


I've heard this sentiment a lot. The problem, however, is that in this race Ignatieff was the Liberal insider. He was courted by the party leadership to be the Next Great Leader - his organization was former Martin/Manley people. If Ignatieff won, it would have the been the same faces in the PMO and the party. Dion operated largely outside of the usual Martin-Chretien power brokers.
posted by magwich at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2006


I remember the last time the Liberals picked a leader who was thought to be unelectable in Quebec and yesterday's man elsewhere in Canada.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2006


eekacat - go fuck your hat
posted by isopraxis at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2006


I wish Rae had won. After watching the Rick Mercer "interview" with him (they were out fishing, and probably drinking) I decided I quite liked the guy. Didn't seem like the kind to deliberately harm someone.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on December 2, 2006


"Ignatieff as leader would have showed Canada that the Liberal party was listening, and was changing and moving ahead."

No, I'd rather lose elections with Dion then win with Ignatieff. Supporting torture in any form is a deal-breaker, and I suspect that much (I hope, most) of Canada feels that way too.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:50 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


You have to remember how Chretien had to be parachuted into a New Brunswick riding for his big comeback because the Liberals didn't have faith that he would be elected in Quebec in that by-election.

Dion will be elected, however. In his riding you could have a small household pet running as a Liberal and it would carry a comfortable majority.
posted by clevershark at 8:53 PM on December 2, 2006


I think the party has underestimated how much Dion is hated in Quebec. More than Trudeau or Chretien ever were. At least they were doing their part from a position of power - Dion was just the hired pen brought in to obfuscate everything against them. Even Federalist Quebecers seem to hate him.

That said, he's not actually dangerous for Canada, and I think Ignatieff was deeply dangerous. What's the saying? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Docgonzo and I (and likely Loquax) have more direct experience with Quebec-Canada politics in our little fingers than Ignatieff has now and will likely ever have. But bright boys often believe they are bright, and that is almost always a disaster.

There's one thing in this that I find extremely interesting. Dion was the #2 choice of the party old guard. Rae was clearly #1, and both Martin (Robinson) and Chretien (Goldenberg and many more) factions were working on making it happen for Rae - not to mention Rae's own brother who is a major rainmaker in his own right. Was Dion really more of a #1A choice, though?

In supporting Dion, the Chretien side of the party seems to have hedged their bets a little bit, and it has worked out really well for them. I saw Volpe over with Dion, but among other known Martin-ites - were any of them with Dion as well?

One more thing - on the language thing, I think it's truly a case of accent not any lack of knowledge of or understanding of English. Dion's wife spent many years teaching at Concordia. Of all the concerns there may be, this should be the most easily allayed.
posted by mikel at 8:54 PM on December 2, 2006


Ignatieff would have been a tremendous waste of time. If you're going to vote for a PM who's going to support Iraq, torture and basically whatever the American President does we might as well vote for the Conservatives.
posted by clevershark at 8:55 PM on December 2, 2006


(and by "support Iraq" I mean "support the war in Iraq")
posted by clevershark at 8:55 PM on December 2, 2006


Don't forget, Ignateiff was a parachute candidate in the last election. Something tells me the Liberal party brass wouldn't go to those lengths for a rogue outsider.

Dion owns this [the environment] issue. Maybe more importantly, it is Harper's big weakness. He has not only punted the file -- it will be hard to rebut Dion's charged that Harper broke Canada's word over the protocol and made us a pariah -- but installed a political joke as minister. Kyoto represents all of Harper's negatives. It is Dion's winning strategy.

I doubt you can win an election on one issue alone. Remember in the last election, Harper announced nearly a policy a day. It didn't matter that most of them amounted to little more than Fabulous Cash Prizes for being in a demographic the PCs wanted to court, it kept Harper's name in the news, kept the Liberals on the defensive and kept the PCs from sounding like a one-note orchestra like the Reform party often did.
posted by arto at 9:01 PM on December 2, 2006


clevershark, my thoughts exactly. The years outside Canada and his complete and utter misunderstanding on Quebec aside, the fact that Ignatieff is simply a Conservative in Liberal clothing would have brought Canadian electoral choices sharply to the central-right.

I think the Liberal delegates have chosen wisely. Strong federalist Liberal candidates resonate with the electorate even if controversy follows them into office and Quebec support is questionable.

As must as I would have believed in Rae, the Liberals know that without Ontario they don't stand a hope in hell of even a minority government. Ontario (as silly as it might be) will not vote for Rae.
posted by purephase at 9:12 PM on December 2, 2006


Hey - he's got a PdD in Sociology! How bad could he be?
posted by Quartermass at 10:08 PM on December 2, 2006


It was nice to see an open race, not just a coronation. I think any of the top four candidates would have been interesting, but Dion definitely stands out in terms of his federal political experience.

Outside Quebec, Dion has a reputation as a strongly committed federalist; it was Dion who introduced the Clarity Act. (Which is of course why he would be hated by Quebec nationalists.)

I agree that the Conservative lack of action on climate change seems like a huge opportunity for the Liberals.
posted by russilwvong at 10:51 PM on December 2, 2006


You do know Harper and the rest of his Refoooormers have read the part of the Rove/Cheney playbook about smearing opponents as effete, outta-touch elitists, right? With Ignatieff, that's not an allegation, that's a description.

Dion is shaping up as a Canadian Gore, though. Smart, effective and certainly the best person to lead (I'm a big fan) but the charisma is lacking. He's going to be very hard to sell to the West, and he needs play Quebec smart - they're exhausted with the nationalist debate and more interested in getting the province back in economic order. He'd be good to play that angle.

I'd argue that being an elitist academic is less of a problem than in the past, given Bush's record. Dion's somewhat prone to that criticism, too...but I'd agree that Ignatieff's out-of-touchness is also a problem.

The main concern here, something that Harper has actually done OK at (recent China heavy-handedness notwithstanding) is positioning Canada on a global scale. We don't want to become a nowhere backwater. I think Ignatieff is potentially the better candidate in this respect.

If Afghanistan continues the way it's going, Harper will look really bad no matter what. From a westerner's perspective it just seems that Dion will have a tough time selling himself to English Canada, and apparently to French Canada as well. That's pretty much all of us. That's a problem. Too much environmental platform without the social and economic can make one look like a bit of a loony.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:50 PM on December 2, 2006


I'm really not convinced by this "hated in Quebec" line of argument. It seems obvious that hard line separatists would hate him, the clarity act is a danger to their ambitions, but that is a fraction of the 50% who actually vote yes, so certainly not that large a number. It seems to me that most people haven't formed any opinion at all yet, even in Quebec (it is very hard to know, judging from outside).

All of the other criticisms are similarly suspect. Liberal insider? No charisma? Bad English?

He will have to grow in the job, to be sure, but why should it be any other way?
posted by Chuckles at 11:58 PM on December 2, 2006


Chuckles, yeah I hope you're right.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:06 AM on December 3, 2006


The liberals can eat a bag of dicks. So can the fucken conservatives. They're all crooks.
posted by sharpener at 1:03 AM on December 3, 2006


sharpener: Looks like somebody finally understands politics!

Seriously though, you have to pick a crook. That's what democracy is.
posted by tehloki at 1:20 AM on December 3, 2006


Chuckles writes "All of the other criticisms are similarly suspect. Liberal insider? No charisma? Bad English?"

The "glass half full" approach is admirable indeed, but if elections were close by I don't think there would be much change in the House numbers.
posted by clevershark at 1:34 AM on December 3, 2006


This was the first time I really paid any attention to a party leadership convention. I was listening live on the CBC off and on all day and I must admit I found the process really exciting -- and I typically vote NDP. A couple of the candidates (Rae and Dion) were strong enough in my mind that I'd have voted for them if necessary. (My riding will always be Liberal though anyway.)

I'm happy with the result. I was rooting for Rae, and I was disappointed when he was dropped from the ballot (I'd been hearing speculation that Ignatieff was going to go over to Rae, oddly) but in the end I felt Dion was a very solid choice. I actually lived in his riding at one time and I think generally he's intelligent and upright. I do agree that he's always been underestimated.

I'm speaking here about my own unnameable intuition and the resemblance to my own politics rather than the best strategic choice. More heart than head.

Bottom line is that I'm just really relieved that Ignatieff lost. I agree with Mikel that he would have been dangerous. And as much as I hate the foofery of professional politics, I'm sorry but I do not want someone who's never even run in an election to run my country. Yes Dion was parachuted in, but he does have some years of experience now, but *also* has the benefit of not having been a lifelong pol.

He's also got that "sexy nerd" look, but I miss his old swoopy hairdo.
posted by loiseau at 2:12 AM on December 3, 2006


Ignatieff would have been a tremendous waste of time. If you're going to vote for a PM who's going to support Iraq, torture and basically whatever the American President does we might as well vote for the Conservatives.

Damn right, I got chills reading his "anti torture" article in The Star, it seemed so half-hearted. I'm especially mad with Canada turning a blind eye to innocent Canadians like William Samson, Maher Arar, and Huseyin Celil being either kidnapped or tortured abroad, but it seems like all a country has to do is mutter something about "terrorism" and the Canadian government will ignore it.

I'm happy with Dion and would have been happy with Kennedy. I like Bob Rae but I don't think he would have done that well in Ontario or the rest of Canada. Polling wise I think people in Ontario have warmed to him (especially compared to Harris) but I remember some people suggesting based on polls that David Peterson (of all people) might have been a better shot. I always thought of Rae as more of a moderate than a real NDP socialist like Layton, so I understand him switching parties, he was probably a bit less left than Dion or Kennedy.

As for Dion, a Liberal from Quebec is like a Southern Democrat in the U.S., it's a good combination for winning an election.

I was listening live on the CBC off and on all day and I must admit I found the process really exciting

Yes, this was the only interesting leadership race in, like decades, with four (well five for hockey fans) really interesting candidates.
posted by bobo123 at 3:05 AM on December 3, 2006


all of my federalist franco friends in montreal are crazy about Dion. they see him as incisive, intelligent and gutsy.
posted by Marquis at 3:30 AM on December 3, 2006


Ontario (as silly as it might be) will not vote for Rae.

Check the polls, man. Ontario was ready to vote for Bob. More ready to vote for him than all the others, including Ignatieff.

But, again, I'm happy enough with Dion.

If we have that election sooner rather than later, I will enjoy hearing George Bush try to pronounce "Stephane" without turning it into "Stephanie".
posted by Hildegarde at 6:23 AM on December 3, 2006


I like Bob Rae but I don't think he would have done that well in Ontario or the rest of Canada.

I'd guess that at this point, Ontarians are so sick of the fact that there's yet another Liberal leader from Quebec, that they'd have quite happily voted for Rae. He, at least, is ours. Especially if it allowed them to not vote for Harper, who is from Toronto, except loathed by most of Toronto, and from Toronto and thus not real well liked by most of the rest of the province, and ultimately, not really all that from Toronto at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:00 AM on December 3, 2006


Ontario and Quebec are polluted with acid rain, unswimmable lakes, and dense smug.

I'm pretty sure the smug affects all of Canada.
posted by srboisvert at 7:06 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was in Calgary a few weeks ago, and the guy driving me around was talking about Harper with the pride a man feels for a son of his town done good.

"He's from Toronto, though," I said.

"WHAT?!"

"Yeah. He's from Toronto. He doesn't like to mention that much, does he. He moved to Alberta as an adult."

A pause. I felt his world collapsing. We agreed that it hardly matters where you're born, it's all about the place you claim. And it's not like Toronto wants to claim him, eh?
posted by Hildegarde at 7:09 AM on December 3, 2006


Ontario and Quebec are polluted with ... dense smug.

Yes. Yes they are.
posted by evilcolonel at 7:15 AM on December 3, 2006


if truth be told his English is not very good.

I keep seeing and hearing this but I don't get it. His English is perfectly understandable, and much better than Chretien's. Indeed, it was often said that Chretein was unintelligible in eitherofficial language. Didn't seem to have much of an effect on his electability though.
posted by Zinger at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2006


The comparison with Chretien are unfair. Chretien was elected at a time when the PC party had first totally collapsed, then split votes across the country with the Reformers then the CA. Liberals were getting elected by default pretty much everywhere. During the 90's, the Liberals were only facing off against the BQ in Quebec and the NDP in metropolitan areas. Now, with a resurgent conservative party the electoral strategies that worked in the last decade are no longer valid, or at least won't generate huge majorities by default.

Don't forget that the Liberals were totally inept and crushed by Mulroney's PC party for the entire decade of the 80's. That won't likely happen anymore due to the BQ, but the utter dominance of the Liberal party in the 90's was an abberation, and in any other period, I highly doubt that Chretien would have been nearly as successful as he was. Replace him with any other Liberal of the period and I don't think the election results would have been much different.
posted by loquax at 7:54 AM on December 3, 2006


but the utter dominance of the Liberal party in the 90's was an abberation

Aberration? Liberals have lead at least 23 of the 39 parliaments so far... there's a reason why they've got the nickname "natural governing party of Canada."
posted by Zinger at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2006


Replace him with any other Liberal of the period and I don't think the election results would have been much different.

Jane Stewart
Lloyd Axworthy
Tom Wappel
Joe Volpe
Sergio Marchi

Hey, this is fun!
posted by docgonzo at 8:41 AM on December 3, 2006


I will enjoy hearing George Bush try to pronounce "Stephane" without turning it into "Stephanie".

What do you want to bet he gets nicknamed "Céline"?
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:50 AM on December 3, 2006


Hey, this is fun!

Would people really have voted for parties led by Preston Manning and Stockwell Day instead? 'Cause that was the choice at the time.

Aberration?


The aberration was not that the Liberals won, it was that they won so handily with a less than charismatic leader who was dodging scandals from day 1. The lack of unified opposition or a palative alternative major national party meant that the Liberals cruised to victory every time out.

If you accept that the Liberals got lucky in the 90's due to the splitting of the vote and no real opposition, then since WW2, the Liberals owned the late 60's, 70's and early 80's under Pearson and Trudeau and the Conservatives owned the (late) 50's and 80's under Diefenbaker and Mulroney. Hardly the natural party of power when much of that power was due to the popularity of one man in a very different era of Canadian politics. The advent of the BQ and the collapse of the PC party since 1993 has thrown comparisons with past parliaments out the window, if you ask me.
posted by loquax at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2006


Add me to the contrarians: I think the effect of Dion's reputation in Quebec is greatly overestimated. The Quebeckers who are the most vehement against the Clarity Act and Dion's federalism are the ones who vote Bloc anyway. Ultimately, I don't believe the majority of Quebec voters put the nation question first when voting in elections (federal or provincial), because like all Canadians, they realize that there are more important issues right now, the usual stuff of health care, education and the environment.

And I think on questions of policy, we will discover that Quebeckers views and Dion's views are fairly harmonic. The environment issue is bigger in Quebec than any other province in my opinion, and if Dion can play his cards right, he will be successful there. In addition, Dion came out of adscam completely unscathed and has his deserved reputation for integrity. That will be very valuable.

He may be vulnerable if he doesn't kow-tow to the "fiscal imbalance" idea. But show me another Liberal leadership candidate who feels differently. They're all essentially Trudeau centralists.
posted by attaboy at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2006


Seconding attaboy. I guess the reason I am resistant to the idea that Dion is poison in Quebec is, with all due respect to my friend Mikel (aside: I wish we could gather at that place over beers to talk about all that happened this weekend!), it implies that Quebeckers can't change their mind. That they're some sort of tribalist block that only marks their ballots based on the national question. I don't think this is so.

Think of it this way: In a three-way fight between Harper, Duceppe and Dion, do you really think Dion is going to end up the loser? He's obviously leagues smarter than both Duceppe and Harper. Dion can outflank Duceppe easily on many fronts. There's only so many parliamentary trinkets Harper can dangle before he does something that blows up his Alberta-centric cabinet or creates a full-bore constitutional shitstorm.

If Ontarians can change their minds about Bob Rae -- and few people really thought he couldn't win Ontario, in the end -- why can't Quebeckers change their mind about Dion?
posted by docgonzo at 9:59 AM on December 3, 2006


Harper is a very smart man. I wouldn't underestimate him. He's a control freak, sure, and would like to be much more socially conservative than he's able to be right now, but he is smart. His recent snookering of Captain Hairnet proves that.

I think another minortiy is a real possiblility in the near future, unless someone stumbles badly.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2006


I know that next time I'm going in to the polls, I'm voting against tacit adoption of U.S. policy, whoever the candidate and whatever the party that best expresses this sentiment might be.
posted by tehloki at 10:36 AM on December 3, 2006


His recent snookering of Captain Hairnet proves that.

bonehead is the only person I've ever heard say that Harper "snookered" anyone with that stupid racist Quebecois nation bullshit. Mostly what I've heard is: what crank are you guys smoking?! LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE.

How about income trusts, bonehead? How does that fiasco display Harper's amazing intelligence?
posted by Hildegarde at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2006


Oh, also: I'm so convinced that Bob Rae voted for Dion in the end.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2006


bonehead is the only person I've ever heard say that Harper "snookered" anyone with that stupid racist Quebecois nation bullshit. Mostly what I've heard is: what crank are you guys smoking?! LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE.

What? The BQ was going to introduce their own motion - they disturbed the sleeping dogs, not Harper. And ultimately, the BQ voted in favour of Harper's motion. He snookered Duceppe by beating him to the punch in passing a successful motion on Quebec's nation status and by getting the BQ to buy into it on his terms. Also: racist??

How about income trusts, bonehead? How does that fiasco display Harper's amazing intelligence?

By being able to point at that decision to liberal voters to demonstrate that the conservatives are not the party of the bay st. fat cats and by taking more wind out of the sails of the opposition. The NDP can't attack them for it, and neither can the Liberals, as they botched the issue even worse than the conservatives last year. By preventing Telus and Bell and Encana from trusting. It will be forgotten by the next election, and was an excuse to launch some new tax iniatives. I hate the move, but it was clever politicking.

Whether you agree with him or not, you can't argue that he hasn't been effective in advancing his agenda and establishing the party for a run at a majority in the next election while working with a tenuous minorty government. Many were predicting that his government wasn't going to last six months. So far, I'm not sure he's given the voters that migrated from the Liberal party to him in the last election much reason to move back.
posted by loquax at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2006


Harper may be smart, but he sure as hell isn't wise.

I'm disappointed Rae didn't win, because I might actually have voted liberal this time around if he were in.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:17 AM on December 3, 2006


I was hoping Rae would win, I usually vote NDP - but the anti-Afghan war shit lately is too much for me to swallow. I am one of those weird Saskatchewan people who either votes NDP or Conservative and never for the Liberals.

Rae winning would make me consider the Liberals, although the Conservatives are usually my second choice they've burned me really bad in the past - Larry Spencer was my MP.

Dion gets a resounding "meh" from me, and I won't reconsider my position on the Liberal party.

I'm hoping the Green Party in my ridiing will come up with a candidate who can 1) keep his hair and clothing presentable 2) understand politics past talking points and 3) Be organized enough to show up for media events, debates etc. I'd call them a third choice in those circumstances.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:19 AM on December 3, 2006


How about income trusts, bonehead?

Because, as loquax says, he did it now, when there is little change of an election. The government had to do something, or every other political party would have beat the conservatives with wrecking the economy. They closed a huge tax loophole and prevented making it even easier for foreign investors to stripmine our economy.

I'm very surprised he went as far as he did, given how very important income trusts are to the oil patch. A non-Albertan could not have gotten away with it. It would have been "NEP 2!" yet again. If you think Quebeckers have long memories, you've never sat in a bar with an Alberta oil patch worker.

The Libs have a chance to steal a couple of breakthrough seats in urban Alberta, perhaps even in downtown Calgary, depending. There's no way they would have done this---we know that because McCallum backed away from it at least once. I thought the move showed (and continues to show) surprising guts on the Tories' part.
posted by bonehead at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2006


The BQ was going to introduce their own motion - they disturbed the sleeping dogs, not Harper.

Well, yeah, that's what the BQ do. They always do stuff like that. Harper didn't have to throw them a bone.

And as for racist: a buddy of mine was born in Quebec. His parents are from Hong Kong. I suspect, even though he was born and raised in Quebec, he's probably never going to be considered Quebecois, huh?

And I have no problem with taxing income trusts, but I can't help snickering about how Harper screwed his base by promising not to do it, letting them dump their money into them and then get their hopes up, and then, whamo! Calgary is still reeling. That's the fiasco. And not a very smart move.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:33 AM on December 3, 2006


That's the fiasco. And not a very smart move.

Sure, but as the Liberals well know, who else is the conservative base in Alberta going to vote for? The NDP? Dion and his environmental policies? I don't think so. It was a clever move that will likely net them more votes outside of Alberta than it lost them inside Alberta. The only thing they really risked was corporate donations from financial institutions, but again, who else are they going to donate to, especially when they're promised lower income and corporate taxes?

His parents are from Hong Kong. I suspect, even though he was born and raised in Quebec, he's probably never going to be considered Quebecois, huh?


There are many many people to blame for that well before anyone needs to get around to Harper and this motion. And regardless, it was a politcally astute move can only help the conservatives, as the main party they compete with in Quebec is not the Liberal party, but the BQ.
posted by loquax at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2006


The major fallout of the "Nation" motion isn't for Harper, but Charest. He has a (ghostly) chance now in the next provincial election, rather tham being a stright-up loser. One Tory helping another, IMO. Your friend is a Quebecker in Charest province. In André Boisclair's? Who knows?
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2006


How about income trusts, bonehead?

I don't think think it's necessary to revert to name calling here.

Oh...that's his name. Never mind.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2006


May I just say how pleased I am that Ignatief didn't win? He reminded me too much of the pols on my side of the Detroit River, and that, on top of Harper, would have been too much for my lefty heart to bear.
posted by QIbHom at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2006


Dion's English is poor. In his post-victory scrum he couldn't understand some of the English questions and put them aside with some pretty awkwared bluffing. As it stands now, he'd be dead meat in the English debate.

As for the Quebecios "nation." It's less racism than a concession to an ideology with a strong racist core. Protest-sovereigntists aren't racists, but they aren't in the driver's seat. Bouchard and Parizaeu both made it clear that to them, Quebec is about white francophones. More than that, it's about white farcophones asserting colonial privilege over native people, since the sovereigntist movement has no intention of giving up claims over indigenous territory. First Nations hold more land in Quebec than the Quebec cultural "nation." Combine the idea of a cultural nation with the real ambitions of the sovereignty movement, and you have real dissonance between recognizing the historical legacy of Quebec and the constructed, racist "nation."

This is not to say that there isn't a legitimate interest in protecting Quebec's cultural legacy. But its current construction as a "nation" is so flawed that it can only be fixed by a generational change.
posted by mobunited at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


bonehead writes "Your friend is a Quebecker in Charest province. In André Boisclair's? Who knows?"

The ignorance in that statement is just astounding. Then again a surprising number of people in Eastern Ontario seem to have serious problems figuring out that Quebec is not the Lebanon and that Montreal is not Beirut, so color me unsurprised.

The people who would vote for Boisclair (if that happens, I don't think it's likely) would be largely the same people who voted for Charest. But don't let that disturb your little persecution fantasies.
posted by clevershark at 1:09 PM on December 3, 2006


Bob Rae really impressed me during his campaign. He never blustered like Ignatieff, but instead told reporters exactly what he felt:
Mr. Rae said that since Liberal MPs support the Harper motion he doesn't see a need to "gild the lily" with further discussion at the convention. "I don't know why one would want to prolong the discussion," he said, while denying Mr. Ignatieff could claim any advantage from how well Mr. Harper's motion was received. "Look, the day I need to be vindicated by Stephen Harper, flip me over."
I'm convinced Rae would have won if he had made it to the fourth ballot, but his team was outflanked when they failed to prepare for Kennedy's endorsement of Dion. Ah Politics.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2006


Dion's English is poor. In his post-victory scrum he couldn't understand some of the English questions and put them aside with some pretty awkwared bluffing.

Weird to consider this situation transferred to the US: a latino presidential candidate with a very broad Spanish accent and who is severely limited in his ability to understand English is rejected by the majority of latino voters for having been coopted by the political establishment.

(Oh, and the majority of Presidents over the past 50 years have been Spanish speaking etc. etc. )
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:34 PM on December 3, 2006


I am ecstatic that Dion beat Ignatieff and Ray. Dion is smart, principled, visionary, and humble. I especially like his stand on the environment and sustainable development. Sure, he may ruffle a few Alberta feathers, but he's a leader for the long term. Dion derives his power from following his principles. Ignatieff and Ray derive their principles from following power. I predict Dion will become one of the best Prime Ministers in Canadian history.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2006


Bottom line is that I'm just really relieved that Ignatieff lost.

Ditto. I was deeply disappointed by the recent election of Harper, but that would have spun me off into a previously unexplored empyrean realm of pissed off. I don't know much about Dion, but he sounds like a fine choice.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:34 PM on December 3, 2006


I dnn't know much about Ignatieff, but I'm glad he lost. Something about him just gives me bad vibes.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on December 3, 2006


In the end, it all came down to eyebrows. Ignatieff had too much, Rae not enough. Dion was just right.
posted by mazola at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


In the end, it all came down to eyebrows.

As it always does. As it always does.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:00 PM on December 3, 2006


And as for racist: a buddy of mine was born in Quebec. His parents are from Hong Kong. I suspect, even though he was born and raised in Quebec, he's probably never going to be considered Quebecois, huh?

Oh this is just, to use a technical term, just too much ignorant bullshit.

No part of Canada is free of the sort of pinheads who wouldn't consider your buddy 100% Canajun. I've lived in many parts of Canada -- rural Ontario, Vancouver, rural BC, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg -- and I can report that all parts have people that give my interracial marriage the stinkeye, right alongside people who don't give three shits.

That the Quebec sovereigntist movement is composed solely of white-robed proto-KKKers who yearn for a snow white belle province is only a comfortable fiction of ignorant ROCers.

More than that, it's about white farcophones asserting colonial privilege over native people, since the sovereigntist movement has no intention of giving up claims over indigenous territory.

Yeah, 'cause whiteys in the rest of Canada are just falling all over themselves to make peace with our colonial past and present and give back our homes on native land.

It was Boubou Bourassa who planned to flood out the Cree. It was Levesque and the PQ who passed the first law (of any province) supporting aboriginal self-government and the nation-to-nation approach to First Nations.

But, hey, I wouldn't wanna let facts get in the way of your convenient fictions.
posted by docgonzo at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2006



Yeah, 'cause whiteys in the rest of Canada are just falling all over themselves to make peace with our colonial past and present and give back our homes on native land.


This would be the Canada that is not defined by a specific francophone ancestry -- unlike the "nation of Quebec." Yep. Canada's got an awful legacy. Nope, that doesn't excuse Quebec separatists. In fact, there's a greater onus on them, because:

1) In any form of sovereignty association a free Quebec would have an opportunity to right historic wrongs.
2) In defining its borders, a free Quebec would adhere to modern standards, not premodern "terra nullius" bullshit.

The chance of separatists redrawing Quebec in accord with these obligations and opportunities: shit and shinola in a flaming bag on a Westmount porch.

I'm sure that the message of universal separatist equality and fraternity's just being drowned out by money and the ethnic vote, eh? Oh snap!


It was Boubou Bourassa who planned to flood out the Cree. It was Levesque and the PQ who passed the first law (of any province) supporting aboriginal self-government and the nation-to-nation approach to First Nations.


And it was Lucien Bouchard who said: "We're one of the white races that has the fewest children. It doesn't make sense!" My, what forward thinking political vision!

I wouldn't want statements made while most of us were actually alive to impact your convenient fictions.

Here's the thing: Quebec is almost there. Ever since the referendum exposed the kind of tripe that passed for separatist vision a decade ago the movement has kind of agreed to to treat its ballot-cheating, racism-spewing, Surete-on-aboriginal flinging grandparents like they were amusing, harmless, senile dorks who were going to be gently shown the door. That's progress -- but '95 showed everyone exactly how steep a climb it was going to be.
posted by mobunited at 3:34 AM on December 4, 2006


The rest of Canada is racist, but it's only in Quebec that being racist is a legitimate political movement.

Separatism isn't about preserving the French language - if it were, they would be bringing immigrants from Haiti, Algiers, Vietnam to increase the numbers of Francophones. Instead, they talk about "pure lain" (pure wool=pure blood), and blamed "ethnic" votes when their corrupt referendum was defeated.
posted by jb at 3:58 AM on December 4, 2006


jb, I have deep issues with sovereigntists, but you're totally wrong to call say that racism is a legitimate political movement. It's that kind of ignorance on both sides that will sink Canada in the end.

In fact Quebec is the destination for many many Haitian and Algerian immigrants, and they have taken their place in society quite well, including in the famous Quebec star system and the more literary cultural world, among other segments of society.

That's not to say there isn't an undercurrent of a distinct preference for pure laine people, but it's much more complicated and subtle than most people seem to understand. This is why Ignatieff was so dangerous - it takes much longer than a year of immersion-level contact (which he wasn't engaged in) to "get" Quebec, let alone Alberta or any other politically charged part of Canada.

As to Dion and his hopes in Quebec, I should add my agreement with several others here - as much as he is despised over the Clarity act, Quebec voters are in no way single issue voters, and a socially and environmentally progressive platform will go a long way to regaining some support in Quebec.
posted by mikel at 8:13 AM on December 4, 2006


From this morning's Globe: "And in a reaction that defies the conventional wisdom of Quebec pundits, 62 per cent of respondents in the province said that Mr. Dion was a good choice for the Liberals, with only 29 per cent saying he was a bad choice. The approval of the Liberals' pick was higher in Quebec than in the rest of the country, where 55 per cent liked the choice.""
posted by docgonzo at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2006


mikel - they blamed the ethnic vote, and they were not vilified. If an English politician talked about "an ethnic vote", I would think he was racist too.
posted by jb at 9:17 AM on December 4, 2006


they blamed the ethnic vote, and they were not vilified.

No, Parizeau blamed the ethnic vote. And most Quebeckers I know think he's a senile buffoon, who deserved to be stomped like an old toad.
posted by docgonzo at 9:47 AM on December 4, 2006


Ontario and Quebec are polluted with acid rain, unswimmable lakes, and dense smug.

Best unintentional social commentary I've seen in a long time.

Dion is shaping up as a Canadian Gore, though. Smart, effective and certainly the best person to lead (I'm a big fan) but the charisma is lacking.

Yes, but look at who he's running against. He'll definitely be a hard sell to the West (and to English-speaking Canada for that matter) because he's from Québec. Really, though, as long as he can strengthen the Liberals enough to give a majority to a combination of the Liberals and the NDP (they need to gain something like 22 seats together to do this), things should be fine. Harper is probably going to be more fun to poke fun at than Dion or Martin, though.

What do you want to bet he gets nicknamed "Céline"?

Well, at least now the Liberals have the equivalent of Stockwell Day needing to change his name to Doris.
posted by oaf at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2006


It was intentional.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2006


jb: Separatism isn't about preserving the French language--

I think that's the most important part of it. In a 1996 article on language policy, John Richards quotes Stephane Dion:
[t]he key issue is and always will be language. The government of Quebec would better serve its citizens if it focused the negotiations on such a critical issue, instead of bringing on the table vague notions (distinct society) as it did during Meech Lake, or instead of demanding almost everything as it did after Meech Lake (the Allaire report).
posted by russilwvong at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2006


MetaFilter: "polluted with ... dense smug."

isopraxis writes "go fuck your hat"

Ah, the nuanced discourse MF is famous for.

bonehead writes "I'm very surprised he went as far as he did, given how very important income trusts are to the oil patch. A non-Albertan could not have gotten away with it. It would have been 'NEP 2!' yet again. If you think Quebeckers have long memories, you've never sat in a bar with an Alberta oil patch worker."

It's practically a racial memory, I talk to students who weren't even born at the time who are still pissed about the NEP.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 AM on December 5, 2006


The Liberal Party of Canada is rising in voter intention in Quebec, according to the results of a Léger marketing poll revealed by the TVA network, Tuesday night.

If elections had taken place Sunday, the day after Stéphane Dion became leader of the party, the Liberals would have obtained 35 per cent of votes, two points behind the Bloc Québécois led by Gilles Duceppe, which would have won 37%. Stephen Harper's Conservatives would have had to content themselves with a mere 17% of votes, followed by the NDP at 6%.

The Liberals have thus gained 9 points in voter intentions in only a week, whereas every other party has lost ground in the same period. ...

Link.
posted by docgonzo at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2006


russilwvong, you are quoting someone who is quoting Stephane Dion, who is notably not a separatist. And he says that they should concentrate on language instead of "vague notions (distinct society)".

I am really quite passionate about language preservation and I'm pro bilingualism (actually, for everyone on the planet - knowing more than one language is good for people). I would be all behind separatism if it were just about encouraging French.

But it isn't - it's about a "distinct society", "a nation" - one which does not embrace all French-speaking people in Canada. I have had separatist friends (ie not Parizeau) who explained to me that no, immigrants aren't and never will be Quebequois, even if they are Francophone. To them, it is an ethnic category. I say the state of Israel is racist for basing citizenship rights on ethnicity, and I say the separatists are racist for looking to create a soverienty based on their ethnic group.

If I created a party which only wanted non-white people in Toronto (since they are the basis of its distinct society), I hope that I would denounced as racist.

Maybe not all separatists agree - but sentiments like Parizeaus are acceptable and part of the mainstream in separatism, and that says something about the movement as a whole. Parizeau was not widely denouced after that statement, and continued as leader.

(And the horrible irony to the whole issue of language and culture is that because of its language and the production of culture in that language, French Canadian (Quebequois or otherwise) culture is under far less threat than English Canadian. They have their own tv, miniseries, films that actually show in theatres - I have seen more French Canadian films in my life than English Canadian. The language is a barrier to the real threat to Canadian culture - the United States.)
posted by jb at 2:09 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


To them, it is an ethnic category. I say the state of Israel is racist for basing citizenship rights on ethnicity, and I say the separatists are racist for looking to create a soverienty based on their ethnic group.

I agree with you. I would also include Aboriginal sovereignty, the reservation system and the concept of "status Indians" as racist policies.
posted by loquax at 8:04 AM on December 6, 2006


Limited aboriginal sovereignty is a treaty right for most first nations. It isn't a racist policy as much as it is a shirked contractual obligation which we promised them in exchange for their land.

That Canadians constantly feel the need to weasel out of the minimal obligations of the most lopsidedly unfair contractual agreements ever made is a pretty embarrassing to me.

Natives get some shit land, a pittance of federal funding and free tuition. In exchange Canada got Canada.

Note: Status Indian is a federal gov't term imposed on natives not the other way around.
posted by srboisvert at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2006


jb: russilwvong, you are quoting someone who is quoting Stephane Dion, who is notably not a separatist. And he says that they should concentrate on language instead of "vague notions (distinct society)".

The point I'm making is that in Dion's view, language is the key issue driving Quebec nationalism, not racism (or extortion, the other common dismissal). (If you have access to JSTOR--which I don't--here's a review of the book from which Richards is quoting, The Collapse of Canada?.)

In Richards' view, there's a huge potential conflict between the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Bill 101.
It is hard to exaggerate the destructive effect on French-English relations of the Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of Charter rights [in 1988]. with respect to language. Probably most Canadians in the [rest of Canada] believe that the Court’s decisions with respect to Bill 101 have been minor, largely justified limitations on the excesses of Quebec linguistic protectionism. But for most of the Québécois, the Charter now appears as an ill-defined threat to their language laws.

Even as convinced a federalist as Stéphane Dion has articulated this fear: "Since the [Supreme Court] judgments have been issued, one may think that the survival of [Quebec language] policies is secured. In fact, nothing is less certain. A Supreme Court might decide someday that denying the right of a new immigrant or of a francophone to go to an English school, when English speakers have such a right, is contrary to the Charter of Rights; the Court could invoke...Article 15 prescribing legal equality of all citizens. Such a judgment may seem unlikely today, but who knows for the next generation?"
Why is Bill 101 such a big issue? To Quebec francophones, whether nationalist or federalist, the key issue is the survival of French as the predominant language in Quebec. Elsewhere, it's a lost cause. "Outside Quebec, French is declining as a language of use. With the exception of the bilingual belts of eastern Ontario and Acadia, regions adjacent to Quebec, French is not intergenerationally surviving as a home language." And Bill 101 is seen as vital to preserving French in Quebec. In 1996, 39% of Quebec francophones thought that Bill 101 should be strengthened, 23% that it should be left as is; only 32% thought it should be relaxed.

Quebec federalists (like Dion) believe that the French language can survive without Quebec having to separate. It's not that they don't think the survival of the French language is important.

Hence threats to Bill 101 will strengthen Quebec nationalism. Conversely, Richards suggests that Bill 101 was a big reason that the 1980 referendum failed:
Ironically, Bill 101 was probably a principal reason for the PQ’s defeat in the 1980 referendum. Many moderate Québécois nationalists, reassured over linguistic matters, voted “no.” Why incur the uncertainties of sovereignty if the prospects for a French Quebec were reasonably secure?
The importance of language as the key factor driving Quebec nationalism is not well understood outside Quebec.
posted by russilwvong at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2006


I'm kinda curious as to how it can be perceived, from within Quebec, that their language is threatened. Surely French in Quebec is as much the norm as English is here in BC. How can it be threatened? Can one reasonably expect to conduct business and life in general in Quebec without speaking French?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:04 PM on December 7, 2006


History, five fresh fish. It wasn't so long ago that the Anglophones had all the power and money in Quebec. With, of course, the help of the Roman Catholic clergy and some token Francophones.
posted by QIbHom at 7:46 PM on December 7, 2006


Immigrants coming to quebec who don't have english or french as primary language will more often chose ESL than FSL. Plus the native population is declining relative to the total population, more immigration than breeding.
posted by Mitheral at 8:13 PM on December 7, 2006


five fresh fish: Surely French in Quebec is as much the norm as English is here in BC.

That's more or less true now, thanks to Bill 101. (There's no BC equivalent to McGill or Concordia, which are English-language universities in Montreal.) Bill 101 and other language policies made a big difference. In 1971, only 37% of Quebec anglophones were bilingual. By 1991, it was up to 59%.

The problem is that Bill 101 itself causes tension and conflict between Quebec francophones and the rest of Canada. The most spectacular manifestation of this was the sign law (Bill 178) in 1988: the reaction to it in English Canada was a major factor in destroying public support for the Meech Lake Accord.
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 PM on December 7, 2006


The point I'm making is that in Dion's view, language is the key issue driving Quebec nationalism, not racism (or extortion, the other common dismissal)

I don't have access to Jstor right now, but from what you quoted, it seems like Dion is saying that the Quebec government should concentrate on language, instead of distinct society - which means he was saying that they are concentrating on distinct society, not language.

Basically, I had this whole conversation with my separatism supporting friend, and she (an otherwise liberal, pro-multiculturalism in the rest of Canada person) said outright that a francophone who could not trace their ancestry back to French settlement in the 17th or 18th century was not and never would be Quebequois. Brown people were not and never would be Quebequois, not even if they spoke French and embraced Quebec culture. She's not Parizeau, she's not normally an extremist, but she totally excused the white-only tendancies in Quebec separatism on the grounds that they have to protect their "culture". She was just reflecting the ideas of her friends in the artsy, educated bits of Quebec.

England has a unique and ancient culture - far older than Quebecs. But if I were to go around saying that immigrants cannot become English because they aren't "pure wool", then I would be rightly denounced as a crazy racist nationalist.
posted by jb at 6:35 AM on December 8, 2006


Sorry about your friend.

As of 1996, 62% of Quebec francophones believed that Bill 101 should be either left as is or strengthened. Assuming the prevalence of racism in Quebec is about the same as elsewhere, most of them aren't racists.
posted by russilwvong at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2006


I don't believe that Quebeckers are more inherently racist than the rest of Canada, but I do think that separatism has nationalist strains that tend towards racism. (I know that isn't so clear, but I will explain). The minute you start talking about how one group of people are distinct and special and need special protection, you get into the difficult situation of trying to define that group. If it were defined as francophone, I would be all behind it (well, behind the language protection, not the separatism, but that's another issue). Francophone is something you can join, if you want to - it's inclusive. But it's defined (by many people) as being "Quebequois", i.e. white and been there forever. It would be like Nova Scotians (who have a vibrant culture just as unique and as old as Quebec's) saying that the black people in Africaville aren't Nova Scotian, just because the majority of Bluenoses are white people with ancestry from Scotland. Some would say this, and they would be wrong, but there is no political party in Nova Scotia saying this.

I think that this ethnic positioning of separatism means that racism can be more mainstream. Parizeau was the leader of a democratically elected government - how much more mainstream do you get?

Maybe we have a language problem. Not all racism is KKK, string up the non-whites and burn crosses type, but we just have the one word to cover all. We need a word to express a certain kind of xenophobism, exclusion by ethnicity and culture. If immigrants aren't allowed to take on Quebequois identity, that is a form of exclusion.

And in the end, I think it is one that will hurt the Quebequois most of all. People won't want to immigrate there, learn french - they won't want to intergrate into Quebequois culture, because why should they bother if they will never be accepted? And the Quebequois will become a smaller and smaller minority within Canada - and that would be a sad thing. I want their culture to thrive and grow - but that means they have to embrace all who want to embrace them and their language.

------------------------

I do think English Canada has serious issues with integration. There are far too many people who think that being Canadian means being white. Which is, of course, ridiculous, especially considering that the people who can claim to be the most Canadian are all aboriginal.

But there is something to say about these views not being advocated by elected officials, because that would give them more legitimacy, and shifts the whole debate towards their position (as has happened to Australia).
posted by jb at 7:00 AM on December 9, 2006


I do think English Canada has serious issues with integration. There are far too many people who think that being Canadian means being white.

I don't feel that's true in BC. The Lower Mainland and Okanagan areas are very diverse and, in my perception, colour-blind as the norm. And even growing up in the Northern Interior I don't recall any racism towards anyone. It wasn't "whites" versus "injuns" or "punjabs", as far as I can recall.

I think our media reflects our diversity and colour-blindness; we've mayors, MLAs, MPs, TV reporters, CEOs, doctors, artists, professors, and every other semi-public profession, of all ethnic backgrounds. And I don't recall there ever being a time when racial violence was an issue in the news, except perhaps some small gang/drugwar bullshit down in Surrey.

Disclaimer: I'm white, so I may be clueless.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:06 PM on December 9, 2006


And even growing up in the Northern Interior I don't recall any racism towards anyone. It wasn't "whites" versus "injuns" or "punjabs", as far as I can recall.

I grew up in Prince George 10 years later, I think. There was a pretty strong undercurrent of anti-native bigotry there. Lots of resentment about special privileges and government funding and such.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2006


And even growing up in the Northern Interior I don't recall any racism towards anyone. It wasn't "whites" versus "injuns" or "punjabs", as far as I can recall.

Interesting. In tiny little Fort Saint James (admittedly famous as one hell of a rough place -- highest per capita murder rate in North America for four years running in the '80s) in the 1970s, I recall gangs of aboriginal, euro and pakistani (though few) youths attacking one another in the streets with bats and steel bars. There's always been hardcore racism there, even as many (but by no means most, I don't think) people either legitimately are or pretend to be untainted by it.

To this day (well, to a couple of months back, when I visited there for about a week), I am shocked by some of the virulently racist twaddle that issues from people's mouths in that place -- people who, to all other indications, are fine, upstanding types. It's depressing, but utterly predictable (as jaquilynne suggests). I fucking hate the place I come from sometimes, as much as I cherish it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:57 PM on December 9, 2006


I'll agree with the undercurrent of anti-native bigotry.

The Northern Interior is a fucked-up bit of Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 PM on December 9, 2006


When I visited B.C., I was surprised at the anti-native feeling there. There was no name calling (I was staying with polite middle class people), but the stereotyping and resentment was clear. (It was all about land claims, and it didn't help that the government was running biased ads against the native claims). There was also a fair bit of resentment against recent immigrants from Hong Kong.

In Toronto, it's not that we are less prejudiced against native people, we just don't very many native people, and they aren't on the radar. We have other minorities to pick on - like Jamaicans (and black people in general). I remember listening to a radio program about how a couple from Jamaica moved to Toronto, and were looking for an apartment, but everytime they telephoned someone about an apartment, they were told they were taken. But then they happened to visit one of the "taken" apartments in person. They got that apartment - they were white, you see, though they had Jamaican accents.

I think it's about the number of people of a given minority that are in the area. People become threatened and resentful when there is a large minority - whether that be East Asian, South Asian, Native, Carribean. We pick on the most prevalent Other.
posted by jb at 6:22 AM on December 11, 2006


jb writes "I was surprised at the anti-native feeling there. There was no name calling (I was staying with polite middle class people), but the stereotyping and resentment was clear. (It was all about land claims,"

Part of the problem is some native groups have been blocking roads on reserve land to garner attention to their cause (or plain adolecent wankery, sometimes it's tough to tell). And the law doesn't let the goverment do anything about it if the chiefs don't want to clear the road. Now if that blockade is between your house and town/work/school you are going to be pissed off. Especially because if you were to block a road like that they'd have you in gaol within hours.
posted by Mitheral at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2006


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