Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dion: "Captain Canada"?

I thought this article was relevant to my questioning of Liberal strategy in Quebec. Dion is prepared to take on Harper's "open federalism" concept:
OTTAWA -Mr. Dion is hoping that many voters in English Canada support the right of the federal government to initiate national programs it sees as being in the national interest.

Crucially, he is said to be prepared to take the electoral hit in Quebec that opposing limitations on federal spending powers would bring, in the hope he catches fire in Ontario and other parts of English Canada.

The Liberals suspect that patience is running out for any further accommodation of Quebec in English Canada...

However, in the next federal election campaign, Mr. Dion is likely to play the Trudeau centralist card, and argue that Mr. Harper is leading the country toward another disastrous round of constitutional talks that will take Quebec to the brink of separation.

I have no qualms with Dion attacking Harper's view of federalism, because at the core the concept is a combination of narrow tribalism and an opportunistic vote grab. However, I would hope the discussion isn't the "wedge issue" the article implies, because that translates to pitting people against each other, in a counter-productive way that could lead to more acrimony. It can't be a question of sides, but I suspect Dion is smart enought to appreciate the need for nuance.

Dion can argue the federalist cause, and he is well equipped to do so. The real caveat, attack Harper without appearing rigid and Trudeau-like. Reveal Harper without accepting an electoral hit in Quebec, because any idea has to speak to the nation, not sub-sections, at the expense of others. In other words, tread carefully.


Koby said...

The Liberals need to rediscover universality. Under Mulroney and Chrétien universality died as Stephen Harper duly and happily noted in 1994.

"Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy…These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party.”

Under Martin the Liberals did rediscover universality again – well sort of. They promised to implement a “universal” early childhood education program that would in drips in drabs grow bigger over literally decades with no time line as to when the program would become truly universal. The more the Liberals talked up the need for more child care the more inadequate and lackluster their proposal appeared. Needless to say, piece meal universality is no universality at all and if the Liberals want to capture the imagination of Canadians by promising a universal program they better make sure that they are able to deliver and all at once.

One issue worth exploring is expanding the Canada health care to include dental care. As business picks up most of the dental tab already, the idea of offloading the coasts of dental to the public sector will have its supporters even on the corporate right. The coporate tax rates will have to be raised to pay for it but these increases will be more than offset by what they are currently paying out in terms of employee dental care as it stands.

Another thing the Liberals can do is steal a page from the rest of the Western world minus the US and give Canadians more vacation time. Virtually ever other industrialized gives its citizens at least 4 weeks: Canadians deserve no less.

Steve V said...

We are against limiting federal power, but here's another week of vacation and a free root canal. I like it :)

Lept said...

Makes sense since he is dead in the water here in Québec but one little question:
Has he learnt to speak English yet?

Steve V said...

"Has he learnt to speak English yet?"

It's definitely improved. Lept you conclude a lost cause in Quebec, even if we see some updating?

don's hottie said...

I would have to say this looks as though Dion is giving up on Quebec all together.

That's like totally weird don't ya think Steve?

Steve V said...

I don't think anyone is giving up, but if the braintrust has concluded the Liberals can prosper with marginal presence in Quebec, they are kidding themselves. Don't expect anymore landslides in Ontario to mask problems elswhere. The Reform boogeyman is gone, the right isn't divided to the Liberals benefit, the Conservative Party is somewhat viable. If you want to hold Harper to a minority, that's one thing, if you actually hope to govern again, Quebec is key and that is just simple math, unless that big breakthrough in parts of the west is looming. Cough.

In_The_Centre said...

This was Chretien's strategy after Meech Lake and before the 93 election.

However, Chretien had one thing that Dion is severely lacking, charisma.

"little guy from Shawinigan" is the kind of thing Canadians can relate to. It honestly won me over, because "I wanted to have a beer with him" as the saying goes. As a result, he had a greater time in getting his message across.

Of course, we cannot also forget that Chretien also threatened every Liberal candidate to work their ass of or be left out of the loop. That is why the door knocking and ground war effort in the leadup to the 93 election was unprecedented. You actually had candidates knock on literally every single door in Ontario. If Chretien was around right now, you would bet Outremont would be flooded with Liberals from across the country

Being a nerdy bookworm? It would be pretty difficult for Dion. Although picking between that and a robot leaves much to be said of the current state affairs of Canadian politics. In fact, as most poll’s indicate, most Canadians are tuning out the current crop of leaders and what they have to say.

On a final note, you may find this interesting Steve. A lot of people are worried about Outremont, but within some elements of the party, there is a greater concern for Vancouver-Quadra and a greater chance that Stephen Owen’s seat may flip.


burlivespipe said...

"...translates to pitting people against each other, in a counter-productive way that could lead to more acrimony."

Funny how that tactic seems to score the bloated PM 'leadership points' but, even if the reporter's view is true, that this approach is akin to waving the white flag in le bleu province, that it adds to Dion's growing 'integrity' quotient. Even many Quebecers, who seemed to rally around Trudeau despite his federalist views, see the value in a 'Canada' that means something.
By standing up to preserve a universal voice for all of Canada, I think this is one ticket that could be a winner (even in Alberta, with its increasingly changing and tectonically shifting demographic)...

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

Good post. I agree that we cannot have the federal government's power weakened although this should not prevent one from reducing the size of government in areas government doesn't belong at all. Governments should only do what individuals cannot do on their own, which off course people will disagree on exactly what that is, but at least that is best how to frame the debate.

You are also right that the Liberals cannot assume they will sweep Ontario. I see no reason why we cannot win the majority of seats in Ontario, but unless we do well in Quebec or the West, we pretty much need to sweep Ontario to form a majority government.

Steve V said...


If the goal is too stop a Harper majority, then the strategy is fine. However, if the Liberals hope to re-take power, then Quebec has to be part of the equation.