Monday, October 30, 2006

Quebec as a Nation, time to move on

I had resolved to wash my hands of the Liberal leadership race. All I saw were the different camps tearing into each other creating a great deal of bitterness and no real debate on policy or vision.

It was really starting to irritate me because it was creating the same conditions that existed after the Chretien/Martin fiasco of 1990. I would have thought Liberals would have learned from that. So I said to hell with it. Liberals deserve their fate for being such short sighted idiots.

However, the whole Quebec Nation Resolution came up and I found it too compelling to ignore.

I decided to attempt to find a different perspective than what I was mostly finding on Liblogs. I decided to learn the perspective of Quebecers themselves. Antonio at Fuddle Duddle was a good source as were the Quebec papers but I also asked many of my francophone colleagues about it. Their response was the resolution is just a statement of fact. It is a non-issue. However, what really floored me was I received the same response from my Anglophone friends in Montreal who from time to time have involved themselves in the English rights movement in Quebec over the last 25 years.

I have seen all of the arguments against why Quebec is not a nation. They are intelligent, cogent and logical and I agree with them 100%. However, I would submit that when there is a consensus amongst Quebecers of all political and linguistic stripes that Quebec is a nation the argument is over and we have lost it. No amount of logic will change that so we might just as well accept it and move on to the next step.

That is, how are we going to deal with it?

Unfortunately, our main political opponents, the Conservatives, have stumbled upon an answer, which is to divest pretty well all Federal powers to the provinces and leave the Federal Government as an empty shell.

I believe that this is completely unacceptable to most Liberals but unfortunately it does resonate with a sizable part of the Quebec population, and not just amongst separatists. So Liberals are going to have to come up with a viable alternative to the Conservative model and it seems to me that a necessary first step would be to acknowledge something Quebecers already take for granted as fact, namely acknowledging Quebec is a nation. It pains me to write that but it will not do me any good to remain in denial about this and I don't think it will do the country any good if Liberals also remain in denial.

Of course what happens after that acknowledgement is critical and I am not certain that I trust Dr. Ignatieff on this.

However, none of his opponents have been particularly effective on handling the issue. I am particularly disappointed in Mr. Rae. He supported both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and he was at the table for both so he has some experience in this. He has first hand experience of what does not work. I would have thought that experience would have resulted in a much more nuanced response to Dr. Ignatieff's position. Instead he resorts to cheap politicking.

I hope that Liberals will see this as more than just a Liberal leadership issue and that they will really engage in debate on how to deal with the fact of Quebec nationhood. We have a lot of smart people in the Party, and several of them are vying for its leadership, and I would hope that they will put their collective heads together to develop an alternative to what the Conservatives are peddling.

The alternative is not Quebec separation but it is Stephen Harper being given a free hand to disembowel the Federal Government and transform this great country into a disunited gaggle of faux provinces, something I think most of us can agree is a much bigger issue than who will lead the Liberal Party.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iggy, by a nose, on the third ballot

I have had some time to digest the results of super weekend and the subsequent two weeks and barring any major changes to the current leadership dynamic I believe that the above result will be the final one.

Before I begin to explain my reasons let me state that I am not a delegate at the upcoming convention, nor am I a partisan for any of the different leadership camps. I am just a Liberal who voted during super weekend and it just so happens it was not for Iggy. It was for one of the three that are bunched up behind him.

So my conclusion is an educated guess, based on how the race has gone so far and based on my take of the dynamics that I believe will be at play during the next six weeks.

First let's state the obvious. Iggy is the front runner (Well d'uh!) and that gives him a natural advantage going into the final stretch of the race.

Second, there is an "Anybody but Iggy" movement afoot but it is amorphous and for it to work it has to coalesce on one of the three who are trailing him. The question is who?

That is where we find the first problem for the anti-Iggy crowd. Each of the three contenders behind him have a legitimate shot at winning this thing and to make matters worse each of them sincerely believes they have a legitimate shot at winning this thing. That dynamic is going to work against each one because they are going to be as busy trying to separate themselves from the crowd as they are trying to knock off Iggy. The result could be neither of them will be able to present themselves as THE alternative to Iggy before the convention. I thought that Bob Rae might have begun doing so but his recent troubles in BC have probably caused him to drop back into the pack.

As well, it will create the situation where neither of them will be able to reach out to the other for support without creating the perception that they are showing weakness or that they are giving up the battle. Iggy does not have to worry about that and it would not surprise me one bit if it were revealed that some of his people have already reached out to the people of the other three to build up some alliances and to plant some seeds.

That leads to yet another dynamic that is probably at play. It would surprise me a great deal if Iggy's people have not been pressing the Brison and Dryden camps to join Iggy's using his frontrunner status to lever their support towards him. Such an approach could be effective because both have personal ambitions that he can play to.

Mr. Dryden is approaching the end of his working career and he will not want to be relegated to the back bench or to a junior ministry in a future Liberal government. He will want a position of prominence and maybe some influence. So part of his consideration on who to support for the leadership will be the one who can meet that need. Playing the odds, that is currently Iggy and Iggy's camp is probably pushing that point hard.

Mr. Brison's leadership ambitions will not fade with this race and he will want to put himself into a position of prominence and influence in a future Liberal government, something that will not happen in if he backs the wrong horse. Again, Iggy is currently the safe bet for the realization of his ambitions because Iggy is currently in the most credible position to offer Mr. Brison what he wants.

Incidently, the same dynamic is at play for Mr. Kennedy. He did not leave a great job in the Ontario government to fade off into political oblivion. If it becomes apparent to him that he cannot win he will choose the one he believes can facilitate his future ambitions. If that happens to be Iggy, that is who he will back. As well, a seemingly minor consideration but he wants to run in his old Ontario riding, something only Iggy can credibly promise at this time.

So, I believe, that one of the three contenders bunched up behind Iggy will have to break from the pack within the next two weeks so as to give the anti-Iggy crowd a champion to rally around. If that does not happen then Iggy, as the perceived front runner, will begin to pick up support from those who want something from him and from those who just want to be able to claim they backed a winner.