Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thank you Mr. Dion

For the second time in six month Mr. Harper was forced to deal with the Liberal Party in order to save his government. For the second time in six months Michael Ignatieff was front and centre on the Canadian political stage and he was able to show Canadians that an alternative is available whenever they finally grow tired of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

That is a pretty good outcome considering 8 months ago the Liberals were coming off one of their worst electoral defeats in its history.

Most of what has transpired over the last six months can be attributed to the steady hand Mr. Ignatieff has had on the Liberal bridle. However, all Liberals should thank Stephane Dion because it was his actions in November that put the Liberals onto the path they are currently traversing.

Think back to November 2008. Stephane Dion had just come through two years of hell which culminated in a humiliating defeat. His party had swept him aside, telling him they did not want him any more, but asking him to stay on as interim leader until they chose someone they wanted. Interim leaders by their very nature are supposed to be care takers. They are not to rock the boat, particularly in a minority Parliament nor allow themselves to be noticed too much. That last thing an interim leader is supposed to do is take action that will trigger an election or make themselves more noticeable than their future replacements.

So, when Stephen Harper tabled the November economic update I bet he believed that Mr. Dion would live by the interim leader rule and not make too much noise about it.

He did not and my did things change after that.

Just imagine if he had just let it go. The Conservatives would have been forced to recant some of that statement because it was all fantasy but they would have done it on their time with their apologists in the media mitigating some of the negative fallout amongst Canadians and the Liberal leadership race mitigating the rest. The Liberal leadership race would have continued, in all likelihood being a short, divisive race that would have left deep wounds in the Liberal Party after the May convention. There would have been no effective opposition to focus Canadians on the gross incompetence of this government over the last 6 months. In short, this weeks meetings between Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff would not have occured because the Liberals would not be in a position of strength relative to the Conservatives as they are now.

Instead, Mr. Dion broke the interim leader rule and stood up to Mr. Harper. We all know what happened then. Stephane Dion force Stephen Harper to prorogue Parliament just weeks after opening a new session, causing him to burn up every last bit of political capital he might have gained with his election victory and he force him to conduct a scorched earth strategy against the coalition that took a slow decline in Conservative fortunes in Quebec and turned it into a leap off of a cliff.

Finally, by design or by accident Mr. Dion allowed himself to become the lightning rod for the coalition so when Mr. Harper's strategy to exploit Canadians' ignorance of their own political system began to succeed he just resigned his post as leader, allowing Michael Ignatieff to take over without the prospect of the coalition hanging over his head.

The trend that has seen the Liberals being the favourate to win a summer election if it would have happened began in November when Stephane Dion stood up to Stephen Harper even when it went against the norm for interim leaders. For that Liberals should be truly grateful.

Incidently, it should be noted that Stephane Dion's actions to oppose Mr. Harper's economic update was the first and only time he had the full support of this party and caucus. With that support he knocked Stephen Harper and the Conservatives on their collective asses, from which, they have yet to recover. Kind of makes me wonder how things might have turned out if he would have had that kind of support from the beginning instead of having his own party undermine him at every opportunity.

It might have still been a disaster but then again maybe not. I guess we will never know.


Blogger Joseph said...

This is an excellent post, ottlib. Really excellent.

Thank you.

P.S. I am not Stephan Dion ;), just respect you stating what Liberals really should realize and stating it with such eloquence.

June 18, 2009 11:38 PM  
Blogger Spudster said...

It's hard to give Dion a hard time for the coalition choice when the alternate was supporting the economic update. In the end, the party was better pursuing the coalition route than not.

June 19, 2009 3:36 AM  

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