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October 20, 2008

Waiting for Dion

I was just reading the text of Stéphane Dion's speech to the leadership convention on December 2, 2006. It is chilling to re-read the speech with the benefit of hindsight -- and in the aftermath of the soul-searing election we have just been through. Dion was so bang-on about so many things:

"Canada has a Prime Minister who thinks that the United States is not only our ally, but also our model."

"A Prime Minister who, last Spring, blackmailed Parliament with the threat of an election..."

"A Prime Minister who is mirroring the style of his hero to the point that President Bush should be getting royalties from Mr. Harper's speeches."

[ Isn't that ironic, in retrospect? ]

"A Prime Minister who imposes ideological cuts to women, aboriginal people, official language communities, literacy, arts and culture. Culture! There is more culture in a bowl of yogurt than in this Conservative government!"

[ Ditto. ]

"A prime minister who is such a control freak that he is muzzling his ministers and using their own staffers to spy on them."

[ And then muzzle-mania hit the campaign trail, with some help from the RCMP. ]

"And yet, I am convinced that to beat Harper in the next election, it will not be enough to capitalize on his mistakes. It will not be enough to be a government in waiting. To win, we must offer our own project to Canadians, a generous and ambitious vision that is in stark contrast to Mr. Harper's selfish and narrow idea of Canada. Throughout this leadership race, I have proposed such an ambitious project, one that is so needed. I call it the Three Pillar Approach: weaving together, better than any other country in the world, economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability."

[ This is such a tragic missed opportunity. This was the vision put forth: richer. fairer. greener. ]

"We are the Party that brought the first two pillars together - economic prosperity and social justice....These two pillars are the core of who we are as Liberals. But they alone will not carry us through the 21st century. It is time now to add the third pillar - the pillar of environmental sustainability....Will Canada be a leader in the 21st Century? Will we help human kind reconcile with the planet? I know Canada can do it. The only thing that is lacking is the political will."

[ And now the moment has been lost. ]

As we all wait for Dion to speak, I'll  leave you with what were, in fact, Dion's opening lines to his speech:

"Years from now, we will tell our children, our grandchildren: I was there, in Montreal, when we Liberals came together, when we chose our leader, when we chose our path forward into the 21st century. We feel tonight the burden of responsibility on our shoulders, because, if we tap into our great Liberal tradition of Wilfrid Laurier, if we boldly address the challenges of our time, if we choose the right leader, then we will beat Stephen Harper... and we will provide this great country with a Liberal government that will work for all Canadians."

[ And then what will we tell our children and our grandchildren, fellow Liberals? That we allowed this man of vision to be bullied in an unprecedented way by the Prime Minister and his possé of yes-men -- and then the Liberal Party turned to Dion and did what? The story will play out in a few minutes' time. I'm hoping against hope that justice will be served. If it is not, the Liberal Party may go on to win the elections again, but it will have broken a man's heart along the way; and that's no way to win back the heart of a nation. ]

ADDENDUM [ Added after Dion's resignation speech ] I thought Dion spoke beautifully and that his plan to say on until the next leadership convention makes a lot of sense. It's the least the Liberal Party can do to allow him to exit with grace and, as Dion himself noted, it will help to protect the next Liberal leader from having his character defamed while the Liberal Party gets back on its feet.

I think all the opposition parties should pull together and use this time to pass legislation making it illegal to ever do to another politician what was done to Dion. Who knows which Party or Leader will be targeted the next time?

And as for Stephen Harper, Canadians will always hold him personally responsible for the role he played in destroying the reputation of this fine man -- for launching a carefully orchestrated defamation campaign that ultimately made it impossible for him to continue on as Liberal party leader. He also failed Canadians and the democratic system in this country by deliberately misrepresenting the Liberal Party's platform during the 2008 election. Democracy was wronged and the people will remember.

Related discussion:
CBC.ca: Dion to Resign after Liberals Choose New Leader

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