Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stephane Dion: Against the Current by Linda Diebel

So, this is an interesting book. Diebel's writing is a bit wooden, which may just reflect her subject matter (har) but all in all it's a good introduction to the man who may be PM. If the stars turn out right for him.

By far, the most interesting part of the book is, unsurprisingly, the most interesting part of Stephane Dion's political career thus far: the reaction to the near-miss of the Quebec referendum in 1995, Dion's entry in to politics, and the one-two punch of the Secession Reference and the Clarity Act.

What interested me most was Dion's motivations for the Clarity Act. Here is a man facing the biggest political crisis in Canada's recent history, asked to take up the portfolio of Intergovernmental Affairs before he's even been elected to a House seat, but he's not really a "Unity Minister", per se. He believed (and presumably, still believes) in Canada, and in Quebec's place in Canada, but the motivation behind the Clarity Act was simply this: If Quebeckers decided that they wanted to leave, then it wouldn't be right for Canada to force them to stay. All the same, there still needed to be a process guided by law. The PQ and the Bloc were busy spinning romantic stories about unilateral secession, but Dion's response was to (rightly) call this nonsense. Canada is a modern, functioning, liberal democracy, and it's simply not possible for one part of the state to illegally declare itself separate.

So to sum up: during a political crisis (that lasted, in some fashion, for years) Canadian politics produced a leadership (the Chretien-Dion team) whose primary tactic to disarm the threat to national unity was simply to insist on the rule of law. Amazing, when you think about it. Look at the GOP in the US competing over who can torture the most people, or our own Conservatives basically laughing at the idea that Afghan prisoners are being tortured, and Dion's insistence on the rule of law looks like a beacon in darkness.


ted said...

hear, hear

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