Saturday, December 13, 2008


Back in November of 2006 when Stephane Dion, on the 4Th ballot, became the 11Th Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada many had hoped that he could bridge the gap over the schism between Paul Martin and Jean Chretien. Bridge he did, but only as a "stopgap". The "Martinites" have triumphed...for now.

Confused you say? Finance Minister, Paul Martin, and his boss, the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, were at odds virtually from the beginning of their relationship in the Liberal Party and in the Parliament of Canada. Chretien, "le p'tit gars de Shawinigan", felt both inferior to, and challenged by Martin, the multi-millionaire President of Canada Steamship Lines who's father had been a star Cabinet Minister for Lester B. Pearson and pretender to the Party's leadership throne until the upstart, Pierre Trudeau left him dangling in the wind. There's a lot of history there, all of it political. In politics things frequently get dirty.

Jean Chretien has never forgiven Paul Martin for engineering his Prime Ministerial demise and subsequently launching the Gomery Inquiry into the Quebec sponsorship scandal as a post script to his legacy. Chretien paid Martin back in kind when his appointee, RCMP Commissioner, the imperial Giuliano Zaccardelli, issued a December 28, 2005 News Release confirming that the National Police Force was targeting Liberal Party insiders for illegal stock market transactions in the government's Income Trust debacle. Paul Martin's Liberals, leading in the midst of a snap election, lost nearly 20% of public support virtually overnight and handed victory to Stephen Harper's Conservatives on January 23, 2006. Game set and match! To close the loop permanently...Harper dumped Zaccardelli less than a year later over his mishandling of the Maher Arar Affair...I digress.

Thus at the November 2006 Liberal Party Convention in Montreal, Liberals in the Chretien camp of old anointed their front runner candidate, the former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae, whilst the Paul Martin camp trotted-out their star candidate, Michael Ignatieff. More than two years later most can't still quite figure out just how the Toronto based candidate, Gerard Kennedy, was made to withdraw and throw his support behind Stephane Dion...It matters not. That too is politics and Dion who had avoided being drawn directly into the Chretien/Martin squabbles during his 10 year tenure in the House of Commons became the compromise, some might now say "compromised" Leader of the Party. The fog of your confusion is now lifted, right?

I am unclear as to why people choose to enter Party politics. There are probably as many reasons as there are politicians. However I will take the high road and presume that in most there is an element, a flicker perhaps, of service to the country and to their fellow citizens. In 1996, stung by the near break-up of the country in the 1995 Referendum, Jean Chretien asked Stephane Dion, a brilliant federalist academic to join his Cabinet. Another member of academia, Pierre Pettigrew, also joined the Liberal Cabinet on the same day. As Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dion rose to prominence...dubbed "Captain Canada" for handling the "Clarity Act" through a tumultuous Parliament. Unlike many others, the aforementioned Pettigrew included, Dion successfully transitioned to the "Martinites" championing the "Green Mantle" of the burgeoning environmental movement which climaxed with the adoption of the Kyoto Accord.

Sadly nothing in the ten years he had spent in Cabinet could have prepared Stephane Dion for the unrelenting, cruel, aggressive and downright nasty campaign against his leadership mounted by Stephen Harper's Conservatives under the banner "Stephanne Dion is no Leader!"...from the very start of his tenure at the helm of the Liberals. Eventually pretty much everyone bought into the salacious, acrimonious, reputation crushing campaign and it has now become a self full filling prophecy. Since the Federal Election of October 14Th, successive developments and events, many of them of historic proportion have catapulted Mr. Dion out of the limelight. And; in a triumph of will, Michael Ignatieff has crushed Bob Rae's leadership aspirations...Advantage "Martinites"!

Stephane Dion's reputation as a political leader is undeservedly tattered. The country is still buffeted by economic and market forces from afar. The future of our Government, as we know it, is undetermined beyond the January 27Th Federal Budget.

Author Paul Wells' conclusion to the 2006 book: "Right Side Up", bears paraphrasing: "All I know is what Stockwell Day, Joe Clark, Bellinda Stronach, Peter MacKay, Paul Martin...Stephane Dion...have had to learn at their own expense: That you underestimate Stephen Harper at your peril!"

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