Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good Gerard, but what now?

Note: This post was written Monday morning, but for various reasons I’m just getting around to posting it now. I still think the thesis stands though. And after this I promise to try very, very hard to avoid posting on this nation stuff. :)

A few thoughts on the news Gerard Kennedy will be opposing the Harper Quebecois are a nation motion.

*I'm glad he's come to the decision that he has, but I have to wonder what took him so long to a position? I'd expect a leader/Prime Minister to come to a decision a little faster. After all, this issue didn't come out of the blue. But still, better late and right than quick and wrong.

*GK said: "I deplore that anyone would use this as a wedge issue for political
gain." So do I, and I hope that NO ONE on either side of the issue does.

*This will undoubtedly give Gerard a boost in much of the country (not that he'd use it as a wedge issue for political gain, of course) but it raises serious problems for him in Quebec. He's going to find it difficult to get to 50 per cent plus one without some Quebec support, and if he does the prospect of a leader without even minimal support from Quebec is neither attractive nor desirable.

*That's where the What Now? question comes in. I agree this motion is a slippery slope. But a flat-out rejection, without some kind of alternative or at least the brushstrokes of one, is a dangerous idea. Gerard said:

"I respect the sense of identity shared by many Quebecers, reflecting a
common culture, language, history and accomplishment and I will continue to promote that identity, rather than playing divisive political games with it."

That's nice sentiment, but sentiment alone isn't going to cut it. I want to know, both as a Liberal and as a Canadian, how is Gerard going to move us past this debate and what is he going do to address the concerns of those in Quebec then do view themselves as a nation?

*This leadership race isn't a one-issue campaign, and it shouldn't become one. I disagree with Stephane Dion on this motion; I would like to see him stand opposed to it. But I still support him for leader. Because my decision is based on more than one issue, and because I understand where he's coming from though. I was nearly there myself. I was back and forth on this issue before I decided to oppose it.

This motion isn't ideal. I think we both agree that we'd rather not be having the debate right now, and wouldn't were it not for the bold and decisive leadership of one Michael Ignatieff (thanks Iggy!). But now that we're here it can't simply be wished away.

Most agree that Quebecers/Quebecois form a sociological nation. We both think recognizing it will lead to demands for officialization. The counterpoint is that to vote against even informally recognizing what we all agree to be true is a slap in the face to the people of Quebec. Which is why it would be better not to have this on the agenda in the first place.

Stephane chose to vote yes and fight against the inevitable push for officialization with the same firmness and clarity he has fought the separatists with all his career. He's refusing to let the separatists own the term. Yes, he's saying, Quebec is a nation, and so are the First Nations, and the Acadians, and so on. It's a valid decision, consistent with his long record on the file. We just disagree on strategy.
To try to call this a flip flop by Dion is to either be willfully ignorant of the issue, or just plain ignorant.

Because, when you look at it, it's really not that different from the position I'd have rather he took, and that Gerard did. Both agree, I think, that there's some sort of sociological type of nation there. Both are against any kind of officialization of such a recognition. Stephane, since the genie has been uncorked, favours giving at least symbolic recognition of the fact we all agree on as a compromise to Quebecers, while Gerard opposes even that symbolic recognition because it will lead to demands for officialization, something they both oppose.

*Which brings me back to what now? Stephane took his position to offer a compromise for those in Quebec that feel strongly about the issue. Like most compromises it's less than ideal, but that's the nature of compromise, and we have to live in the world as it is.

Gerard has rejected that compromise. That's perfectly valid. I, and millions of Canadians, are very happy that at least someone on the political scene shares our view and that our voices will be represented.

But it iss now incumbent on Gerard to offer an alternative, beyond "I respect the identity…" And he's going to need to come out with something more substantive soon. That will be the true test of his leadership potential. I hope he can come through.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Steve V said...

"I'm glad he's come to the decision that he has, but I have to wonder what took him so long to a position?"

I'm not sure that is a fair criticim Jeff because he did offer his opinion prior to the vote. I'm sure Dryden wishes he held his tongue until he made the final decision to vote against. If Kennedy had waited until today your criticism would be valid, but he spoke up prior to the vote when no one else had. I think we should take Kennedy at his word that he wanted a few days to mull over the consequences, as opposed to all the kneejerk reactions.

Jeff said...

Steve, it's a minor point, as I said better late and right then quick and wrong. My greater concern is that he have a follow-up position, particularly if he becomes leader this weekend.

But on the timing, I do think it's a fair criticism. I don't see why he couldn't have come up with a decision within 24 hours or less. The Harper motion was new, this whole nation issue was not. He had to have considered the matter before Harper spring his motion.

Again, it's a minor point, but he should have been off the mark faster IMHO.

rob said...

I don't know Jeff. I mean, I'm glad that you wrote this post, and I do agree with your points, but posting it on Tuesday??!!!

Kennedy came out with his position yesterday!

I have to wonder what took you so long. ;)

On a side note, there is no excuse for someone who is essentially interviewing for the job of party leader to take that long to come up with a position on the issue of the day.

I'll forgive you though, Jeff.

Jeff said...

Rob, I like to think of myself as the Senate of the blogsphere. Except for the sober part...

Coming to Montreal?

Anonymous said...

A cynical person could ask:

Why did it take you so long to post?

It was covered intensely yesterday, so why did you bother to post it today?

Is this post suggesting that Gerard is slow and that's why he waited so long to announce?

Or is this post suggesting Gerard is an opportunist?

I'm beginning to feel deja vu. Oh, now I know from where. It's another Dion supporter's blog. Oh yah, Jason Cherniak's blog. First, it starts with a positive. Then it finds its way to being spun against the individual and while spinning for Dion.

Since you wondered, Yesterday's Answer Will Have To Work Again Today:

Before Gerard comes out with a statement/policy, he will analyze it, get input, analyze it some more, ask questions, gather more information, then make a decision.

It drives many of the people around him crazy. The bad is that sometimes it takes Gerard a little longer to make a decision because he wants to make sure it is the RIGHT decision. The GOOD is that it is the RIGHT decision! No regrets later.


P.S. Before the Boo-birds come out and criticize Gerard for his methodical approach which is slow but is RIGHT. Note: Very few things in our government bureaucracy require split-second decisions. Most things in our government bureaucracy require GOOD (and RIGHT) decisions!

Jeff said...

A cynical person would also ask, peter, why you choose to focus on the one point of minor disagreement that I raised and ignore the bulk of areas where I agree with him. A cynic might think it's an attempt to create the appearance of conflict when, in fact, there is none.

I'm not a cynical person though. And I was a touch busy yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Exact Leger question (Nov. 16-26): “Currently, there is a political debate on recognizing Quebec as a nation. Do you personally consider that Quebeckers form a nation or not?”

77% AGAINST in Rest of Canada
77% AGAINST Francophones outside Quebec
72% AGAINST Liberals
62% AGAINST Non-Francophone Quebeckers
29% AGAINST French Speaking Quebeckers

Gerard and Dryden and Volpe speak for the majority of Canadians.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be a condition of Kennedy. He uses frequent "buzz" words, but really lacks depth. I think it's too early for him. He's not terribly worldly and needs to expand his wings a little.

He's actually saying whatever the kids like to hear. He is also pumping out the renewal phrase - RENEWAL? Tom Axworthy (another used to be NDP), Trudeau - that was a long, long time ago.

Renewal means letting go of the past and pushing forward. Obviously using the celebrity card with Justin Trudeau.

All the attention on Justin took attention away from the other candidates - but that still didn't give Kennedy himself much press coverage.

Anonymous said...

Gerard takes a little longer to make a decision - we had one of those and he was coined with the name Mr. Dithers.

Also, what's Gerard's alternative - you say he took his time to think this out.