Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lament for a Nation - Deux

Ignatieff's co-chair for Alberta, Senator Grant Mitchell, has sent out a mass e-mail to Alberta delegates, explaining Michael Ignatieff's nation policy. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that he has not done this because of a euphoric response from delegates across the province to the nation idea:


Dear fellow Liberal:

There has been much discussion and debate in this party and in the media about Michael Ignatieff's stand on Quebec as a nation. Let me explain for a moment why I am in support of his strong position on this issue.

Michael has taken the position that we should simply acknowledge that Quebec is a nation. He points out that there are 5,000 nations in the world, but only 200 countries. My belief is that this position simply "guts" the separatists' initiative because it acknowledges what they really want to have acknowledged while clearly identifying that this is not inconsistent with remaining in Canada. He is not saying we need constitutional talks. He is not saying Quebec needs more powers. He is simply saying that we need to acknowledge facts. He is saying that whatever we do it cannot offend two fundamental principals: equality of individual rights and equality of provincial rights.

Michael states these points very clearly:

a) He did not make up the idea of Quebec as a nation out of the ether. The question of Quebec as a nation is a reality to the many people he meets in Quebec who ask him "What are you going to do about dealing with the Quebec issue?". As a politician, he has to deal with reality; he has to deal with facts. And this is an issue in Quebec. He first wrote about Quebec as a nation in his book Blood and Belonging in 1993.


Consider that we have only one MP in Quebec outside of Montreal - this says something important to us - we need to do something in Quebec. For those who are concerned about special status for Quebec, consider the fact that if a province is the only one of ten that isn't part of the Constitution, maybe that already constitutes special status.

b) He is also not a politician that in any way wants to divide. Quite the contrary; he is a politician who is a unifying force (witness the fact that he is not attacking anybody in this leadership race, instead making every effort to bring this party together and to bind it). He is clearly saying that this need not be and is not a divisive issue.

c) He stands firmly behind two concepts: the Constitutional equality of provinces and the Constitutional equality of rights for every single Canadian. It is not inconsistent with equality of rights and equality of provinces to recognize Quebec as a nation, given the specific standard definition of nation as a cultural, linguistic group. He has said no new powers. He also says that the recognition of Quebec as a nation is to be counterbalanced with the affirmation of the federal government's role in securing and maintaining the equality of citizenship.

d) Michael makes a very powerful point that in 1968 there was not a single person on the floor of the leadership convention who had even an inkling that in 14 years not only would Canada have a Charter of Rights, but the Constitution would have been brought back to Canada. And who did that?


One of the most controversial, provocative, and most respected Prime Ministers in this country's history. People may not always have been happy with Pierre Elliot Trudeau; but in the end they were respectful of his leadership qualities.


I want a leader who can express a vision of this country that is not mired in the past, who is not bound by "sacred cows". I am compelled by a vision of this country in which Quebec is recognized appropriately; in which we are not afraid to talk about an aggressive environmental policy to deal with carbon emissions and global climate change (and even talk about carbon tax in Alberta); about a vision that speaks of Canada doing some of the heavy lifting internationally; of a Canada that sustains equality of rights and equality of provincial rights, and equality of opportunity for those who are less fortunate. These are the elements of a great vision for this country and Michael Ignatieff is speaking about them. It is the kind of leadership that Canadians want.


Stephen Harper has to some extent figured out the style but not the content - he offers only a facsimile. Yes, he takes strong positions, but on issues of very limited consequence (such as mandatory minimums, which won't even work). Michael Ignatieff takes strong positions on issues of profound consequence to the betterment and enhancement of this country; of its place in the world and of the Canadians that live within it.

Hon. Grant Mitchell, Senator (Alberta)



Now, I like Grant Mitchell and the Ignatieff people have run a very professional campaign in Alberta. However, I feel the need to make a few comments on this:


1. "For those who are concerned about special status for Quebec, consider the fact that if a province is the only one of ten that isn't part of the Constitution, maybe that already constitutes special status."

Quebec is also the only province with a "Q" in it, but I don't think that alone makes it distinct. And it only inflames the separatist cause to keep repeating the myth that Quebec did not sign the constitution. 99% of MPs from the province, including the PM and Justice Minister voted in favour of the constitution. Every single opinion poll in the province showed that Quebecers supported it. Quebec signed - a separatist government which did not believe in Canada did not sign. Coyne goes into the entire argument beautifully here.


2. Grant mentions the constitution in that above section I quoted. The nation proposal is in the "constitution" part of Michael's platform. Yet Mitchell opens his letter by saying "He is not saying we need constitutional talks". Well, if you're going to argue that your candidate takes "strong positions", then he should take a strong position. I heard Ignatieff answer the nation question in person recently and he said "maybe we recognize it in a bill, maybe in the constitution, maybe in the preamble, maybe we don't do anything".


3. "He is clearly saying that this need not be and is not a divisive issue". I'm going to run for leadership on a platform to ban abortions in Canada but I'm going to clearly say that this need not be a divisive issue - does that make me a unifying candidate? Anyone who knows anything about Canadian political history knows that nothing is more divisive than the role of Quebec in Canada.


4. Still with the Trudeau comparisons?


5. Grant's lucky he's a Senator because running as a Liberal in Alberta on a "Quebec is a nation and lets bring in a carbon tax" platform is not the path to an electoral breakthrough here.


6. Taking a strong position isn't any good if it's a position Liberals and Canadians don't want you to take. It always amazed me how Ignatieff supporters will justify any stand of his they don't agree with - "sure, I don't agree with his stand on the Iraq war, but it was because of his bond with the Kurds", "I don't think Quebec is a nation, but his heart is in the right place", "yeah, I'm not big on his puppy genocide policy, but at least he's taking a strong stand". It's alright to say you disagree with your candidate on a policy topic and still think his other positives (and despite all this, Ignatieff still has a lot of positives) outweigh the policy differences.

20 Comments:

  • It appears like a strategy of desperation.

    I believe that Mr. Ignatieff's supporters have come to the realization that their candidate must do very well on the first ballot.

    They are pulling out all the stops to contact uncommitted ex-offios and get their message out.

    If he does not look unbeatable after the first ballot, he probably won't win and the Ignatieff team know that

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 12:43 AM  

  • 5. Grant's lucky he's a Senator because running as a Liberal in Alberta on a "Quebec is a nation and lets bring in a carbon tax" platform is not the path to an electoral breakthrough here.

    Coincidently, here's what was reported in today's Edmonton Journal:

    "Albertans support carbon tax
    poll: Environment resurfaces as top issue for Canadians

    Allan Woods, CanWest News Service
    Published: Monday, November 06, 2006

    OTTAWA - Most Canadians -- including a majority of Albertans -- believe the federal government should levy a tax on carbon-based energy sources, according to a new poll.

    Surprisingly, the country's top oil, gas and coal producing regions -- Alberta, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada -- showed the most support for a carbon tax.

    Fifty-four per cent of Albertans and 55 per cent of British Columbians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement: "Canada needs a special carbon tax to increase the cost of burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal for consumers and industry. This tax would promote energy efficiency and help the environment."

    http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=fb75b0e9-d87d-4752-9b81-1c45e7a28904&k=42201

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 1:02 AM  

  • Sounds like a flip flop to me. I must correct you though; while the Quebec as a nation probably won't sit to well with Albertans, recent polls say that the majority of Albertans agree with a carbon tax system. It's not a bad election platform here.

    By Blogger Charlie Barnard, at 1:16 AM  

  • Very interesting on the carbon tax - thanks for the link.

    I always liked the idea of a carbon tax, I just never thought it would sell. But if people are actually willing to accept it, then I say go for it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:24 AM  

  • Ignatieff is sucking and blowing on the constitutional amendment nations notion, and hoping that nobody notices this.

    For a man who takes "strong positions", he sure jettisons them fast enough when the going gets tough.

    Be nice if he stood by his principles, just for once.

    By Blogger CuriosityCat, at 1:46 AM  

  • Jeezus Grant

    Could there be more contradictions in one statement?

    1. This is not about special status but Quebec is already special as a non-signatory to the constitution.

    2. Iggy is "cleary" saying that this is NOT a divisive issue. If only Iggy saying so made it so.

    3.It is not inconsistent with equality of rights and equality of provinces to recognize Quebec as a nation, given the specific standard definition of nation as a cultural, linguistic group.

    I forsee some problems explaining the nuances of this position to ...say.. the Cree, Blood, Mowhawk Nations..etc...

    4. I want a leader who can express a vision of this country that is not mired in the past, who is not bound by "sacred cows"

    Ummmm....Grant in the previous paragraph you evoked the spectre of PET. Who exactly is stuck in the past again?

    5. I am compelled by a vision of this country in which Quebec is recognized appropriately; in which we are not afraid to talk about an aggressive environmental policy to deal with carbon emissions and global climate change...

    Grant I think the looming problem regarding the climate file has been a preponderance of TALKING and sweet fuck all for action. But if you think Iggy talking some more will help...well...god bless ya.

    The fact that Albertans of all political stripes are willing to accept a USER based carbon tax to do our bit speaks to how far out of touch the LPC elite are with most Canadians.

    Get a grip!

    Syncro

    By Blogger syncrodox, at 1:53 AM  

  • I could be proven wrong but I just don't believe that Liberals and Canadians want a leader whose policy positions are so convoluted that no one understands what he is saying.

    One aspect of leadership is clearly conveying ideas and policy positions in a manner that attracts support for the leader and the party.

    Another aspect of leadership is the ability to capably defend a position and not cave in under pressure.

    Is Mr. Ignatieff passing these tests ?

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 7:55 AM  

  • Dear Senator Mitchell,

    I don't share your support or enthusiasm for Mr. Ignatieff.

    He is my 8th choice for leader of the Liberal party. I am not a member of an “Any But Ignatieff” group

    Mr. Ignatieff's championing of the "Quebec as a Nation" policy is testimony to his poor political judgment for several reasons.

    1. It was opportunistic pandering to a segment of the population at an opportunistic time without considering the longer term implications.

    2. This is not unlike Mr. Ignatieff’s positions on the Middle East situation so there is a trend developing here.

    3. “Quebec as a Nation” wastes energy and attention that should be directed to issues of concern to all Canadians, including Quebeckers.

    4. If we need to acknowledge facts, and the BNA Act does that by the way, in its references to founding peoples, we had better be prepared to acknowledge the fact of our Aboriginal people as nations that have longstanding cultures and land claims, including significant areas within the province of Quebec.

    5. Mr. Ignatieff may not be a politician who wants to divide but by championing this issue he is creating division within the Liberal party and that does not bode well for the future. Will Mr. Ignatieff persist with his position if the Quebec resolution is rejected by Liberals at our national convention? And why create a policy position that is not supported by a majority of Liberals or Canadians at a national level ?

    6. Justin Trudeau makes a very powerful point that his father would want nothing to do with the Quebec as a Nation policy and as you say, people were respected Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s leadership qualities.

    7. I want a leader who does not have to repeatedly revise his public positions and who does not pander to special interest groups. I am compelled to support a leader who recognizes the contribution of all provinces to the success of our country. I want a leader who is committed to Canada, as a nation, for the long term and who has demonstrated that commitment in the past through previous public service.


    Mr. Ignatieff’s suitability as our leader troubles me. He has other characteristics that do not bode well for future electoral success.

    Can Canadians identify with Mr. Ignatieff?

    Electoral success will require Mr. Ignatieff to be able to communicate clearly to Canadians. He will need to tell them that their issues are his issues and that he is one of them.

    I’m very concerned that many Liberals and many Canadians perceive Mr. Ignatieff as an elitist academic.

    If Mr. Ignatieff succeeds in winning the party leadership and leading Liberals in the next election, he will have to dispel that perception or we will face electoral disaster.

    … and then we will be back to revitalizing the party and choosing a new leader.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 9:39 AM  

  • If by "no inkling" of constitutional change Sen. Mitchell means endless discussions, a royal commission, and long example of the American Bill of Rights just across the border....

    By Blogger matt, at 10:05 AM  

  • Bart:

    In reference to your second point concerning Michael's platform "An Agenda for Nation Building" (yes, the title begs the question: Which Nation is this Agenda Building?)

    I wonder, what about the below section would leave ANYONE to believe he wasn't planning on making Quebec a nation in the constitution, or not asking for a mandate to initiate constitutional talks during his tenure as leader?

    An Agenda for Nation Building
    By Michael Ignatieff
    Section 29, Page 30
    the constitution

    Despite this functioning balance, the province of Quebec has not given its assent to the constitution of 1982, and until it does, our federation’s architecture remains
    unfinished.

    Creating the conditions for a successful negotiation to complete our nation-building will take time.
    Ratification of a new constitution will require good faith and political will on all sides.

    When these conditions are in place, Canadians should be prepared to ratify the facts of our life as a country composed of distinct nations in a new constitutional document.

    The details that must be reconciled
    in a constitutional settlement are complex, but the fundamental principles to be respected are clear: a constitutional division of powers among Aboriginal, territorial, provincial and federal orders of government, with clear procedures for sharing jurisdictions
    that overlap; the acknowledgement of the national status of Quebec and the indigenous nations of Canada;
    the definition of a clear mandate for the federal authority to promote the unity of Canadian citizenship, the unity of the national economic space and the protection of Canadian sovereignty; the constitutional definition of Canada as a bilingual and multi-national state; and the affirmation of the primacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the ultimate expression of the unity and indivisibility of Canadian citizenship.

    By Blogger Hammering Jow, at 11:17 AM  

  • "Consider that we have only one MP in Quebec outside of Montreal - this says something important to us - we need to do something in Quebec."


    This is my favorite quote --- uhh, what happens to those ridings inside Montreal when you nationalize Quebec?

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 11:35 AM  

  • "Consider that we have only one MP in Quebec outside of Montreal - this says something important to us - we need to do something in Quebec."

    The Senator should check his facts before sending "please stick with Iggy" desperation messages.

    In fact, we Liberals have 2 seats off the island of Montreal:
    * Hull—Aylmer
    * Laval—Les Îles

    By Blogger WestmountLiberal, at 11:59 AM  

  • actually, westmountliberal, he does say "outside Montreal" and does not get so specific as to the island of montreal - so Laval-des-Iles quite properly constitutes "inside Montreal" (the GMA).

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 12:27 PM  

  • One of my problems with the Ignatieff people is the extent to which they flat-out contradict themselves as to why they support their guy. So much of this phenomenon reminds me of how Paul Martin became leader. It was all about clinging to the expectations rather than the substance of a candidacy.

    How many times do you hear Iggy supporters say that he should be leader because he's not afraid to tell it like it is. However, almost every time he does so, as was the case with nation status and Qana, Team Ignatieff spends more time explaining away the initial position rather than defending it. In fact, on Quebec as a nation, one of their tactics has been to try and suggest that the other candidates believe the same thing Iggy does, even though they don't. So much for standing up for what you believe in.

    So, ultimately, not only is Iggy afraid to tell it like it is, he's afraid to defend himself grounds when he does.

    By Blogger Dennis (Second Thoughts), at 12:29 PM  

  • When Gatineau (accross the river from Ottawa) goes to the Bloc Québécois, "desireable but not necessary (Dion) and "we will get there step by step"(Kennedy) no longer cuts it when talking about Quebec's place in the Constitution.

    By Blogger Altavistagoogle, at 12:55 PM  

  • With all this constitutional nonsense, isn't it obvious that Iggy has spent far too much time outside of Canada?

    If he had lived here rather than the US and UK for the past 20 years, he would have known there was no stomach in Canada for constitutional adventures.

    He is demonstrating just how much of a foreigner he really is.

    By Blogger JL, at 12:57 PM  

  • CG -

    I believe that you are no.2 on Paul Wells' list of man-crushes (after Stephane Dion, obviously.)

    Congratulations - a pretty impressive fellow to have endorsing you!

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 1:39 PM  

  • If Ignatieff is such a unifier, why was he just fined $1,000...

    By Blogger Pete, at 1:51 PM  

  • Question: Do you think that Quebec constitutes a nation?

    Bob Rae: Yeah. Nation, people, distinct society. It's all the same. It's just words. It's a set of words. It means that you recognize the distinctiveness of the collectivity of Quebec. It is something we should have done in 1985 in Meech and in 1992 with Charlottetown. And something we should be doing. Harper's problem is that he fought against Meech and he fought viscerally against Charlottetown. So you know I have always thought the love affair between the people of Quebec and Stephen Harper made less sense than, you know, than Britney Spears's first marriage. None of these things make sense to me. It's not based on any compatibility or affection and I think that will become clear as time goes on. I think he represents a series of contradictions on Quebec. And I can tell you that, as someone who fought hard for Meech and Charlottetown, I can tell you who the opponents [were] and what kind of arguments [they] were using and what their essential view was of the French fact of Canada was. Not very generous. And Mr. Harper has been playing with that base for a long long time.

    Question: Would a Rae government reopen the constitution?

    Bob Rae: I'd answer that this way. I would say that the file is always open because we still have unfinished business as my friend and mentor Peter Russell writes, he once described it as an unfinished odyssey. I think that's right, it is an unfinished odyssey. The practical political question, the question for political judgment is what is the right moment to take steps and to try to get it done. Right now you'd have to say it is going to be difficult. You'd have to say why would you think you could do it now if you could not do it in '92? What have we learned from Meech? What have we learned from Charlottetown? What lessons have we drawn from that experience and from patriation? That when we've got something we can do - because of the referendum realities in the provinces you would really have to think about how exactly can we do it as we go forward. And I would have to think long and hard about how it would be done. But to say to me: is the file still open? Absolutely it is still open.

    By Blogger Justin Tetreault, at 9:56 PM  

  • I'm curious. The LPC has seats in Quebec, but none in Alberta, and this never seems to be a topic for discussion. Why is that? Is it the minimal number of seats the province represents? Is it the low budget due to low contributions that says "spend where it makes sense & screw the rest?"

    Why does the LPC continually refer to itself as a "national" and "unifying" party when... it isn't?

    And for those of you that want to pull the Screecher out of the closet, she lost. And Trudeau got a PC to cross the floor so he could call HIS Liberal Party "national." Go figure.

    By Blogger Candace, at 1:23 AM  

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