Since he launched his plan, the Liberal leader has made no secret that the Clarity Act playbook is his main source of inspiration.
In an approach reminiscent of his debate with the sovereignist chattering class, Dion spent the past few days promoting his plan in Alberta, the province that is home to the audience most hostile to a carbon tax.
But if his past experience in Quebec is any indication, his weekend foray will earn him more admiration in Ontario than converts in Alberta.
That is certainly how the Clarity Act performance played out in Quebec.
While Dion is widely seen as a unity hero in the rest of Canada, many of his fellow Quebec federalists remain convinced that the Clarity Act on secession actually delayed the current return of the pendulum towards federalism.
But sovereignty still remained a dominant force in Quebec for the decade that followed, including during and after the Clarity Act debate. It is only recently that a sustained pro-federalist trend has emerged in the province's public opinion.
There is no doubt that it is easier for a Quebec federalist to stand up to sovereignists armed with Stephen Harper's nation resolution than with Dion's Clarity Act.
Like many Canadians, Dion sees the Clarity Act as his finest political hour.
But in trying to recreate it, he risks duplicating the very approach that turned him into a political writeoff in Quebec 10 years ago.
First of all, I would argue that being considered a “write-off” in Alberta would only cost Dion all of zero current Liberal seats. But that’s besides the point because I do think the Liberals should focus more on the West than they do presently. What I am interested in is Hebert’s recollection of how the Clarity Act delayed the federalist re-emergence in Quebec.
The Clarity Act was passed in early 2000. So let’s jump in our time machine and see the devastating results it had on the federalist forces that imposed this insidious act later that year:
2000 Federal Election Results
Liberals: 36 seats (+10), 44.2% (up 7.5%)
Now, in Hebert’s defense, the Bloc did gain an extra 2% of the vote, although they lost 6 seats in the process.
The next big test was provincially, in 2003:
Liberals 76 seats (+28), 46.0% (+2.5%)
PQ 45 seats (-21), 33.2% (-9.7%)
Now, I’m not saying that the Clarity Act killed the sovereignist movement but to argue that it hurt the federalists when every bit of quantitative evidence out there runs counter to that hypothesis? Well, that’s an argument that only Chantal Hebert could make.