Monday, July 07, 2008

Lacking Clarity

Oh, Chantal Hebert.

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.



  • Hmmm... that 2000 election.... how legitmate were those results in light of....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 p.m.  

  • The clarity act, the green dollar shift / shaft act and other diversions fail to cover the current worry of 3+ Million$ to be paid out of Liberal coffers.

    First it was 2+ Million$, then a little friendly *talk* and now it*s 3+ Mil$.

    Guess someone swore or something.

    **Sources say Conservative and Liberal officials met in the spring to discuss a possible out-of-court settlement. But negotiations broke down and shortly thereafter, on June 4, Harper added another $1-million claim to the suit.**


    ** Harper has called the Liberals' bribery accusations *despicable* and has predicted the party will *come to regret engaging in this illegal and untruthful behaviour.**

    Dion keeps a cheery outlook though. Wonder how he does it?
    = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 12:13 a.m.  

  • Ooops, almost forgot * da proof*.


    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 12:17 a.m.  

  • Yesm but is it da good proof? Because when yo have da good proof,it's proven.

    By Blogger Sophie-Marie, at 12:25 a.m.  

  • One of the most interesting and underexamined questions in Canadian politics is why, exactly, the entire Toronto Star commentariat seem to loathe Dion and everything he stands for. That's the last thing you'd expect, but there you are.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 2:01 a.m.  

  • Stephen Harper wrote the clarity act!

    No, Jean Chretien wrote the clarity act!

    For something as bad as CH makes it out to be, a lot of people want to take credit for it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 a.m.  

  • Yeah, confusing to me too. The Sun, CTV, and the CBC seem to know all too well that *Liberals* spell * vast advertising buying*. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 9:09 a.m.  

  • Another, better proof. . .


    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 10:09 a.m.  

  • I just want to remind you it was Stephen Harper who wrote the Clarity Act.

    By Blogger Paul Wells, at 10:49 a.m.  

  • Yeah, sure it was, "Paul Wells", just like Stephen Harper worked on the Secession Reference and took the fight directly to the specious arguments of sovereigntists and pequistes. Oh, wait, that was Dion!

    By Blogger JG, at 11:47 a.m.  

  • And just like it was Stephen Harper who created the sponsorship program which elevated the support for sovereignty in Quebec to 53%. Oh, wait, that was the Liberals!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:20 p.m.  

  • Just for the sake of ‘clarity’:

    On October 30th, 1996, Stephen Harper tabled bill C-341, the Quebec Contingency Act to address the issue of a Quebec referendum, SPECIFICALLY ON THE POSITION OF QUEBEC IN CANADA. This was the first attempt to legislate what a response from the government of Canada would be and did prescribe that Canadian government would hold its own referendum on the same day as the Quebec referendum to ask citizens two questions, including
    (b) if Quebec separates from Canada, should my community separate from Quebec and remain a part of Canada—YES or NO?

    On December 13, 1999, so more than three years later, Bill C-20, the “Clarity Act” was tabled by the Chrétien government to address THE POSITION OF ALL CANADIAN PROVINCES IN CANADA. It gives the House the power to decide what is considered a clear question and a clear result, states that all provinces and First Nations would be part of negotiations and brings the requirement of an amendment to the Constitution of Canada. IT DOES NOT PRESCRIBE THAT A FEDERAL REFERENDUM BE HELD ON THE PARTITION OF THE TERRITORY OF THE SECESSIONIST PROVINCE.

    It is quite interesting to compare Harper’s approach to the one defended by Dion and eventually voted by Parliament.

    By Blogger Loraine Lamontagne, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • It boggles the mind why people still listen to any opinion Chantal Hebert has on Stephane Dion. She made up her mind about him during the leadership race, and is doing everything she can to torpedo him. The Conservatives could not buy better press (and they try re. borque) than what she gives them for free. They should put her on payroll.

    By Blogger Matthew Naylor, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • 1996 *sigh* Those were the good old days, back when Stephen Harper actually stood for something and had ideas...

    I wonder what C-341 Harper would have said about Quebec nationhood, UNESCO, the fiscal imbalance, etc?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:56 p.m.  

  • He would have said whatever is fitting and democratic in order to safeguard the next election odds.

    Politician first and everything else later. He*s a surprising pro, . . . eh? = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 2:47 p.m.  

  • calgarygrit, c'mon, ol buddy:

    remember the "I've evolved" quote??

    and, btw, I support my right to partition from a separate Quebec and know a Tory government would defend that right.

    at the same time I recognize the need to preserve the Quebecois nation within a United Canada.

    how am I inconsistent here?

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 3:17 p.m.  

  • ps. I was TheRalphGoodale.

    I thought it was so funny given Ralph's inandout comments re: the 2006 election when set against the 2000 election and sponsorship scandal.

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 3:18 p.m.  

  • Wow, I think the Clarity Act had more writers than Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:48 p.m.  

  • Say, how's Dion coming along convincing Canadians that he wants fewer people to have high incomes (tax more the things we don't want) and more people to have low incomes (tax less the things we want more of)?

    Or will it be suggested that Dion says one thing but means something completely different and has to have his little minions correct his misstatements?

    By Blogger Paul, at 8:35 p.m.  

  • Clarity is taking a back seat at the moment.

    Dion has the 3 1/2 Million$ CPC / Cadman defamation lawsuit to settle.

    There is also the 8.5 Million$ law suit for using the pending registered trade name * Green Shift *.

    Dion and the Liberals seem to be snowed under with debts. =
    = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 11:31 a.m.  

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