Pity Stephane Dion as a failed leader on this day he announced he was quitting as Liberal leader a full 6 months before a more dignified farewell? Nah. Surely, Dion deserves the same ridicule Stockwell Day received during and after he was dumped unceremoniously by his fracturing party after election defeat. But, as things often turn out for disgraced former political leaders who aren’t of the conservative kind in Canada, think Bob Rae, Jean Chretien, or David Peterson, Stephane Dion could very well rebound back to popular favour in short time.
It is truly amazing and startling that Dion got as close as he did to toppling the Conservative government with the aid of cobbled coalition and claiming himself the crown only weeks after taking his party to its worst electoral defeat in decades. To see him fall out of favour with his party in a matter of a couple of days after the Governor-General accepted Stephen Harper’s plea for proroguing Parliament is equally as amazing. And to think that it was an out of focus television address that knocked many Liberals to their senses to second guess the whole union with “socialists and separatists” is just incredible.
Some time before Dion was chosen Liberal leader I rated my impressions of him alongside a lengthy slate of candidates running to replace the previous leader Paul Martin jr. I had a good idea back then that his struggle to communicate in English would hobble his aspirations. Even so, upon his victory just over 2 years ago in 2006, I suggested some willingness to accept that he could be the anti-establishment leader needed to take the Liberal party in a new direction, leaving the reek of the sponsorship scandal in the party’s past. A much needed Liberal Party rebranding was thought to be in the offing. There was something to hope for in Stephane Dion, a scholarly man who could have brought a high level of academic intelligence to the national debate, enough to humble the existing slate of leadership clowns, who, as it turns out, have outlasted the nutty professor.
There will be no dignified departure for Stephane Dion. His behavior over the past week has erased the respect he earned for the Clarity Act, his efforts to establish the conditions for negotiations between the federal government and a provincial government wanting to secede ie: folks like the BQ MP’s who he was cozying up with last week. His pursuit of a carbon tax with the Green Shift could have been his shining legacy even if the economic turmoil overtook it as the issue of the election of 2008, if only Dion could have adequately explained it.
If there is one thing we can thank Stephane Dion for, it is the fodder for which he provided to editorial cartoonists for the past two years.