After a hard-luck year as Liberal leader and leader of the opposition, Stephane Dion announced today that he expects his party's fortunes are about to change.
"2008 will be another ball game," Dion announced. "You cannot keep alive forever a government who wants to die."
More specifically, Dion is looking toward spring 2008 as the date on which he wants to topple the Conservative government and try to fulfil what he thinks is the Liberal party's destiny -- his previously promised return to power.
"I think each week I feel that [the public mood is] warmer about the idea that maybe we should revisit the kind of choice we have made in 2006. And we'll see if it's still the case in February or in March or in April," he said.
Despite some public assertions to the contrary, Dion seems to feel a bit of political good mojo has dropped into his lap with the ongoing (and opposition preciptated) Mulroney-Schreiber circus, and he believes this is going to make all the difference in 2008.
Unfortunately, however, Dion has yet to realize that he -- and his party -- have made their own luck, most of it bad, to this date. His recent remarks regarding the 2006 election stand as proof enough.
"In the last election, Jack Layton asked Canadians to lend him their votes," said Dion. "And what did they get? Stephen Harper. Many Canadians will demand their vote back -- with interest."
Of course, there are a few logical fallacies in this statement. First off, when casting their vote in favour of the NDP, most of these voters knew full well the NDP wasn't going to form the government. They were, in effect, choosing the NDP to hold a balance of power in a minority parliament.
Most of all, however, this statement is merely more proof that Stephane Dion isn't ready to be Prime Minister. Blaming Jack Layton and the NDP for the ascension of the country's sitting government has been a popular refuge for many Liberals, and there's a reason for this: it's much more convenient than blaming themselves.
It was Liberal corruption that eventually forced the 2005/06 election, and Liberal corruption that turned Canadians away from voting Liberal. Only persistent Liberal fear mongering prevented more Canadians from casting their vote in favour of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.
With virtually all of the forecast ideological evils that the Liberals predicted failing to materialize themselves in any way, shape or form, fear is one tactic the Liberals won't be able to play to so easily.
Beyond this, Canadians have consistently stated their preference of Harper to Dion as Prime Minister. In the most recent leadership preference survey, SES-Sun Media found that 37% of Canadians think Harper is the best leader of a Canadian political party. Only 13% would prefer to see Stephane Dion as a Prime Minister. Jack Layton (whom, to reiterate, Dion blames for Harper becoming PM) polled at 17%.
Of course, blaming the NDP has become customary for the Liberal party when facing defeat. Jamie Heath, however, wisely notes that these individuals choose to overlook cases in which the Liberals were defeated wherein the NDP was not a factor. Their defeats in 1984 and 1958 are two prime examples.
The idea that the Liberals could lose on their own is hardly unthinkable. Dion would do better as party leader to take his lumps, and learn from them. Both he and his party have demonstrated a lack of ability to do so.
Dion also unwittingly showcased his failures as a potential statesman.
"At the next election, there will be this narrow, selfish Conservative idea of Canada, with Stephen Harper's hidden agenda toward the U.S. Republican ideology," Dion announced.
Perhaps this is another reason why Dion is so eager to have an election in 2008. Should the next federal election come at any point after November of 2008, the Liberals won't be able to envoke the spectre of George Bush to scare up extra votes at the ballot box. But even more so than this, Dion, while sitting in opposition, is lobbing criticisms at a governing party in a foreign country, all in the name of partisan gain.
This, along with his insistence that Karlheinz Schreiber being allowed to remain in Canada so he may continue to spread innuendo is more important than extraditing him to a foreign country wherein he is sought for actual crimes, and along with his party's use of international forums as a platform from which to denounce the Harper government, can be considered a rather serious strike against him in terms of statesmanship.
It's also plainly unwise. What, for example, would transpire should the Republicans somehow win the 2008 presidential election? Dion would certainly find it difficult to have to cooperate with a Republican president after having bandied that party's name about in the name of partisan gain.
And one certainly realizes that Stephane Dion absolutely cannot allow the Harper government to be seen interacting amicably with a Democratic US government.
In another glaring example of Dion's failings, one considers the list of Dion's accomplishments, to date, as Liberal leader, as provided by the Liberal party website.
Among these "accomplishments", are listed:
"-Leading the debate on Canada’s economic agenda and putting forward a plan for moving our economy forward by making our country more competitive and putting more money in the pockets of Canadians.Which, of course, to anyone who's actually paid attention over the last year, reads, frankly, like a complete crock.
-Committing to improving social policy by fighting poverty, strengthening our justice system, protecting Canada’s Charter, encouraging women in politics, protecting official languages, supporting Aboriginal Peoples, and promoting the cultural community.
-Pledging to work together with the international community to combat climate change and support the environment by putting forward comprehensive strategies such as the Carbon Budget Plan to regulate industrial greenhouse-gas pollution, the Clean Energy Plan to make Canada the global leader in renewable energy, and protecting Canada’s stronghold on our precious water resources.
-Strengthening Canada’s commitment to a multilateral foreign policy and outlining a clear plan for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan."
First off, Dion offered strikingly little "economic leadership" aside from pledging himself to vote against the Conservative party budget months before he knew what it would contain, then criticized the 2007 economic update for cutting taxes (which puts more money in the pockets of Canadians).
Secondly, Dion pledged to fight child poverty -- despite the fact that his party has repeatedly pledged to do so over the past 30 years, and never acted. He denounced changes to criminal justice laws that would put more criminals behind bars. His party helped shelf legislation that would force Aboriginal bands to respect the Charter rights of their members.
Third, Dion pledged to do something that his party consistently failed to do while in government. He previously wailed "this is unfair" when taken to task for that during the Liberal party leadership debates.
Last but not least, he promised to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan in 2009 -- an act that would actually redpudiate Canada's commitment to internationalism, not strengthen it.
Even with all of this glaringly obvious to the majority of Canadians, Dion is looking ahead to an election in 2008.
"Will an election come in 2008? Maybe. So be ready at any time," he instructed Liberal party faithful.
"At the next election, there will be this narrow, selfish Conservative idea of Canada, with Stephen Harper's hidden agenda toward the U.S. Republican ideology," he, as previously noted, added, "And there will be our generous, sincere vision of a richer, greener, fairer Canada of the 21st century. There will be a collision between these two conceptions of our country."
For a man who accuses his chief opponent of being an ideologue, Dion spends a good deal of time verbally relishing a clash of ideologies.
Beyond this, however, Dion has consistently shown himself to be a man who prefers to divide Canadians rather than unite them. His tireless search for a critical wedge issue to drive conservative- and liberal-minded Canadians apart may be what has come to define him more than anything.
Dion must think this will prove to be a strenth. But he clearly isn't thinking about what affect this will have on his own objectives.
Dion is overlooking an important detail: he doesn't have enough seats to force an election without support from the Bloc Quebecois. Even then, however, the NDP could, along with the Conservatives, stave off a non-confidence vote. And if, as Dion insists, they won't be a factor in a Spring 2008 election, it certainly won't be in their interest to help engineer one.
Dion can't even rally his fellow opposition leaders properly. At a time when in order to accomplish his goals he needs to unite the opposition leaders in the name of defeating the Conservatives, he's instead making comments that will only divide them.
New ball game or not, Stephane Dion is not ready to play. He wasn't ready in 2006, he wasn't ready in 2007, and 2008 will likely not be any different.
Stephane Dion will certainly only continue to make his own luck -- and one can nearly rest assured it will be bad.