Like Chevy Chase in Memoirs of an Invisible Man declaring "I want my molecules back!", Stephane Dion is making demands of the Canadian political class.
He wants his legacy back. His separatist-fighting legacy.
In an op-ed appearing in the Ottawa Citizen, Dion is offering a lecture to NDP leader Jack Layton about why 50% +1 is an unacceptable threshold for a separatist mandate in a sovereignty referendum.
In a nutshell, Dion's argument is that the oui majority in a seccession vote must be large enough to allow the negotiation process to move forward with certainty, and must be able to withstand periodic shifts in public opinion:
"There are two fundamental reasons why negotiations for secession should be contingent on a clear majority. The first is that serious and irreversible decisions that affect future generations should be made by consensus, not on the basis of a weak and uncertain majority, not on the basis of a result which might have been different if the vote had been held the day before or the day after. There is no doubt that secession is something serious and probably irreversible since it is nearly impossible to rebuild a country after it has been broken. Such an action affects future generations and has serious consequences for all of the citizens of the country being broken up.Dion makes a very strong argument. Unfortunately, Dion still has to own up to his role in attempting to form a coalition government with the NDP that would have mortgaged the Canadian government to the Bloc Quebecois.
The second reason is that, even with all the goodwill in the world, negotiating the separation of a modern state would inevitably be difficult and fraught with pitfalls. What must not happen is that, while negotiators are working on a separation agreement, the majority should change its mind and decide to oppose secession. That would be an untenable situation. That is why the process should only be undertaken if there is a sufficiently large majority that will last through the inevitable difficulties of negotiation."
While the Liberals publicly boasted that the Bloc had voluntarily taken separatism off the table for 18 months, and that they had refused to give in to Bloc demands on language law.
However, the NDP had been walking the BQ line on Bill 101 all along, and are walking it still.
In 2008, the coalition's right hand ignored what the left hand had been doing. Now that the left hand no longer needs the right hand at all, it seems that all bets are off.
It's admirable that Stephane Dion is standing up to Jack Layton on his soft-on-separatism positions now. But Dion knew full well that Layton was soft on separatism before he tried to bring the NDP and Bloc together in a vain attempt (vain in every sense of the word) to snatch power away from the Tories.
That's why Dion will likely never recapture his tainted legacy as a separatist fighter. When all the political chips were on the table, he revealled to Canadians that he can be every bit as soft on separatism as Jack Layton clearly is.
In 2008, and as it pertains to the fight against separatism, Stephane Dion has made himself Canada's invisible man.