about Dion and Charest;
Phone rings. Campaign headquarters, informing the minister of his schedule for the next day. Dion listens, impassive, then confused, then increasingly angry.
"Sherbrooke? You want me to campaign in Sherbrooke?" Jean Charest was the incumbent Progressive Conservative candidate in Sherbrooke.
"But our campaign message in Quebec is that people should vote for the candidate who's best positioned to beat the Bloc Québécois. In Sherbrooke, that's Jean Charest, not the Liberal. Don't make me campaign against Charest!"
I don't know whether he won that argument. His line of argument stuck with me. After the election, some Liberals were upset that Dion had, in general, been so reluctant to criticize Charest. One asked him a question about that in March 1998, at the cabinet-accountability bear-pit session at the Liberals' biennial convention. Hey, Dion, why so soft on a Conservative?
Dion stepped forward and prepared to make, maybe, three points. He ticked off his forefinger and began: "My country before my party." The hall erupted in a standing ovation. He looked surprised, shrugged, and went back to his seat.
It may be worth reminding everyone, because we seem to forget, that in 1997 Canada was still in a kind of free-floating national-unity crisis that began in the last six months of Meech Madness in 1990. Dion's reasoning was pretty damned simple: the country was in danger. One mustn't waste time fighting the reasonably like-minded.
So I was struck by the opening paragraph of the May-Dion communiqué yesterday: "The planet has reached its limit. The human-caused damage to our natural environment is devastating."
Though in nuanced Liberal language Dion could also say My Planet, My Party, as he has on other issues like the Anti Terrorism Act, Afghanistan and the Anti-Scab Legislation.
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