with rapt attention as my (mildly) preferred candidate Bob Rae looked like he was gaining some early momentum only to see it collapse in very short order. The winner, of course, was Stephane Dion, and as Paul Wells has summarized this morning, most of the media reaction is focusing on Dion’s negatives in Quebec.
While they aren’t all wrong – Dion does have significant problems in his home province even among federalists – I think the pundits are, for the most part, making the same error that they have been making for quite a while with respect to Quebec voter behaviour.
In fact, a leader’s or candidate’s positives/negatives on Quebec nationalism are only about half of the story, if that. As important – nah, MORE important, truth be told – is where the candidate stands in terms of policy. And on this front, even a Dion that’s despised for his Clarity Act may be able to succeed in bringing Quebeckers back in his direction. Quebec voters need candidates who are socially progressive in nature, and environmentally conscious, and I predict they’ll overlook a lot of Dion’s negatives on the “unity file” if they hear the right things on other policy issues.
In other words – it’s a non-starter to analyze a candidate’s potential in Quebec by only looking at the nationalism side of things.
I should also say that I have always thought that sovereigntists should welcome and embrace the Clarity Act – which will be their single greatest source of legitimacy should a referendum ever succeed