Monday, April 14, 2008

Beware revisionist history from Lysiane Gagnon, Chantal Hébert and others

Reading Lysiane Gagnon's column in today's Globe & Mail (the article, like many with the Globe, was not posted online for public consumption), I was struck by this line about Stéphane Dion:

"Mr. Dion will not be able to shed his negative image in Quebec. And he won't get any help from the Quebec section of the party, which is under the spell of Mr. Ignatieff. Mr. Ignatieff was overwhelmingly the favourite Quebec candidate at the leadership convention, whereas Mr. Dion had virtually no support in his home province."

This follows a similar description in a recent column by Chantal Hébert:

"Given that the province's Liberals massively supported Ignatieff bid for the leadership, it has been easy and ultimately only too convenient to see a conspiracy under every Quebec rock that has tripped Dion along his uncertain way. Without Ignatieff's supporters there simply would not be much of a Quebec Liberal wing."

Both writers are simply incorrect, at least in terms of how they describe Dion's alleged lack of support from his home province during the 2006 leadership race.

According to the CBC's Super Weekend page, Quebec delegates split like this: Ignatieff won 401 delegates, Dion won 292 and Rae won 248 (results for other candidates, totalling about 5% of the rest, aren't listed.)

Democratic Space posted the following results for Quebec:

Ignatieff 39%; Dion 29%; Rae 25%; Volpe 3%; Kennedy 1%; Brison 1%; Dryden 0%; Hall Findlay 0%; and Undecided 1%

There's no doubt that Michael Ignatieff won a plurality of Quebec delegates during that leadership race, about 39%. It's even fair to say that Ignatieff likely took a majority of Quebec delegates on the fourth and final ballot at the leadership convention (although, of course, we have no way to verify this.)

But to describe the 2006 leadership results with statements like, "[Quebec's] Liberals massively supported [Ignatieff's] bid," (as Hébert did in her March 31 column) or, "...Mr. Dion had virtually no support in his home province," as Gagnon described today, is simply false and bad journalism.

Dion won 30% of Quebec's delegates! He actually led the Quebec vote after Day One of Super Weekend voting, as most might recall. I'm not saying that Mr. Dion is without his Quebec problems today, but enough of the revisionist history, please!

In their bids to undermine Mr. Dion's leadership, it seems some writers are more than happy to ignore the facts.


CTV is playing the revisionist game too today. Don't these media types know we can verify their mistakes?

"Although Dion is a native son, his deputy leader, Michael Ignatieff, had much higher support in Quebec in the 2006 Liberal leadership race..."

Again: Iggy got 39% in Quebec, Dion got 30%, Rae got 25%. While one could write that "Ignatieff had higher support in Quebec than Dion," I'm sorry, but writing, Iggy had "much higher" support misrepresents history just a bit. According to CTV's definition of "much higher," one could also say the BQ, with a nine point lead over the Tories in Quebec today, have "much higher" support in that province too.


James Curran said...

Actually, Iggy's support bled out after his nation motion. Dion picked up more support because of it being Mr. Clarity and all.

Antonio said...

hahaha james gotta love revisionist history, the nation motion happened BEFOERE super weekend...

ch said...

I've met Dion and I like him because he is intelligent, honest and principled. However, I suspect he has some political weaknesses which I hope he and the party will be able to overcome or at least compensate for.

I recently chatted with a friend, a Quebecois with separatist leanings, who stated "Dion doesn't like Quebec". Now, I'm sure that is not true, but this is an intelligent woman (although her feelings about Quebec have a strong emotional element) and I was interested to learn her perception of Dion.

A politician needs to be to nudge people along to their vision of a better Canada, better Quebec, whatever. Not everyone will be swayed simply by intellectual arguments and politicians need to have multiple ways of nudging people.

I see a tendency in Dion to think that intelligent arguments should be sufficient. As someone who appreciates this approach, I am completely turned off by Harper's approach which seems to rely on manipulating or exploiting people's feelings more than relying on facts, truth and arguments. However, I suspect successful politicians have to appeal to both reason and feelings. Perhaps the leadership-team approach can be used by the Liberals to cover both bases.

This point may seem a bit off-topic, but I'm wondering if this doesn't affect the perception of Dion in Quebec.

James Curran said...

Yes Antonio. And, the fallout was massive. And shortly afterward, one of us quit the party. Hint: it wasn't me. Ontarians didn't want to hear about a nationhood. Neither did some of Iggy's PQ delegates. I'm not gonna fight that battle again in this blog. It's over. Some in PQ just can't accept it 1.5 years later.

Matt Guerin said...

ch is largely right about Dion's reputation in Quebec. He has yet to connect emotionally with all Canadians, but I don't doubt that Dion can do this over an election campaign. He's an affable, likeable guy and the current negative impression of him is shallow and based on the snapshots Canadians now only see of him through the media prism.

As for the Quebec nation motion, the Harper motion passed in the House was on November 27, 2006. This was in response to the BQ motion that was designed to try to embarrass or divide the Liberals in advance of the leadership convention where the possible Quebec nation motion was to be debated (although later wisely dropped). While I think Ignatieff was on record favouring recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada, I'm not sure when internal party motions were first raised - I don't think they were before Super Weekend which was Sept 29, 2006.

Matt Guerin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.