The Final Days: Laval


(From now through the end of the campaign next week, I’ll be with the Liberal tour. Regular reports should appear here irregularly.)

As the bus passed the strip malls of suburban Laval, word reached Media Bus #2 of some excitement at one of the national networks. Apparently there was a video clip, recorded in Halifax from whence we had just arrived, of Mr. Dion. Apparently it made Mr. Dion appear rather silly. Apparently the network would be airing the clip at the top of its primetime politics show.

The bus arrived at tonight’s venue. Inside a banquet hall a few hundred partisans had gathered for another of these made-for-TV rallies. They seemed notably enthusiastic. When some of the tour techs arrived on stage and erected the Liberal-branded backdrop, they were greeted with a prolonged ovation.

A detailed description of the clip is soon being passed among reporters in the room. The initial reaction is that the Liberal campaign is ruined.

Mr. Dion appears at approximately the same time the clip is being shown to a national audience. He arrives hand-in-hand with his wife, waving and smiling, accepting hugs and handshakes. It takes him two minutes to reach the stage. The crowd is chanting his name and clapping in unison. Three dozen Liberal candidates await him on stage.

Dion, speaking mostly in French, is talking loud and fast. He is not quite in flight, but he seems eager for this. And the crowd is jumpy, pleased with any opportunity to cheer his presence. Dion talks over a heckler and when the shouty gentleman persists, the crowd simply decides to drown him out, forcing him to retreat. The Liberal campaign is tight for time—eager to get back to the plane for a strictly scheduled departure—but Dion seems almost to linger on stage.

And while all of this is happening—as Dion appears only to be raging against the proverbial dying of the proverbial light—messages from the beyond are coming in. People with access to television have seen the clip. And the consensus has turned entirely. Now it is not so much the pivotal, pathetic pratfall of a clumsy candidate who was doomed from the moment he appeared. Now it is a low point in the history of journalism. Cross words and unflattering adjectives are being swapped.

Back on the bus, someone pulls up the clip on a laptop. Those who see tell those who haven’t what they saw. Interpretations vary. There is some debate over who said and heard what and how. More messages from afar. The Prime Minister has reacted. Indeed, the Conservative tour delayed its departure from wherever it was so that he might.

On the bus and then on the plane, the discussion continues—who said what and why and what, whatever the answer to those questions, this means for the fortunes of the two men who seek to lead the country.

All of which may come down to one question: what does this matter?

What does this matter on a day when the war in Afghanistan was reported to be nearly lost? What does this matter on a day when an officer of Parliament reported that the government of Canada had under-reported and seemingly even sought to obscure the cost of that war? What does it matter when the stock market dropped another several hundred points this afternoon? What does it matter when the finance minister confirmed the fears of those who worry about their jobs and their homes? What does it matter when new questions are being asked about the government’s handling of a listeria outbreak that killed 20 people?

What does it matter, ultimately, at a time such as this, in a circumstance such as this, at a moment when the public is faced with a choice such as this?

And, if the answer to any of the above is that it doesn’t matter, what are we then to make of those who tell us it does?

The flight back to Toronto tonight is boozy and loud. Fifteen hours after the day began, everyone—crowded in small groups, leaning over seats, standing in the aisle—seems engaged in some animated discussion or another. Whatever this matters, however this matters, tonight it seems improbably important.


The Final Days: Laval

  1. Fear not for your candidate, Mr. Wherry. Potter explains to us all why it matters. Apparently Duffy just handed Dion the election victory tonight.

    Oh, and to your blog readership, it matters: the main thread on this major-issue-of-the-day has hit 270 comments and counting…

    Enjoy the Centre of the Universe tonight.

  2. I bet 232 of those comments are from the blogging tories. I guess Dion lost those votes

  3. Stephane Dion has been accusing the Prime Minister of doing nothing about the crisis in the market. When he is asked a simple question: what would you do about the crisis if you were the Prime Minister? A simple enough question. A fair question considering the demagogic attacks by Dion ON THIS VERY ISSUE against Harper.

    How does he respond. He starts with his rambling I’ll have a plan in 90 days or so. Decides the answer is lame and so asks for another take. Then asks a series of clarifications on what he knew was a pretty simple question. He had no answer.

    Dion the demagogue was outed. And it wasn’t a pretty sight. Dion’s media pals are not happy.

  4. I’m amazed. Amazed that you see this story and ask, ‘why does this matter?’ Because I find myself thinking the same thing.

    But I also find myself thinking, if this were a Harper flub, you probably wouldn’t be asking that question…

  5. Thanks Jarrid, for completely making Mr. Wherry’s point. A blank comment section was just too much to resist eh?

  6. Yes the Media loves Dion.

    Thus Spake the Globe and Mail (about Dion):

    “But a leader he is not.”

  7. It matters because it shows your candidate to be a buffoon who can dish out negative attacks but can’t answer a simple question on the most critical issue for Canadian voters.

    Two things will happen this month that will make me happy: (i) Stephane Dion will vanish into obscurity; and (ii) my 52-issue subscription to the LPC newsletter will expire. (Sorry Coyne, I did it all for you.)

  8. “Now it is a low point in the history of journalism.”

    I feel like I’ve lost my innocence or something.

  9. Jarrid wrote:

    “Stephane Dion has been accusing the Prime Minister of doing nothing about the crisis in the market. When he is asked a simple question: what would you do about the crisis if you were the Prime Minister?”

    Only, that’s not the question. The question was, “what _would_ _you_ _have_ done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”

    It’s an odd question. For one, it’s a hypothetical. For another, it follows this, “If you were Prime Minister now.”

    The setup is that Dion is the Prime Minister now, but the question is what would he have done in the past? What is this scenario? Is Dion being asked what he would have done up until now, if he had been elected in the 2006 election (in which, of course, he wasn’t running for PM)?

    Dion asks for clarification: “If [I] would have been the Prime Minister two and a half years ago?”

    The response: “If you were the Prime Minister right now.”

    After a slight pause, Dion begins to answer, as the interviewer adds, “And had been for the past two years?” trailing off towards the end.

    I don’t know if the interviewer was intending to be this confusing, but he was.

  10. Dave- well put. The questions were different each time. Perhaps he should have asked ‘what is it that Mr. Harper should have been doing for the last two years?’

  11. I’m not surprised to see Kate show up – she’s probably directed her frothy users from SDA to come and comment over here.

  12. Canadians deserve better, you guys are promoting an empty shirt for Prime Minister. You should be thinking of what is best for Canada, not does it really matter if Dion is not up to the job?

  13. I think it matters is one way AW: With all that going on, and his government’s supposedly in charge of all of it, PMSH delayed his flight to do character assassination one more time.

    SH is unfit to govern.

  14. Only, that’s not the question. The question was, “what _would_ _you_ _have_ done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”

    It’s an odd question. For one, it’s a hypothetical. For another, it follows this, “If you were Prime Minister now.”

    I know all you grammatically perfect Liberals have trouble with the common tongue but almost all of us mouth-breathing rednecks understood the question quite well. In not so polite English it would go something like:

    So what would YOU have done, smartypants?

    But Dion couldn’t answer it. Was it because he didn’t understand? But he said he did understand in try #2. Was it his hearing? But we were told his hearing is bad in crowds and parties where the background buzz is too much. Where was the crowd here? Or was it just that Mr. Dion finds it easy to criticize, score the points, but when asked a simple question, “what would you have done?” he has nothing. He has nothing now except consult the wise men and the oracles, maybe divine the guts of sheep or two and he’ll get back to us 30 days AFTER we elect him. THAT is the story and hopefully that is what will get reported, not the self-serving Liberal spin about poor Dion, Chretien’s face, and the evil fat man.

  15. I watched the interview and even as an anglo I found the questioning totally confusing. He seemed to be asking “what would you have done differently had you been elected prime minister in the last election?”

    I don’t understand why the journalist didn’t rephrase the question to make it clear to Dion, especially since he is francophone and has a hearing problem.

    People who are trying to make something of this are just looking for something negative they can say about Dion. Posting the clip shows clear bias on the part of the media. Most people will be able to see this for what it is. Those who can’t are free to make their decision based on nonsense.

  16. It is not an ‘odd question’!

    If that question were asked to anybody on the street, there would be an answer. Most of them, of course, would be stupid answers, but there would be an answer.

    Dion? He was clueless! That’s leadership? He wants to be the boss? And he had no opinion?

    Careful of the whooshing sound, Stephie……

  17. If this had happened to Harper, you Liberal hypocrites would be setting your hair on fire.

    Face it, your Emperor has no clothes

  18. I know all you grammatically perfect Liberals have trouble with the common tongue…

    Would you shut, you troll? You’ve trolled Liberal blogs for two years now and one would think a sane person would have found something better to do by now.

  19. Oh they are both completely mad. Dion flubbed the question – not a hearing problem, maybe a bit of a language problem made worse by being tired. Harper was an idiot to make a big deal of it. He should have just stayed his course and answered it at his next regular media avail. Either way SHUT UP

    Today we found out that the Liberal/Conservative Afghan war is not only unwinnable (that was yesterday’s headline) but it is massively over the estimate costs and we can’t even be sure if $18 Billion is the ceiling on this misadventure.

    Today Canadians were left wondering why their banks didn’t pass on to the the full interest rate cut given them by the Central bank and laissez faire Harper and Do-nothing Dion said they wouldn’t stand up for hard pressed Canadian families.

    Given the global economic crisis engulfing the world is this really what Canadians want us to be talking about for the next five days?

    I don’t think so and I know that isn’t what Jack Layton thinks. I watched that bizarre panel on Duffy and Joe Comartin brought it right back to the issues of the day. Than Brad Lavigne, someone I have seen deliver great political zingers, he stayed focused on the important issues and he stayed focused on Harper just as his leader has done.

    I am a partisan New Dem and I have never been prouder of my party. Leave the petty school yard antics to the other parties and keep doing what you are doing, talking about what is really on the minds of Canadians.

  20. ti-guy, I swear to god the day you say something useful, something that actually adds to the conversation, I will topple dead of heart failure. You’ve been trolling every blog after blog shouting “shut up! shut up! shut up! I have degrees! I speak languages! I’m intelligent! Really I am.” It’s just kinda sad.

  21. When Stockwell Day, stumbled, the Liberal attack dogs were on him instantly. Now we seem to have a different set of rules being applied.

  22. DaveND: We could use more Joe Comartins in every party, really.

  23. Jack Layton’s policies would have us all in double digit unemployment, higher interest rates, and higher taxes.

    BC and Ontario have suffered too much from past NDP reigns of error. No problem though, Taliban Jack’s popularity will never be more than 20%. The more he panders, the more he reminds me of a pirate

  24. Too bad the question wasn’t also in French. It would have made Dion’s face a deeper shade of red.

    Not only did Dion understand the question he realized that standard Liberal boilerplate didn’t provide him an answer.

  25. It seems like a reasonable question that anyone trying out for the top job would have been able to answer right off, but no. Another bit of bad news for Mr Dion: The Globe and Mail endorses Harper. The Liberal’s loss is Canada’s gain. A tough pill to swallow for the Cheerleaders of Doom [you know who you are].

  26. As I recall, in the last election’s French dedate, Stephen harper missed answering a question completely because he couldn’t follow along. I don’t think the liberals even mentioned it.

  27. You’ve trolled Liberal blogs for two years now and one would think a sane person would have found something better to do by now.
    So Maclean’s is a Liberal blog?

    And gee, Scott, what’s your traffic like?

  28. As I recall they made terrible fun of Stockwell Day’s French, (and his religion) and we’re gearing up to crucify another Westerner before they found that Harper could actually speak French quite well (but he’s still a scary Christian). But that’s just how I recall it.

  29. So, when are the media, like Paul Wells, going to ask Harper, Dion and the rest of the candidates, what they is going to do in Copenhagen in 2009? This is getting ridiculous. How do you choose which problems you are going to ignore (the hard, long term ones, like global warming– which are going to horribly constrain the life and ambitions of all of humanity) and which ones you are going to cover (this financial crisis of the moment)?

    The entire journalistic class is an utter disgrace this election for refusing to cover Canada’s climate change position, despite the fact that the next government will negotiate the only climate treaty the world has left to avoid a truly horrible situation.

    At the last climate change conference, our well educated Prime Minister decided to utterly ignore all of Canada’s expert scientists. And I mean that he did not even ask for advice only to later ignore it. By the way, this is par for the course for Mr. Harper government, in all areas of Canada’s science policy — something the media is also incapable of informing the public of.

    Why don’t you try to redeem yourselves the next few days Paul Wells. And pass this message along to your friends.


    Do you remember the Brain drain that occurred in after Mulroney, the beginning Chretien years, and when Harris came to power in Ontario? Do you know how hard it is has been to build up Canada’s reputation and expertise in Science in the intervening years of good government, that actually cared about forming policy based on the best possible advice? Do you know how fragile the situation is now?

  30. DaveND

    I agree that the spirit of the election is pretty dismal but I think your claim to the moral high ground is overstated…

    Layton has had bouts of name calling and pls explain to me how the ‘sweater jokes’ are substantive. Heck even your post contains the same kinda rhetoric e.g., “Do-nothing Dion said they wouldn’t stand up for hard pressed Canadian families… frankly BS. You might not like the things he is proposing but a dramatic remaking of the tax systems is not ‘nothing’.

    but you are right that we def need some veterans of parliament back… seeing B.Blakie go right now is doubly depressing.

  31. john manley too

  32. crf at 1:32 AM

    “The entire journalistic class is an utter disgrace this election for refusing to cover Canada’s climate change position,…”

    Actually, the global warming “crisis” (it stopped nine years ago) was a media creation. Now they are bored and tired of it and have more interesting rabbits to hunt. Even CBCSuzuki has been able to do three consecutive newscasts (I’ve been keeping track) without bringing up the AGW shibboleth in some weird context.

    If you think that the pusuit of Weaver’s and Hansen’s computerized moonbeams is actually more important than the prospect of a worldwide economic depression that would destroy the lives of hundreds of millions, you’re not merely out of touch with reality, you are a heartless ideologue.

  33. The interviewer shoulda drew a picture for Dion. He might have been able to figure that out. Dosent matter anyways. When Dion did answer the question nobody could make sense of that either.

  34. Re: Comment by seaandthemountains on Friday, October 10, 2008 at 2:32 am:

    I have no issue with a legitimate political zinger and I would say that is what the sweater jokes are.

    Do Nothing Dion – is not just rhetoric it is fact 43 times it is factually accurate…

  35. It matters! It matters a lot! If this was a Tory blowing the interview we all know the feeding frenzy from the parasites in the media….and of course the Liberals would be all over it!!! ALL OVER IT! Don’t pretend it would be otherwise.

    I want to be proud of my Prime Minister. I want somebody who understands the question the first time. Someone who won’t embarass the entire country on the world stage. Not an intellectual lighweight. Maybe the interviewer should have spoken S-L-O-W-E-R!

    These times call for leadership and intelligence, not a buffoon!

  36. *
    “Would you shut, you troll? You’ve trolled Liberal blogs for two years now and one would think a sane person would have found something better to do by now.”
    comment by Ti-Guy on Friday, October 10, 2008 at 12:34 am

    unlike your lily-white self, huh ti-guy?


  37. and the next article that macleans does, was noting but propaganda, shill for the libs…

    Cut off the comments eh?

    No wonder I refuse to renew my subscription.

    Any one who doesn’t want a majority for Canada instead of another few years of minority, and yet another early election…blah blah blah well then vote for the one who didn’t even bother to learn English, at least Harper’s French is 10 times better than Dion’s English.

    Lets let the other side have a chance, besides we need this country to be strong, hasn’t been and the kids are lost…

  38. And how come the ‘sky is falling crowed tends to vote liberal?

    Seriously, g-l-o-b-a-l w-a-r-m-i-n-g…gees!

    Yes we are pollution good ole Terra Ferma but CHANGE the weather? Really?
    Humans think themselves quite important eh?

    Tell me this… should we suddenly discover that the ice age is coming in 5 years, could we stop it with excess gas emissions?

  39. On the CBC interview, Dion was asked by a Calgary pilot how the Greenshift would effect his business, Dion’s responsed by promoting airplanes built in his riding, when asked again, he had no response. The media talks about Harper not relating to the common man, has Dion ever worked a minute beside a common man.

  40. I have a hard time believing the media would be as generous if Harper’s command of the French language was as abysmal as Dion’s grasp of English.

    Nevertheless, this interview is important not because of supposed language problems but because it demonstrably shows that Dion has nothing except invective as it relates to the economy.

    Seriously where are Dion’s handlers? Did they not prepare him to answer this very direct question about what he’d do if he was Prime Minister? Heck, John Doe on the street can give you a canned answer on things near and dear to him.

  41. Breaking News, August 2009 – The G7 meeting in London today ground to a hault. Frustrated heads of state emerged to complain that after rephrasing comments and questions over 1000 times so that the Canadian PM, Dion, could understand them, time ran out and no progress was made.

  42. If Aaron wants to be a liberal shill, join the campaign. You are not a journalist.

    I guess I’m wondering why you’d chose to be the lickspittle of a failure like Dion?

    As far as the fairness of the media in airing this: you lot have hidden enough liberal gaffes. If this was Harper, it would lead every 14 milliseconds.

    In fact, Palin=Dion. Media’s coverage is what is not equal (and I refer to the CDN media’s coverage.)

    Low point in journalist? Try rare breaze. It won’t waft away the stink but it’s a start.

  43. Would you shut, you troll? You’ve trolled Liberal blogs for two years now and one would think a sane person would have found something better to do by now.
    comment by Ti-Guy on Friday, October 10, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I wouldn’t normally get drawn into troll wars, but aren’t you are the king of Canadian political internet trolls? I remember seeing you comment on bigcitylib’s site that Libloggers should join you in launching a troll attack on the Maclean’s blogs. You should really take your own advice and get a new hobby.

  44. This sorry episode is now 24 hours old. I have yet to hear any Liberal official/candidate actually provide an answer to the question.

  45. From wikipedia:

    Dion has said that his involvement as “an activist for the separatist cause” ended during a five-hour, rum-and-Coke fuelled discussion with a federalist household while he was going door-to-door for the PQ, but he did not openly commit to federalism until much later. At the time of the 1980 referendum, his sentiments were neutral. In his own words, the ‘no’ victory left him “neither moved nor outraged. To tell the truth, I felt no particular feeling.” (Moi, je ne me sentais ni ému ni révolté. À vrai dire, je n’éprouvais aucun sentiment particulier.)

    Yes, that’s a real Canadian speaking. No wonder he won’t give up his French citizenship. If Stephen Harper had dual US-Canadian citizenship, the media would crucify him. Double standard, indeed.

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