Dan Arnold over at Calgary Grit comes up with his Person of the Year and, following his self-imposed rule-of-thumb that it’s best to avoid the incumbent Prime Minister because that’s always too obvious a choice, comes up with Stéphane Dion. This sounds right. Maxime Bernier was another fellow who looked bewildered while things happened to him, but not for as long nor with stakes as high. Few provincial premiers had a sustained national profile. Jack Layton never changes. Justin Trudeau’s role is to be forever nominated, to get the hopes of Trudeauphiliacs alive and to boil the blood of Trudeauphobes. For the moment Michael Ignatieff looks like Buster Keaton in the old movie when the house collapses around him, wondering wha hoppened.
But it was Dion who spent the greatest amount of time executing swan dives into empty pools this year. Fun question: what on Earth would Stephen Harper have found to run against, if Dion hadn’t come up with the Green Shift? Then there was the whole coalition micro-mania, which from its inception to its dénouement (note to coalition bloggers: there was a dénouement. You can go home now) was inextricably bound up in competing interpretations of the Liberal leader’s legitimacy.
I won’t belabour any of this much further. I admire Stéphane Dion’s decade of public service. I thought making him Liberal leader would be high-risk but with a potential for high reward, so on balance he was my candidate in 2006. The reward never showed up, and from what I have been able to gather Dion still doesn’t begin to understand that it could have worked better if he had, at any early moment, given his head a shake. It’s a sad story. It’s over now. Its arc defined 2008, much more than anything Michael Ignatieff or Stephen Harper actually did.