December 28, 2006


Dion: The best out of a sorry bunch...

From: The Calgary Sun

Question of loyalty: New Liberal leader Dion deserves citizenship scrutiny

Stephane Dion is the new leader of the Liberal Party. And he is a citizen of France.

Imagine the shrieks from the media if the Conservatives were to elect a leader who is a dual citizen of the U.S. He would be called a U.S. poodle at best or a spy at worst. Every time he opined on a subject, it would be scrutinized through the lens of Canada-U.S. relations. Everything from military spending to foreign treaties like Kyoto would be looked at through the question: Was the Prime Minister of Canada truly pursuing Canadian interests, or was his loyalty to his other homeland at play?

Even Michael Ignatieff, the second-place finisher in the Liberal contest, never took U.S. citizenship despite 30 years living there. It was chutzpah that Ignatieff, a de facto American, returned to Canada to lead us. But at least he had the sense to remain a Canadian, at least legally.

So what is Dion's excuse? The man wasn't born abroad, as was our other leading dual-citizen, Michaelle Jean. And at least Jean had the taste to renounce her French citizenship (after public outcry) upon acceding to the post of governor general. But Dion was born right here in Canada. Yet he is a dual citizen of France.

When it comes to making decisions about the war on terror, and Canada's role in Afghanistan, will Dion be unduly influenced by France, a country that has taken up the role of lawyer and arms dealer for every terrorist state in the world, even defending Saddam Hussein until the eve of his overthrow?

Perhaps, in Quebec, French citizenship is a sign of cosmopolitan worldliness. More likely, it is a symbol of an inferiority complex, where French colonials demonstrate they are much bigger and broader-minded than mere North Americans - they are part of the mighty French empire.

Here's what Dion said about the matter, on a rare occasion that he was pressed: "Multiple identities should be seen as an asset, not a threat," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with multiple identities. The hearts of people are big enough to accept different identities. Canadian citizenship will give me my rights. Identity is the way I feel about the country." No talk of loyalty or obligation, no talk of duties.

Because Dion was never considered a serious challenger, his statements like this have escaped scrutiny by the media, and by the Conservatives. Now that this loyal citizen of France will be on the next ballot to lead Canada, expect many more such clangers to see the light of day.

A word about Alberta's leadership election - how dramatic to have one day that sees both a new federal opposition leader and a new premier of Alberta.

There are similarities: Ed Stelmach was seen as a compromise choice by Alberta Tories sick of the old guard represented by Jim Dinning, but wary of a dramatic choice presented by Ted Morton.

Stelmach is not a bold and charismatic man, but obviously is an organizer, moving from a distant third place to first in seven days.

If Stelmach truly is a uniter, he will give Morton a senior cabinet position and respect the policy aspirations of Morton's wing of the party. It is unthinkable that Dinning would now run as an MLA - he clearly wanted the premier's job or nothing. Look for him to be appointed to a symbolic place in the party.

What an interesting time in politics.

Copyright 2006 - The Calgary Sun

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