Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Native Son
Yesterday the NDP chose a native son -- a Quebecer born and bred. In fact, the final choice came down to two native sons. One of the differences between Mulcair and Brian Topp is that Mulcair has a longer political pedigree -- going all the way back to Honore Mercier. But Mulcair is not the NDP's first native son. People forget that Jack Layton also claimed that title -- something which became immediately apparent when Layton switched from English to French and back again.
The choice of a native son used to be a time honoured Liberal strategy. From Wilfred Laurier to Jean Chretien, it served the party well -- until they chose Stephane Dion. Dion was always uncomfortable in English. He had a hard time making a sale in his second language. Chretien's English was not eloquent --. but his syntax in French was as fractured as it was in English. And people knew he said the same thing in both languages.
Dion's real problem was that he carried -- unjustifiably -- the baggage of the Sponsorship Scandal. It was his burden from his first day as leader until his last.
The choice of a native son has worked well for all three parties -- for the Liberals, for the Conservatives, under Brian Mulroney, and for the NDP, under Layton. Under Harper, the Conservatives chose to ditch that model. People also forget that, during Harper's Reform Party days, lawn signs appeared in ridings like my own -- smack dab in the middle of Loyalist country -- which read, "No More Prime Ministers From Quebec."
The Harperites believe, with Henry Ford, that "history is bunk." Like their cousins, the Bushies of the last decade, they believe that they "make their own reality." In the end, reality came crashing down around the Bushies' ears. We shall see what happens here.