So, Stéphane Dion won the race

(Disclaimer: I rarely write about politics. One reason for this is is that I’ve become an anarchist over the years. I especially oppose most forms of top-down social programs aiming to forbid individual initiatives.)

Stéphane Dion won the Canadian Liberals leadership race. This means he might be the next Canadian prime minister, assuming the Liberals can defeat the Tories in the next election.

You should recall that the Liberals, last time they were in power, had setup a Mafia-inspired system by which the sent millions to friends under the pretense of promoting National Unity. Interestingly enough, the Liberals did not talk about it. Surely, there were strategic reasons involved, but I cannot help but be worried that they do not feel the need to learn from the once rampant and deeply-rooted corruption in their ranks.

Apparently, Tim Bray likes Stéphane Dion because he is smart. I argue that while being smart is a good thing in politics, thinking that you are smarter than the people is where you have to draw the line. Stephen Downes has not yet taken position, but he commented earlier that his choice went to Bob Rae, mostly because Bob is a socialist. I was living in Ontario when Bob Rae was elected primer of Ontario. Bob is alright, but not exactly thoughtful and he probably has an obselete vision of Canada, though it hard to tell given how little he said during the campaign.

I think that Stéphane Dion is bad news for Canada and I can only hope the Tories will remain in power. The problem with Stéphane is that he believes strongly in a centralized, top-down Canada which is completely at odd with the bottom-up federation Canada needs to be. For example, in his speech, he made fun of the Tories for sending checks to parents instead of setting up a child-care program. But do we need a coast-to-coast child-care program in Canada? We already have a child-care program in Quebec, and many other provinces do. Do we add yet another government-managed layer? That is what the Liberals think: the more federal-run social programs you have, the better you are.

These sorts of top-down programs are generally counter-productive for governments in general and even worse in the context of federalism where both level of governments can add to the problem. I think that while governments should redistribute wealth, they should not try to replace parents. One liberal commented that the Tories approach would mean that some parents would buy beer and chips instead of spending the money on their kids. I think this is basically what Stéphane Dion thinks as he made clear in his criticism of the Tories.

Basically, Dion will set us back to the Trudeau era. Many Canadians have fond memories of Trudeau because he had a strong vision for Canada and he was, arguably, the most Nationalist prime minister to ever rule Canada. However, back then, Canada was mostly defined by the lower and upper Canadas (Ontario and Quebec) and Trudeau was able to unite both of them behind his vision. Stéphane Dion will be unable to achieve this feat, but even if he did, it would not be sufficient to run Canada in 2006. At best, the vote in Quebec will be divided: Quebec has changed dramatically in the last 20 years (and not necessarily for the better). And we are forgetting Alberta which used to be a piece of the country where people raised cows, but has since become the fastest growing province in Canada. In part, Alberta grew because of its abundant oil resources, but it has since attracted many smart and progressive people who go there to build their dreams. Stéphane’s vision of a strong, centralized Canada will not fly over there. The fact that he is from Quebec will surely hurt him too.

In short, I predict that Stéphane Dion will cost the Liberals the next election.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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