'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Good News From Canada 

From the Washington Post:

In a convention that underscored the rising political weight of climate change issues, Canada's Liberal Party on Saturday chose Stephane Dion, a former environment minister, to lead the party and try to wrest power from the ruling Conservatives in the next national election.

Dion, 51, was elected head of the party over seven other candidates, including Michael Ignatieff, a renowned Harvard professor who returned to Canada last year and had quickly become a front-runner in the race to head the opposition against Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Ignatieff's drive for the post stumbled in the fourth and last ballot over his opinions on Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. The fragmented delegations at the convention turned to Dion, whose environmental credentials overcame his thickly accented English and lackluster convention speech.

In his acceptance speech, Dion repeatedly emphasized his main goal: dealing with what he called "the greatest challenge we have today, sustainable development."

He was elected, he said, because "Canadians have a deep concern about the main issue of our time -- building a sustainable environment for our children."

If there is anything thickly accented here, it is the prose of the writer of this article, Doug Struck. Precisely what are Ignatieff's opinions about Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel? Well, he has never repudiated his strong support for the war in Iraq, broke ranks with many in his party, and voted for a continued Canadian participation in the multilateral force in Afghanistan, and, rather strangely, condemned the IDF attack upon Qana during the recent Lebanese war.

Apparently, Struck and the Post wanted to soft peddle the fact that, if Ignatieff had prevailed, both major parties in Canada would have been lead by politicians that support the continued occupation of Iraq and the broader aims of the so-called war on terror, so Struck alluded to them rather elliptically. If Ignatieff had won, one suspects that the Post would have trumpeted his victory as a sign of international acceptance of US policy.

Conversely, Dion has publlcly stated that the Liberal government's decision in 2003 to decline to participate in the invasion of Iraq was correct. As for Afghanistan, after initial suport, he opposed the extension of the Afghan mission, albeit because of the preemptory nature of the vote, and the lack of sufficient study, More recently, he advocated a withdrawal of troops prior to the end of the authorization through 2009 because the mission had become ill-conceived and misguided.

Naturally, none of this background found its way into Struck's Post article, probably because it would have suggested that continued disapproval of US foreign policy was a major, if not decisive, factor in the outcome. Furthermore, it is worth noting that, in the weeks prior to the vote, the US media, as they have had a tendency to do in domestic elections, wrapped Ignatieff in the garb of purportedly inevitability.

Fortunately, it was a myth. The US and Britain may have political systems in which the voters have been deprived of any meaningful choice regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the imperial thrust of foreign policy generally, as both Labour and the Democrats have been captured by elements supportive of them, despite rank and file dissent, but Canada retains at least the semblence of debate. Ignatieff groomed himself to take over the Liberals in the mold of Tony Blair, but failed.

All in all, it looks like a weekend of major political importance, a sweep for the left. Ignatieff rejected by the Liberals in Canada today, and Chavez likely to win a resounding victory in Venezuela tomorrow. We should allow ourselves to enjoy our victories, both large (Chavez) and small (Dion).

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