Friday, December 08, 2006

On Monday and previously, I argued that there were no significant differences between the four leading candidates for the Liberal leadership. However, considering differences to be purely substantive on issues of policy is overly reductionist. The character of a leader is hugely important and in fact an equal to beliefs on major issues. This is not to legitimize the incoherent, meaningless babble that can be said of virtually anyone from a meth addict to a barista to Louis XIV: "he's committed, dedicated and a man of principles and vision." Rather, a leader must possess the sort of prudence or practical expertise that bridges the gap between beliefs and knowledge to tangible change. The difference, after all, between the Prime Minister and editorial page of the Globe and Mail or the philosophy department of the University of Toronto is that the first governs whereas the latter two prescribe. Governance not only can't be reduced to what are commonly termed "the issues", but governance qua governance consists in managerial capacity and not having the best set of beliefs.

Unfortunately, Carl Raskin argues ineloquently, semi-literately and demagogically in today's Toronto Star that the debate over Stephane Dion's French citizenship is simply "fanned by the Harper right-wing government and its neo-con sycophants." Ignoring Dion's merits and demerits as a leader and focusing primarily on this question, it is plain to see that a leader's citizenship and by extension, her or his person, matters. Just as Michael Ignatieff is lacking in his knowledge of Canadian politics, Dion's French citizenship means that he is lacking in his devotion to Canada, hardly suitable for any citizen, let alone who is likely the next Prime Minister. It can not be denied, of course, that Dion has served capably in the federal government as an MP and a minister. However, to be the citizen of a country is to be loyal to that country as well as to retain some form of affection for that country. Whereas Ignatieff may well have been in possession of all the right ideas but lacked managerial capacity, Dion, too, may be in possession of all the right ideas but can not be fully devoted to this country so long as he is the citizen of another. Full devotion, surely, is not too much ask of a potential Prime Minister.

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