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Monday, September 11, 2006

Governing IS about making tough choices!

What a bunch of garbage. To suggest that, as Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae never made any tough choices is absolutely ridiculous. Alex Plante should know better. Obviously he doesn't. Not much I can do about that, other than to suggest he read this, or better yet, this.

What's at issue here is whether we should reopen the Pandora's box of constitutional discussions. Bob Rae, an experienced politician and statesman who was around for these debates throughout the 1980s and 1990s, doesn't think we should go there. He feels that we should be focussing our collective energies on finding practical solutions for the real problems we face as Canadians. Like laying the foundations for a national pharmacare program. Or reforming our EI and welfare systems to eliminate poverty traps.

Ignatieff, a journalist and academic who was nowhere to be seen in this country throughout the 1980s and 1990s, thinks a new round of constitutional discussions is needed. As Michael Valpy puts it, Ignatieff wants to "connect with the romantic vision" of Canada. Newsflash: Governing isn't romantic. There are no quiet walks on the beach, no pretty sunsets late in the evening, no candlelit dinners under the stars. Governing IS about making tough and practical choices that impact people's lives. Bob Rae gets it. That's why I'm on his side.

Michael Ignatieff is an amateur. Like most amateurs, he continues to make rookie mistakes, almost by the day. Four days ago, he claimed that Quebec has all the powers it needs to flourish. Yesterday, he said he's in favour of reopening constitutional talks. What does he expect these talks to yield? Does he honestly believe Mr. Charest (or heaven forbid, Michael's fellow Harvardite, Mr. Boisclair) will just show up at the table and say: "Oh! You've finally called us a nation! Where do we sign?" Of course not! They will demand more powers. So will the other provincial leaders. The Senate and its composition will be up for discussion again. So too will the "fiscal imbalance" which, as some have pointed out, is defined differently in every province. And other issues, of course: Enshrining social justice guarantees into the Charter, redefining the role of the monarchy, reviewing our national commitment to bilingualism (should there be more than two national languages?), etc, etc, etc. Where does it end? I don't know. And neither does Ignatieff.

It's time to be realistic. Canadians, including Quebecers, have priorities. A new round of constitutional discussions, at this point, is not one of them. Bob Rae realizes that. Michael Ignatieff doesn't. If Ignatieff wants to make lofty promises to Quebecers about enshrining their "national" status in the Constitution, that's up to him. I'd give him a word of caution, however. Canada once had a novice leader who, with the same bravado and smugness, promised to "fix" Pierre Trudeau's mistakes and "resolve" the contentious issue of national unity. His name was Brian Mulroney. And when he couldn't deliver, we all know what happened: He ended up destroying his party.

Let's not make the same mistake.