Wednesday, August 17, 2005

You Still Need To Talk, Michaëlle

I see you've decided to break your silence, Ms. Jean. You've decided to try to reassure our nation that Paul Martin made the right decision in selecting you, by releasing a one-page statement.

Well, it's a useful start. But you need more. A lot more.

Let's have a look at what you decided to tell us:

I am deeply touched and wish to thank all those who have so warmly greeted the news of my recent nomination to the office of Governor General of Canada. Others have questioned my attachment to Canada and that of my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond.

Bad choice of words there. "Attachment" is weak. Like a string that can be easily broken. Or a sentimental connection. It's really too vague, sounding as if you're trying not to offend someone and winding up sounding milquetoast.

Loyalty would have been a better word to use in this context, Ms. Jean. "Loyalty" implies a fierce, deliberate bond to the institution, which is what people are looking for, something that casts no doubt whatsoever on your fitness for this post.

I want to tell you unequivocally that both he and I are proud to be Canadians and that we have the greatest respect for the institutions of our country. We are fully committed to Canada. I would not have accepted this position otherwise.

Well, that's better. Though not by much; one thing I've noticed about some politicians is that they will say "I have the greatest respect for X" before lowering the whammy. Example: "I have the greatest respect for our Prime Minister, but ... " A Quebec separatist can have respect for the federal Parliament, but still want an independent Quebec. You might have done better to leave that part out.

We are equally proud of the attachment to Quebec that we have always shown beyond any partisan considerations. Let me be clear: we have never belonged to a political party or the separatist movement.

Sorry, Ms. Jean, but I have to say it: this is where you've blown it.

First, by saying you are "equally proud" you are in fact equivocating. This may be an obvious virtue in the eyes of Liberals, but for the rest of us it's wishy-washy. You've also put Canada and Quebec on an equal footing, which plays well in your home province but not so well in the West.

Second, saying you're not a party member doesn't automatically remove the suspicion. You don't need to actually belong to a political party or a movement to be a sovereigntist.

Look, I know you don't want to offend your social circle in Quebec, I'm sure they're all nice people (and I'm sure the FLQ guy did a lovely job building you a bookshelf). But what you really should have done was address your statements and your appearance in that documentary that your husband made so many years ago. Something to the effect of "My bond with Canada has strengthened" or "I've discovered much more to like" or "The events of 9/11 have caused me to rethink my philosophy" or something like that. Addressing your past is the only way your critics will let you move forward; you can't leave it behind until you address it head-on.

The values of respect, tolerance and openness are very precious to all of us, and I look forward to meeting Canadians in every part of the country.

"Tolerance, respect and openness" are the typical Liberal Party clichés, but that last part is good. Because it commits you to an action plan: you've just announced your intention to meet Canadians. But understand, that doesn't mean the tourists who come to Rideau Hall on Canada Day.

It means you get out of Ottawa and Quebec. Go to the Territories. Go to the West. Go to the Rock. Let yourself appear on YTV or MuchMusic or the talk radio shows.

It means you show the people who you really are.

You've taken a first step in squashing the questioning, Ms. Jean, but only one. You need to do a lot more before Sept. 27th.

Better hop to it.