Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Art of Spin – Canadian Style

UPDATE: Turns out I was punked. The story about Stephan Dion is a hoax. I should have done more research after receiving the information from a trusted friend, not after. My apologies.

Canadian politics is in the midst of what, for Canada, is a major kafuffle. The three main opposition parties – the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Québecois – formed a coalition to topple the minority Conservative government led by non-entity Stephen Harper.

Harper reacted by asking the Governor General to suspend Parliament for 30 days, giving him time to launch a major PR initiative to rile up the public against the coalition. Meanwhile, the Liberals are in the midst of their own crisis as party leader Stephen Dion, another non-entity, was replaced by a third non-entity, Michael Ignatiaff.

Now along comes Judy Wallman, a professional genealogical researcher, who discovered that Dion’s great-great uncle, Robert Dion, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Québec in 1889. The only known photograph of Robert Dion shows him standing on the gallows and the back of the picture is this inscription:

"Robert Dion; horse thief, sent to Québec Provincial Prison 1883, escaped 1887, robbed the Canadian Pacific Railway six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

Ms. Wallman e-mailed Stephen Dion for comment and his staff sent this biographical sketch:

"Robert Dion was a famous horseman in Québec. His business empire grew to include the acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and he had intimate dealings with the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave in 1887 to resume his dealings with the railroad. Subsequently, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Dion passed away during an important civic function held in his honour, when the platform on which he was standing collapsed."

This is a re-writing of history that even Karl Rove would envy.