A purple ribbon to Dion for participating

So Stéphane Dion says he’d like to see fights taken out of hockey. No kidding; it’s right there in the video, about a minute and a half in.

The topic came up during Réjean Tremblay’s segment on last night’s Tout le monde en parle. Oddly enough, Dion didn’t hesitate to chime in on how to ban on-ice fisticuffs, nor was he reluctant to talk about his affinity for Les Canadiens. I don’t know where that puts him on Stephen Harper’s patented ordinary-Canadian-meter, but the Liberal leader’s take on fighting seemed to win over the decidedly extraordinary Alex Kovalev, who was also on the show, as well as Tremblay.

The rest of Dion’s appearance, however, didn’t do much to bolster his profile. Aside from a quick joke about his difficulty speaking English and a well-played translation of a question into English for Kovalev, Dion mostly looked stiff and uncomfortable. When he was given 60 seconds to explain his Green Shift to Quebecers—and, remember, a million and a half of them are watching; the show is HUGE—Dion could barely muster more than a handful of platitudes derived straight from the party’s talking points. When the topic of arts funding came up, Dion had to sit back and watch while Tremblay, a sportswriter, delivered an impassioned defense of putting tax dollars toward unmarketable arts like experimental theatre and low-rent ballet productions. Dion even undermined his attempt to agree with Tremblay with an unfortunate reference to the Liberal party program.

To be fair, Dion was walking into a pretty hostile situation. One of the shows more endearing features is that it serves wine to its guests. This time, however, Manon, the lovely producer who usually introduces the selection, would only say they were tasting a Quebec wine for the first time. After everyone had taken a sip, Dion included, she announced the wine was from a vineyard recently acquired by Alfonso Gagliano. “I’ll stick to water,” Dion replied when he was asked how he liked his drink. And it didn’t get much better from there. The fortune cookie-type cards co-host Dany Turcotte always hands out to guests (and forces them to read aloud) are always biting, but the one he handed Dion was especially so. “Knowing your honesty, which we all salute,” it read, “even you won’t vote for yourself.” Ouch.

After seeing what happened to Michael Ignatieff on the same show, Dion’s handlers may have decided to put the fear of God in him to prevent him from veering off-message. Dion was wound up so tight he looked like a kid who was sitting at grown-ups’ table for the first time in his life. Still, at least he showed up. I would have loved to see Stephen Harper make an appearance on Tout le monde before the end of the campaign. (It’s the nationalist thing to do, non?) But alas, Kory Teneycke probably figured his boss wouldn’t get the jokes.

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