For someone down in the polls and about to embark on his first and possibly last election campaign as party leader, Stephane Dion is relaxed and confident.
Last night he had a casual meeting with reporters, off-site from where his MPs are meeting for a three day retreat. Sipping a pint of the local dark beer, Dion cracked jokes and talked about politics as well as his chances and challenges.
He also gave more details of his one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this week.
At roughly 20 minutes, the meeting was, by far, the shortest of all of Harper's meetings with opposition leaders.
Dion says he tried some small talk off the top, asking Harper about the fishing at Harrington Lake (the location of the prime minister's official summer digs). Fishing is one of Dions's great pleasures. He says Harrington Lake is full of pike and bass and that if you know where to look, you can also find a few lovely trout.
Dion says he was telling Harper about helping the wife of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Aline, fish for trout when Harper indicated he and his family aren't much into fishing, and that he would like to get the meeting underway.
Pausing before continuing the story, Dion assured reporters he could talk about the meeting because Harper never said it had to be kept private. Then, Dion outlined how he, with the help of extensive notes, told Harper that his claim of a dysfunctional Parliament was bogus. He says he asked Harper to point out one law he has on the books that wouldn't pass through Parliament. Dion says Harper couldn't.
He claims he then used quotes from those who testified at committee hearings into the new fixed-date election law to scold Harper for wanting to pull the plug. When Harper reportedly asked for Dion to support his government until October 2009, the Liberal leader says he lectured him about parliamentary processes and history, joking that it was a mistake for Harper to pick a fight with an expert in constitutional law.
In any event, when there was nothing more to say, Dion says both men rose, shook hands and Harper said, "See you on the campaign trail."
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