Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Harper and Quebec

Tim Harper warns in today's Toronto Star that -- if the betting is right, and Jean Charest calls an election today -- Ottawa could be radically transformed. If the Parti Quebecois wins that election, Stephen Harper's government could be shaken to its foundations.

The Conservative majority was quite consciously built on the assumption that Harper didn't need Quebec to govern. And it was based on the further assumption that Quebec was prepared to exist quietly in a parallel universe.

If  the PQ wins, Quebec will be anything but quiet. They have vowed to attack the federal government everyday as a pretext for a referendum. And, if there ever was a federal government that is easy to paint as toxic to Quebec's aspirations, it's the Harper government. On gun control, on prisons, on health care, on the appointment of unilinqual officers of parliament -- the majority of Quebecers have no love for Stephen Harper and his minions.

And, as Tim Harper points out, the official opposition has much deeper Quebec roots than the other three parties. Thomas Mulcair could make hay of the situation:

The federal NDP shares goals with the PQ, such as the extension of language laws requiring the primacy of French in federally-regulated workplaces, and the two parties are natural allies when it comes to social and environmental issues.

Mulcair will also be carrying with him an official party policy, the Sherbrooke Declaration, which would allow Quebec to separate on the barest 50 per cent plus one mandate, regardless of the wording of a referendum question.

The Sherbrooke Declaration has always been highly controversial. Whether or not -- if push came to shove -- it would be good for the country, is an open question. And, if the PQ does win the election, you can expect that the Liberals will convince Justin Trudeau that the stars are aligned in his favour.

As for the Conservatives, there is no love lost between them and Charest. But he's the best hope they have.  If Charest calls an election, the Harperites should join those black veiled women who climb Mount Royal on their knees, on the way to St. Joseph's Oratory. At this point, only a novena will save them.


kirbycairo said...

I still suspect that Harper's real goal is for Quebec to separate because such a move would severely limit the left in Canada.

On the other hand that would take too long to be a personal benefit to Harper and history would judge him quite badly if he were perceived to be the man who lead to the break up of Canada.

Owen Gray said...

I have no doubt that Harper wants to severely limit the left, Kirby.

In terms of Quebec, I don't know what his plans are. It does strike me, though, that -- when it comes to Quebec -- he is tragically myopic.

Perhaps myopic best describes the man's dealings with everyone.

Anonymous said...

The Reform Party: "The West wants in!"

They never wanted in - they want out.

The Harperites are killing manufacturing in central Canada to weaken their bargaining position when it comes time to divy up the country.

Owen Gray said...

Or perhaps they want everyone else out, Anon. Come to think of it, perhaps that's what Harper meant when he talked about building a firewall around Alberta.

Way Way Up said...

Oh joy....4 potential years of whining Quebec politicians.

Owen Gray said...

I know that Quebec strikes a lot of Canadians as a self absorbed province, Way.

On the other hand, it is a fact -- not a mere accident of history. On top of that, it's smack in the middle of the country.

To ignore it -- as Harper has done -- is to ignore reality. But, as with climate change and science in general, these folks try very hard to ignore reality.