|Ideas that won't die: are you ready for a third referendum?|
Stephen Harper is Pauline Marois's greatest political ally.
How else do you explain the Parti Québécois's rise from political grave? After the Quebec amphitheatre debacle, the caucus departures and the old leaders chiming in, calling for Pauline Marois to quit, the party now stands atop the polls.
So what happened? The Conservative agenda of Stephen Harper.
You might say that this is a rather simplified outlook to the complex political landscape of Quebec politics. Stephen Harper couldn't have single-handedly turned Pauline Marois's fortune around, could he?
Well, besides François Legault appearing very much like a political neophyte at the press conference launch of his party, the PQ didn't actually do anything. Oh, Pauline did write a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister in order to meet with him regarding the gun registry.
Stephen turned Pauline down.
But Ms. Marois has been banging the anti-Harper drum for a few months now saying that the provincial Liberals haven't stood up to the Prime Minister. Well, considering the Conservatives don't listen to any of the Opposition parties, have imposed health care funding on all provinces without any discussions and labelled opponents of the tar sands as radicals and enemies of the state, there isn't any way one can stand-up politically to Harper Government that, so far, has yielded positive results.
It's worth mentioning that it was Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier that issued the most passionate plea to amend the C-10 omnibus crime bill and Jean Charest himself has been both dismayed and critical of the Harper government by declaring that politics in a democracy is more than just saying "I won. You lost. I get to do what I want."
Nevertheless, the PQ has been suggesting that the current balance of power between the Ottawa and Quebec City is slanted against Quebecers. Since no rational human being in the province of Quebec actually likes the Conservatives, the strategy is working like a charm.
In fact, the spokesperson of the PQ, Bernard Drainville, wrote a rather fiery letter to Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil entitled "Le Plan C". The title itself refers to the Chrétien Liberals "Plan B" that formulated ways to insure that Quebec would never seek out a third referendum (pro-Canada advertising in Quebec that didn't turn out so well as well as the Clarity Act among other things).
To boil it down, he points to five areas where the Harper Government has weakened Quebec:
- Political weakening: He points to the fact that Quebec has gone from 24% to 23% of seats in the House of Commons. It's his weakest point and hence why he puts it first and with hardly any details. He doesn't point to Quebec's demographic decline but then, his aim is not to give a balance perspective of the issue now is it?
- Fiscal weakening: The Health Transfer Payments that Ottawa has imposed on the provinces unilaterally with complete disregard for the age of each province's population which will cripple Quebec. The overwhelming response from non-subjugated (non-conservative) provinces is that the lack of flexibility will be bad news for the provinces especially for those with aging demographics.
- Economic weakening: He points to the $10 billion stimulus of Ontario's auto industry as well as the considerable sums to host the G8/G20 Summit. He notes that oil and gas producing province benefits from fiscal advantages compounded with the exit from the Kyoto Accord. Finally, there's the naval shipbuilding plan that saw the Davie Shipbuilding ignored in favour of BC and Newfoundland. Besides wanting a bit more stimulus money, the G8/G20 slush funds (gazebos!) came with some crazy police brutality (officer Bubbles!). As for the Davie Shipbuilding not getting one of the two contracts, I think that there's little doubt that their bid was by far the least competitive. It was fair and, in this case, out of the hands of the Conservatives as they had to influence in the decision on how to award the two contracts. The tax breaks that oil and gas companies do get, however, is a valid point.
- Judicial weakening: The C-10 Omnibus Crime Bill! Yeah, it's pretty terrible... can't disagree with him there.
- Social identity weakening: Unilingual Supreme Court judges and Auditor General is a sore spot for Drainville. Massive investments in the military, the rehabilitation of the image of the monarchy and the celebration of the War of 1812 (A conflict between the British and the Americans). This has been the hallmark of the PQ pitch. You're not represented here and it's gotten to the point where the values aren't just foreign but run counter to your beliefs and identity. They hammer the point home every chance they get but its overuse, as in the time where Gilles Duceppe deplored the fact that the NDP's whip is unilingual Chris Charlton. Really? You're upset that the whip of the party is an Anglophone? While Duceppe's criticism falls flat, the issues listed by Drainville has some resonance with voters.
He finishes by outlining how provincial federalists can stomp their feet and scream bloody murder all they want but the only effective way to counter an oppressive federal government like the Conservative is to outright take the power out of their hands through Quebec sovereignty.
The poor-handling of health transfers, the disastrous omnibus crime bill and the "royalisation" of Canada is out of step with Quebecers.
Right now, that message is gaining support and this was entirely predictable.
Congratulations Mr. Harper for bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse of dead ideas.