You knew it was coming, even if you never thought the day would come.
Coming on the heels of a surging Parti Quebecois in Quebec’s provincial politics under PQ leader Pauline Marois, and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe saying Quebec must become its own nation because the other federal leaders do not understand the Quebec situation, Stephen Harper has used the veiled threat of another Quebec referendum as reason for his latest push for a majority. And really – the strategy makes sense from a Conservative standpoint, but as I heard on CBC’s The War Room earlier today hosted by Rosie Barton, Harper speaks to the Rest of Canada (ROC) with that appeal, and not to Quebecers.
And he does so at his own peril. This strikes me as another indication that Harper appears to have given up much hope of winning too many seats in Quebec, given that holding on to the threat of sovereignty is something many Quebec politicians (and voters) hold dear. And using Quebec as Harper does in his campaign of fear (which Ignatieff finally called him on, thank goodness) cannot sit well with the millions of voters in Quebec that Harper was diligently wooing not too long ago.
And last I checked, you don’t alienate the people you are trying to convince to vote for you. Especially in one of the most populated provinces in the country. That’s just bad politics.
Unless it’s good politics everywhere else, which is highly debatable. As Harper commented today, the Bloc’s hope for a Liberal-led coalition of opposition parties is only step one to weaken the country and prime it for another referendum on Quebec sovereignty. The referendum, presumably, would be step two: a highly theoretical and incredibly contentious step two.
If it sounds like thin gruel, that’s because it is. There is a Liberal government in Quebec, and few plans on the table to hold another referendum on sovereignty or its myriad of hybrids. And using Quebec in this blatant and insulting manner to curry favour with voters in the ROC can backfire in a number of ways, not only in terms of Conservative seats won – it could easily infuriate the average Quebecer who does not appreciate being challenged and insulted on the national level. Hell, I’m insulted by this, and I’m a uni-lingual Ontarian. Why goad Quebec by appealing to the ROC to stop them from trying something that is not necessarily on the table or in anyone’s best interest?
This latest political move is a gamble, alright – and there is more on the table than just Conservative seats in Quebec. And as a Canadian citizen I object to any political figure of any stripe using the future of Canada as a tool for political leverage. Canada is worth more than that.
The Canadian Press also wrote on this story for a further perspective.