Since the election of former
Consolidating NDP gains in Quebec is certainly a priority for the party, and as a high-profile former minister in the Charest government whose departure from cabinet was spun as a matter of principle, Mulcair gives the NDP their best shot at holding and building on those gains.
Already, commentators such as Chantal Hebert are touting Mulcair as the new federalist champion, a position the Liberals used to like to claim:
He is well placed to establish the NDP as the default federalist party in
— and, by the same token, to reduce its dependency on the nationalist vote at the expense of the Liberals. Quebec
As of the convention, Mulcair has become the top
federalist on the federal scene, coming second for pre-eminence in the province’s federalist line-up to Premier Jean Charest. Quebec
While I don’t think she intended the comment in this way, Hebert also obliquely hinted at the potential weakness for Mulcair here:
Mulcair’s federalist credentials are important to his national standing. They will matter even more in
if the Parti Québécois wins the provincial election. Quebec
Which raises the legitimate question: just how strong are his federalist credentials? A closer examination puts him firmly in the mainstream of
Quebec’s political elite, the
same “federalists” that savagely attacked Stephane Dion, dismissed Jean
Chretien as unpolished and un-Quebec and tried to sideline him from the last referendum, and are determined to play footsie with soft nationalists by
demanding ever more special powers and special treatment for Quebec.
The 30th anniversary of
Charter of Rights and Freedoms was yesterday, and the statements of both
Mulcair and the Conservative government are interesting. It’s pretty clear both
are fishing in that same soft-nationalist waters.
Here’s part of the NDP’s statement, which was finally released late in the day Tuesday after the media became vocal wondering if the party was going to ignore the charter’s anniversary:
At the same time, the anniversary of the Charter also serves to remind us that, 30 years after the repatriation of the Constitution,
is still not a signatory to the most fundamental compact of our democracy. Quebec
As such, New Democrats will continue on the path laid out by Jack Layton, working to create the conditions that will one day allow
to embrace the Canadian constitutional framework. We will work tirelessly to give real meaning to the unanimous recognition that the Québécois form a nation within Quebec . Canada
Similar comments from Harper on why the federal government is only marking the charter anniversary with a brief press release:
“In terms of this as an anniversary, I think it's an interesting and important step, but I would point out that the Charter remains inextricably linked to the patriation of the Constitution and the divisions around that matter, which as you know are still very real in some parts of the country,” Mr. Harper said.
And then there’s the NDP’s Sherbrooke Declaration and their opposition to the Clarity Act, a position they’ve tried to soft-play in the rest of
There has long been a tug of war within the Liberal Party of Canada between the nationalist wing (dominant in the Quebec Liberal establishment) and the strong federalist wing typified by Jean Chretien and Dion. Recent comments by Chretien illustrate the wider divide:
Jean Chrétien says Quebec politicians have cultivated a “culture of grievance” over the province's exclusion from the 1982 deal to patriate the Constitution – even though Quebeckers overwhelmingly supported it at the time and have been benefiting from it ever since.
"It will always be like that,” Mr. Chrétien told The Canadian Press. “They have a culture of grievance over it, not looking at the facts.”
I’ve long argued the Liberal Party should play to itsstrengths and become that strong, unapologetic federalist champion that puts facts before emotion instead of courting soft-sovereignists. That makes sense now more than ever, with both Harper and Mulcar courting the nationalist vote. Attracting those votes has always been difficult for the party of the charter and repatriation, and it will be even more so with Harper and Mulcair fighting for them too.
And the fact is, no one in
Quebec politics today is flying the Maple
Leaf and speaking to that staunch and unapologetic federalist community. It may
not be as big a pie as the nationalist vote, but it’s definitely there and the
Liberals have a chance to own it if we embrace our history and our strengths.
I was pleased to see comments from interim Liberal leaderBob Rae yesterday, which echo much of what Dion has been saying on the topic for years:
Quebec is not an oppressed minority, Canada is not a dictatorship, Canadian federalism, democracy, and the protection of minorities are all real things. A “clear vote on a clear question” would trigger discussions, not secession. The fantasies on this issue, now being fuelled not just by the Parti Quebecois but by the NDP in their “
Declaration”, have to be understood as pandering, an appeasement defies logic and constitutional reason. Sherbrooke
It’s time, as Dion would say, to demand clarity from these supposed federalist champions. It’s time for Liberals to embrace our identity and stand up as the unapologetic federalist champions. On the constitution, on House of Commons representation, on language rights.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers