Thursday, September 28, 2006

And who is Jean Lapierre endorsing?

I must admit, I smiled when I read this story this morning. In what the National Post calls "a blow" to Stephane Dion, former Liberal MP and cabmin Liza Frulla is backing Michael Ignatieff because she believes only he can defeat the BQ. Well, colour me surprised.

She says only Ignatieff can woo disgruntled Francophones that feel a "malaise" toward the type of Canada they are currently being offered. She said Dion doesn't have intensity and passion and can't keep a cool head (nice contradiction) and clearly doesn't like his lack of enthusiasm for wacky constitutional adventures.

As I said, I'm not surprised. I've already indicated my issues with Ignatieff's constitutional musings, but I'd like to step back from that and take a higher level view.

I'm no Quebec expert, but here's how I have viewed the Liberal approach to Quebec over the past 10-15 years. Jean Chretien sleep-walked through most of the last referendum, then he woke up barely in time. After the election, he took a two-pronged approach. Some concessions and new powers for Quebec combined with the get tough approach of the Clarity Act and the Supreme Court reference. His point man? Stephane Dion.

With the get tough approach found favour in the rest of Canada and amongst most staunch federalists in Quebec, it wasn't favoured by all Liberals and the provincial Liberal establishment in Quebec (they that kept Chretien out of the referendum as it cratered because they knew better). Prominently among them, many of Paul Martin's advisors and chief among his Quebec advisors, soft nationalists like Liza Frulla and Jean Lapierre, the latter who left the Liberals after Martin lost the leadership to Chretien to join the BQ, but was wooed back when Martin became leader.

Martin and his team favoured the appeasement approach to separatism, and set out to change Liberal policy on Quebec when they took power. Dion was booted from cabinet, and Lapierre became Martin's Quebec lieutenant. The clarity act was dismissed, promises of concessions were made. The result? The Quebec campaign they ran in 2004 was a disaster, the polling showed a trainwreck in the making. Who did they call in from the bench to save the day mid-campaign? Stephane Dion, who was rewarded after the election with the Environment portfolio for his efforts touring the province to stop the bleeding.

I tell this story not to slag anyone, but merely to illustrate there are two different approaches to the issue of Quebec separatism, and in my view the approach advocated and implemented by Ms. Frulla was a spectacular failure. Her and Dion have diametrically opposed views on the subject, so I find her rejection of Dion neither surprising nor cause for concern.

As I've stated before, the BQ is here to stay and they're not going anyway. While separatism is at its core, most of its supporters aren't separatists but nationalists and supporters of decentralization. Lots of the latter in the Cons, for that matter. The Cons are also back in Quebec and aren't going anyway. What it means is the days of the Liberals racking-up huge pluralities in Quebec are over, and they aren't coming back.

So, what should our approach in this new Quebec political climate? Do we join the BQ and the Cons, who are both fighting for that same separatist/soft nationalist piece of the pie? I say let them fight over that piece of the pie. The Liberal party can and should be the strong and passionate federalist party, defender of Quebec's place in a strong, united Canada. Right now, that federalist ground is wide open, let's grab it.

People say Dion is unpopular in Quebec, but the fact is the people that don't like him are those soft nationalists voting BQ and Conservative, they're not going to vote Liberal. He's immensely popular amongst federalists BECAUSE of his time as intergovernmental affairs minister, so who better to be the federalist champion than Stephane Dion?

So not getting Ms. Frulla's endorsement is hardly a "blow" as the Post claims. More of a compliment really. I wonder who Jean Lapierre is endorsing?

UPDATE: Here's a much shorter, and slightly more snarky, take from Paul Wells:

So the people who thought Paul Martin was the key to victory in Quebec think Michael Ignatieff is the key to victory in Quebec?

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Anonymous said...

Great post. Frulla is the antithesis of Dion when it comes to Quebec. Iggy can have her and her track record.

Anonymous said...

Paul Wells summed it up best...but you did a good job too.

Anthony said...

Sorry BCer but on this you are very wrong

Mme. Frulla was the chair of the NO campaign in 1995, a respected minister under Bourassa, and a star candidate for Jean Chretien's Liberals in 2000.

To say she is like Jean Lapierre, who was once a separatist, is outright insulting.

Sounds like sour grapes jeff

Manitoba Liberal said...

Antonio wants to stick to the Martin trainwreck of dealing with Quebec.

I can't wait to hear his spin when Lapierre endorses Iggy closer to the convention.

Brian Mulroney's endorsment of Ignatieff can't be far behind since they share the same constitional philosophy on Quebec.

Jeff said...

Sour grapes? I assure you that could not be further from the truth Antonio, but you're entitled to your opinion. I think you're very wrong though. C'est la vie.

I never said she was a separtist, but I would put her in the nationalist appeasment camp that predominated/s the Quebec Liberal establishment. As you point out she ran the no campaign, she kept Chretien out until the last moments, and Tobin and Sheila Copps, helping run a strategy that very nearly lost the country. It was the same strategy that she, Martin and Lapierre again tried and failed with in government.

I stand by my post. She exemplifies an approach to Quebec that I feel is the wrong one and has been proven to be so. It's also the polar opposite of that advocated by Dion. That's why I'm notsurprised by her endorsement of Michael, and why my my grapes are far from sour.

Anthony said...

I cannot get over how insulting people are being towards Liza Frulla, who if some people remember, was a CHRETIEN star candidate in 2000.

Some people call it appeasement, I used to be one of them. However, if we want to keep marching into he abyss and ignore the problem, rest assured, it will not go away. Either way, liza frulla still commands lots of respect in this province, a lot more then those from outside Quebec will give her credit for.

Jeff said...

BTW, we're getting off topic here's what Chretien's star candidate had to say about JC some two years after her election:

(from the G&M)

'Relief' would greet PM's exit, MP says


With a report from Canadian Press

Tuesday, August 6, 2002, Page A4

OTTAWA -- Another Liberal MP is publicly calling on Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien to retire from politics, saying it would be a "general relief" to the party.

"If Jean Chr├ętien woke up tomorrow . . . and said, I think it's time to leave room for others, I sincerely think there would be a general relief on the part of everyone," Montreal MP Liza Frulla told the all-news network RDI.

Speaking of insulting. But as I said, we're going off topic.

Anonymous said...

Chretien star candidate, but Martin supporter.

Anonymous said...

No Antonio, only you remember Frulla as a star candidate in 2000. She was first elected in a by-election in Verdun--Saint-Henri--Saint-Paul--Pointe Saint-Charles in 2002.

Anonymous said...

Paul Wells' snarky - oh gee, what a surprise. He's a snot that believes he's better and smarter than himself and all other journalists. He'll do any snotty thing to be different from other journalists - haven't you caught on yet?

Keep in mind, Martin had the sponsorship scandal to deal with folks.

Anonymous said...

Seems people have conveniently forgotten that Dion was a separtist in his youth. Of course, he says it was because he wanted to oppose his father or some lame excuse like that.

I'm not holding it against Dion as it's quite normal for youth to get involved in radical things while they're sorting out who they are. Libby Davis and Gilles Ducceppe were both members of the Communist Party at one time.

Anonymous said...

Paul Martin had the sponsorship scandal, yes. But he created the inquiry that burned the Libs.

Anonymous said...

And, if he hadn't created the inquiry do you think the Tories wouldn't have used it anyway?

A new day is starting for the Liberals and they have to let go of the past.

Read Kinsella's views - and he's more aware of inside the Liberal camp than full of himself Wells is by a long shot.

Jeff said...

Ah, it's super weekend, spin is in the air and the anonomyi are out.

Anon 924, how convinient of you to remind them, though, of course, like you said, you don't hold it against him. Of course not. :)

And Anon 122, I like both Warren and Paul, but I must admit I truly "LOL'd" when you contrasted Kinsella to "full of himself" Wells. Thanks for the smile. :)