Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The sovereigntists, Denis Coderre, Michael and me

Back when we were going to have a real-live leadership race, and I was trying to decide who to support, if there was one concern I had about supporting Michael Ignatieff it was his past positions on Quebec issues, and his Quebec organization.

I disagreed vehemently with Michael’s handling of and position on the Quebec as a nation issue during the last leadership race. I felt it was empty symbolism that would only raise artificial expectations amongst sovereigntists we weren’t prepared to meet while, in the end, solving nothing.

And as a Stéphane Dion supporter, I was (and am), frankly, pissed off at what I viewed as an at least Ignatieff-sympathetic Quebec Liberal organization that, at best, sat on its hands while Dion tried to rebuild the party following his leadership win. His lackluster performance as defence critic aside, the fact Denis Coderre refused to serve as Quebec lieutenant when Dion asked was appalling.

In the end, I decided the nation thing seemed like a dead issue, that overall Michael was the best choice for leader, and that it wouldn’t be fair to hold him responsible for the actions of those who have supported him in the past.

So, needless to say, I read this news with interest:

Michael Ignatieff's Quebec lieutenant says he is wooing disaffected sovereigntists and members of the stumbling Action democratique du Québec to the federal Liberal fold for the next election.

Liberal MP Denis Coderre said Monday that he has had talks with "fatigued" sovereigntists about possibly running for the Liberals in the next federal election. However, he would not identify those to whom he has spoken.

Members of the provincial ADQ, which has been reduced to third place in the legislature and is searching for a new leader, are also being courted.
While I’m certainly not ready to say this is troubling, I think it does bear watching. And it does cause me worry of backsliding to a Martin/Lapierre-style approach to Quebec that crashed and burned spectacularly.

If Coderre is going to be bringing in “fatigued sovereigntists” and former ADQers I’ll just say I hope they’re vetted very closely. Frankly, the ADQ has advocated some troubling policies and has attracted some questionable characters.

If there is real, honest support to be found there for the Liberal Party, people who have come to a federalist position, and support the principles of the Liberal Party, than so be it. I’m all for reaching out, and I’ll give Denis the benefit of the doubt as I watch with a wary eye.

But before we go too far down this road, let’s remember the history here. It’s a history of failure.

Brian Mulroney brought in Lucien Bouchard, we all know how that turned out. Martin and Lapierre failed. The Conservatives tried this approach too, compete with the BQ for soft-nationalists. It worked for the short-term but they couldn’t keep up with the rising price, and now they’re in a shambles in Quebec. The NDP is playing in this sandbox too, and it hasn't gotten them anywhere.

The Liberal Party should and must be the federalist champion. The unapologetic defender of a strong and united Canada. The party of the Clarity Act. The party that, while respecting provincial jurisdictions, believes in an activist federal government that uses its resources and powers to drive national interests, priorities and programs.

Anyone who is comfortable in that Liberal Party is cool with me.

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WesternGrit said...

I'm comfortable in your Liberal Party, Jeff... Hehehe... I've always believed in a strong, centralized, federalist Canada.

Mark said...

Attributing our "crash and burn" in Quebec with the "Martin/Lapierre approach" kinda overlooks the obvious, doesn't it?

Jeff said...

You're doubly cool with me WG.

And Mark, I think the obvious, well, obviously exacerbated the crash and burn in Quebec. But the u-turn in our Quebec policy led by Lapierre was driving us down in my view anyway, and helped accelerate the slide. It was telling, I thought, that when mid 04 campaign Dion was brought out of the closet to lead a federalist charge our Quebec numbers then began to stabilize, and recover somewhat.

Mike said...

Good post Jeff, agree with what you said completely, but boy I do wish someone (preferably Ignatieff) would tell Coderre to KEEP QUIET!

He's continued on the same refrain:
"The MP from Bourassa thinks Quebecers will look forward and won't hold past hard-line positions taken [by the Liberal party] towards separatists against the leader [Ignatieff]"

Coderre does NOT speak for the party and I'm not willing to hold his comments against Ignatieff or the party at this point yet, but I'd sure rather not have to read anything like this again in the future.

At this point I just hope it's not too long before Ignatieff makes clear that the Liberal Party still does support the Clarity Act and a STRONG central government.

If the Clarity Act starts getting criticized directly then well....

As you said though keep an eye on it, but not yet cause for alarm.

Anthony said...

there is a whole lot more to this story

It will come out in due time

Coderre's hold on the Quebec organization is more fragile than Celine Hervieux Payette's

and trust me, that is saying something.

I could do all the research necessary and report it myself, but frankly, my profs dont give a shit about Denis Coderre

(anticipate gong show in Laval this weekend)

Éric said...

I don't think there are a lot of "fatigued" sovereigntists in Quebec right now, this is just wishful thinking by Denis Coderre. Recent polls put the Bloc Quebecois at around 40%, but more importantly they also put the Parti Quebecois at around 40%. Support for sovereignty is also up (43% at last count), so now is not the time to woo "disaffected" sovereigntists, as they don't seem to exist in significant numbers.


Jeff said...

Ah, Quebec Liberals, you crazy so and so's. What's happening in Laval, Anthony?

Eric, indeed there may well not be. This is just the latest attempt to swing the pendulum in the LP's Quebec strategy that has been fought for generations. I don't think the reality on the ground is really a consideration for Denis.