Monday, April 18, 2011

Quebec referendum threat: no reason for a Harper majority

By Allan Woods and Richard Brennan in Toronto Star, April 17, 2011
RICHMOND—Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says he needs a strong result in the election to ward off resurgent sovereignists in Quebec.
Harper was speaking in reaction to comments by Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who said the recipe for another referendum on separating from Canada is a majority of Bloc MPs representing Quebec and a Parti Quebecois government running the province.
“Those are the conditions essential to a referendum,” Duceppe said.
Harper said this only reinforces the message he has been hammering away at as the election heads into its fourth week.
“(Duceppe) says step one to achieve that is to stop a federal Conservative majority government in Ottawa,” Harper told reporters. “Step one is to weaken the country, have a weak government in Ottawa.”
“That is another reason why Canadians, we believe, must choose a strong, stable national Conservative majority government,” Harper said.
At the Sunday morning event in a suburban Vancouver hotel, Tory Sen. Marjorie LeBreton was overheard saying that Harper had been anticipating and hoping for this, in order to reinforce his mantra throughout the campaign.
“This is the question he wanted,” she told another party official.
Talk about a trickster, Harper, using the threat of another referendum on separatism in Quebec to justify his argument for a majority government. Who does he think he is, Captain Canada?
If he were really serious about the threat to the country, he would be developing the best candidates, and the best national policy proposals and the best example of an effective national government, including a majority of seats in Quebec, so that if such a threat were to become real, he would have a political base from which to convince Quebecers to vote No to separation from the rest of Canada.
He has done none of those things. Everyone knows that Quebec has, by far, the most advanced social policies of all the provinces and if Ottawa were really interested in attracting Quebec votes, in any national government, it is not rocket science to consider moving the national agenda more in line with the social policies in Quebec. Both Layton and Ignatieff, at least, understand that dynamic.
Harper, on the other hand, cannot utter a sentence without the word "economy" as if he knows only one campaign strategy: money and how to make it available to his corporate cronies.
As Amanda Lang (of CBC's Lang and O'Leary Exchange) comments to O'Leary in a recent promo of their program, "It's time for you and your friends to realize that governing is about more than money!"
Too bad, Harper isn't listening to her advice and caution.
It is about attitudes, and how those attitudes shape the country's policies. And it is about inclusion and co-operation, not with the threat of separatism, but with the needs of all ordinary Canadians, many of whom are without work, without doctors (5 million) and without hope.
And, Harper is the least "in touch" with those needs and aspirations of ordinary Canadians, while claiming to be responsible for the relaitvely healthy recovery from the global economic collapse of 2008, whereas the stability of the Canadian banking system is more responsible than anything Harper did to promote recovery.
He simply grabbed another opportunity to paint signs ($50 million) for an Action Plan touting his government's largesse to remind Canadians of his personal need for re-election.
A majority Harper government is probably the least likely to prevent a Quebec vote for separation, of all the many optional outcomes of the current election.
Canadians must not be tricked into voting for Harper as a way to prevent such a referendum from weighing in on separation.

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