Friday, December 07, 2007

A pitch for Quebec by Dion

Stephane Dion would be smart to answer Harper's pitch to Quebecers with his own. Think about ideas like scheduling a major speech, maybe do a Dion version of Trudeau's "Maison du Egg Roll" speeches. Appealing to Quebecers for support, directly. Making it clear that despite all the naysayers and doubters about his appeal in that province that he's a native son and proud Quebecer. Setting out his vision for the future and how Quebecers would be proud of their place in such a Canada. Clarifying for Quebecers how Harper's policies are anathema to Quebec's aspirations. And simply not ceding this territory at all for the Conservatives. Just as Harper pushed on in appealing to Quebecers when he was told that Conservatives had no chance there just a few years ago, Dion should ramp up his efforts to do the same.

Harper's position on Quebec is largely rhetoric in the form of talk about increased autonomy for Quebec and the symbolic Quebecois nation motion. There's also been money for Quebec companies and billions for Jean Charest to dole out in an election to supposedly correct the federal-provincial imbalance. But this is just pandering by increment by the Harper government. It should be called out as such and the backwards positions the Harper government has taken on a raft of real issues of consequence to Quebecers should be enumerated, with style and clarity.

For starters, the Quebec government itself has taken to publicly opposing Harper's environmental policies. There is strong support in Quebec for Kyoto's goals, not easing up on the throttle. That's a huge issue in Quebec that needs to be played up and a strong suit for Dion. The Afghanistan issue is another where it's quite easy to draw a distinction with Harper. Speak about the image Canada is now portraying to the world where the death penalty is being quietly reinstated against Canadians abroad as the Harper government is stealthily abandoning decades of active opposition to this medieval practice. On foreign affairs, paint a clear picture of how Canada is more often than not the Bush administration's handmaiden, demonstrated through their environmental stance, yes, but also in the Middle East and Central America. Talk about how the GST cuts are withdrawing crucial revenues from government that could be slotted for long overdue infrastructure improvements, an issue of high visibility in Quebec over the past few years. I'm sure there's more to be said that I'm missing here too.

This is a relatively easy thing to do. It's a speech and finding the right venue. The Dion poverty speech was quite well received. It'd be a good idea to replicate that approach and take on Harper in Quebec. Let Quebecers know you're fighting for their votes. There's a gap now that needs to be filled. Harper should not be the only federalist voice who continues to make that pitch.