Thursday, May 29, 2008

So how's that Quebec Conservative strategy going?

A Quebecor publication, home of board member Brian Mulroney no less...

McGill political scientist Antonia Maioni assesses the Conservative fortunes in Quebec as a result of the Bernier fallout, here:
Bernier's fall from grace has not only exposed the cracks in his love life for all to see, it has also revealed the weak foundations of the Conservative Party in Quebec.

The 2006 election brought an uneven Quebec caucus onto the government benches in the House of Commons. But the importance of the breakthrough for the newly reconstituted Conservative Party in this usually inhospitable place meant that the prime minister was obliged to promote as many Quebec MPs into the cabinet room as he dared. One by one, they have proven to have their own respective challenges in taking on major portfolios. Part of this is to be expected as this untested government - particularly in a minority situation - got its sea-legs in the rough waters inside the Ottawa Queensway. More than two years later, however, the amateur hour should be over.
...more than two years later, there is little substantive change the government can use to attract more high-profile and experienced candidates, or to deploy to attract the voters it needs in suburban and rural areas in francophone Quebec. Certainly, the loss of Bernier is also the loss of the poster boy for the kind of coalition - bleue, nationaliste, fédéraliste - the Conservative Party was hoping to consolidate in Quebec.
Maioni also points out the rebound effect that may play out among Harper supporters in the rest of Canada as a result of Harper's bungled "romancing of Quebec":
There is also the boomerang potential of how this exposure of weakness in Quebec will play out for Conservative fortunes elsewhere in the country. The Quebec effect was a trump card for Stephen Harper as he remade his image as the leader of a new kind of national unity. It enabled him to move forward on another conservative attempt to forge an alliance between the West and Quebec. It also helped silence his more radical critics about pandering to la belle province.

As the foibles of Harper's Quebec team become apparent, critics of that strategy might become louder. It remains to be seen how the prime minister and the government will weather this storm that has the potential to erode support for the Conservative party and dash its hopes of a majority secured through the romancing of Quebec.
"In politics you take risks," indeed.