Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What price will Canada have to pay for a Harper majority?

A pretty steep one, it appears: "Tories plan to bolster Quebec in Constitution." Harper's Conservatives are targeting Quebec as the ground for their majority, as we've known for a while. What we haven't known until this report is the extent to which they're willing to go.
The Harper government is telling Quebec that if the Conservatives win a majority in the next election, they will look to reopen the Constitution and give more meaning to their recognition of Quebeckers as a nation.

Emphasizing the Conservative receptiveness to “Quebec's historical demands,” Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn raised the possibility of winning 30 to 40 seats in the province, up from the current 11.

“The recognition of the Quebec nation within Canada allows us to think that we can put some meat around it, and that a majority government is more able to do a number of things, while being respectful of all of the provinces,” Mr. Blackburn said in an interview.

“When you're a minority, you never know what can happen, so it's not obvious to do that type of thing in the actual context,” Mr. Blackburn said on the topic of constitutional change.
Way to tie political gains to serious constitutional issues there, Mr. Blackburn. That's exactly the kind of rationale that is inappropriate and that rarely works when real constitutional change is sought. Partisan interests are fleeting. Constitutions are not. That's why they're very difficult to change and why constitutional amendments in Canada have been rare since the adoption of the new amending formula in 1982.

Speaking of which...we've been down this road in recent memory. The support for such a move is not to be found in Canada at large. And Canada, beyond Quebec, matters here. No recognition of Quebec's nation status will be forthcoming without the support, required constitutionally, from at least seven provinces. Even if, in a fantastic scenario, such agreement could be reached on Quebec issues, serious horse-trading would no doubt be required. And where is the appetite for that? You can just see the laundry list developing.

And how irresponsible would it be to prod nationalist sentiment in Quebec at a time when it is largely dormant? Why would the Prime Minister needlessly cede power to a province that is in no position to demand it right now, when the separatist argument and movement is at bay. It's a risk that doesn't need to be taken.

If this is indeed the direction the Conservatives are going, while I view it as opportunistic and fatally flawed, a small part of me is almost tempted to view it as a blessing in disguise. This is a great issue for Mr. Dion. He will rightfully tee off on it and the rest of Canada could rally to it as well. Having said that, you can imagine how divisive it would be to make this an issue in a campaign. But if that's what Mr. Harper is willing to do to get elected, then the divisiveness will be his responsibility.

And we all thought Harper wasn't talking to Mulroney anymore...