Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chantal Hebert on HM PM Harper and Quebec

here is Hebert's English version of the article I quoted yesterday in Le Devoir ( with bad translation:)) Hebert is right, it is the Tories that believe in the Constitution. We believe in the separation of powers and not a centralizing federal government. We Tories in Quebec will work very hard to let people in Quebec know that we are the only real alternative. Lots pf people said we could never have a seat in Toronto. Montreal is next!

If the federal capital’s convention temple was not so new, its pillars might have shaken during the speech Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered to his jubilant supporters this weekend.

In an aside from an otherwise self-congratulatory text, Harper spelled out the terms of engagement of his continuing offensive to woo Quebec. Only a few years ago, the language he used would have caused a leading federal politician to be branded as a separatist facilitator by much of Canada’s chattering class.

Predicting that Quebec would sour on the NDP sooner rather than later, the Prime Minister described his own party as “the only one that believes in a Quebec nation, confident, autonomous and proud within a strong, united, independent and free Canada . . . .”

In a room where many of the most vocal opponents of past efforts to recognize Quebec’s distinct status sat next to some of its most passionate proponents, the assertion earned Harper a standing ovation.

Over his time as Prime Minister, the Conservative leader has taken many controversial risks. His snap decision to lead the House of Commons into recognizing Quebec’s national character in 2006 sits close to the top of that list.

At the time, many non-Quebec pundits described the impact of the move on Canada’s fabric in apocalyptic terms but five years later, it is the sovereignty movement that is contemplating the end of the world as its committed protagonists have long known it.

Harper’s olive branch did not earn his Conservatives the affection of Quebecers. As party leader, he has so far been a bust in Quebec. But his resolution has helped pave the way for a potentially permanent change of the channel of the Quebec-Canada debate.

For five years, the Bloc Québécois strived to use unpopular Conservative policies as proof that Quebec’s aspirations were irreconcilable with those of the rest of Canada.

Over those same five years, Quebecers — even as they increasingly disliked Harper’s agenda — decreasingly craved for a chance to revisit their allegiance to the federation in another referendum.

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