Friday, December 05, 2008
In the land of the Puppetmaster
Harper's fear-based anti-Bloc strategy and the reaction of many Canadians living outside Quebec (and especially in the west) has demonstrated to me that I've been living in a bit of an over-optimistic bubble for a while now. I had forgotten how stupid, ill-informed and prejudicial some of my fellow anglophones can be. During a national staff meeting at my job, a guy from the Toronto office expressed his concerns about Duceppe being the "Puppetmaster, pulling the strings from behind the scenes." I work for a very lefty organization, with everyone supporting the coalition. I can tell you the people here in the Montreal office were flipping out when they heard that. I was pretty shocked as well.
Let me be clear on my own position first. I am a federalist and a proud Canadian. I believe in a strong central government that actively communicates and responds to the regions. I am also proud of my anglophone culture and heritage and enjoy many aspects of it. I don't really truly feel at home anywhere, but the closest I come to feeling that way is when I'm in a small B.C. town like Golden (and that may strike those of you who know from way back as pretty ironic).
But when I hear the kind of idiotic comments coming from western politicians, media commentators and the public in the west that talk about the Bloc the same way George Bush talks about Al-Qaeda, it makes me furious.
First, let's argue against the position. Yes the Bloc's baseline policy is to separate Québec from the rest of Canada. (Note: this is not the same thing as "tearing apart the federation" as the Conservatives would have it; we would still be a nation, just a smaller one.) However, that is a small part of an overall political platform, one that represents the social, economic and health needs of Quebecers. It is no different from that of any other federal party, except that it is regionalized. Furthermore, with the question of sovereignty of the table for quite a while now, the Bloc has basically ignored questions of separation since the Liberals lost power.
I will give you a concrete example. My office is in Bernard Bigras' riding. He is a Bloc MP. We received his quarterly Parliamentary report yesterday. It is six pages long and the entire thing is dedicated to the Bloc's strategy for a green economic initiative. There are some really interesting ideas there, including strategies for further minimizing Québec's dependence on fossil fuels, abolishing tax incentives for industries that produce them and replacing those incentives with ones to new enterprises promoting new energy technology (I heard some guy called Obama was pursuing policies like this down south). Now you may be stupid enough to not support these kinds of environmental initiatives, but my main point is that nowhere in any of this propaganda is there a single mention of sovereignty or separation. Take a look at the list of issues on the front page of his website. It's not even on the table.
This is what most Quebecers see when they think of their Bloc MP. It's someone who is pushing values they are concerned about in the Parliament. Most of these people consider themselves Quebecers first, whether or not they believe strongly in independence. So when you have perverted (I went to high school with this guy) scumbags like Jason Kenney treating the Bloc as if their only goal in life is to destroy the country, you are basically telling monsieur et madame tout le monde in Québec that their voice is not valid in the Federal government.
And then when that kind of rhetoric whips up the naturally angry (either the stupid poor in the rural areas or the stupid or evil rich in the urban areas) in the west, then you get, from the Quebec perspective, a wave of hate coming from the west. Which does exactly what you'd expect: makes Quebecers feel more isolated and separate from Canada and thus more inclined to want to support a separatist cause.
Which in turn demonstrates exactly how much priority Harper and his neo-con cronies put on national unity versus their social and economic agenda.