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.


Castaway said...

Few people outside Quebec have much regard for the Bloc's position on Quebec sovereignty, but let's take a closer look. Whether you agree with it or not (and I certainly do not), sovereigntists have a legitimate political view, which is that Quebec should be its own nation, given, inter alia, its unique history, culture and demography. In a free and democratic society, just how should we expect people interested in self-determination to express it? We would certainly condemn violence at any level, which has been a common approach of many such movements around the world. We would, and should, encourage them to exercise their views democratically. Like it or not, exercising free speech and expressing their views at the ballot box are the most democratic ways available to them to advance their cause. That does not mean that we need to agree with them: I assert that Quebec is most welcome in, and benefits from being a part of, Canada. Should the many people in Quebec who have chosen to express their views in this way be disenfranchised? Should we say to them -- your votes don't count because we don't agree with your views? Should we not allow their democratically-chosen representatives to have the right to act on their behalf? What option(s) do we leave them if we do?

Does anybody remember that pesky regional party of the west called the Reform Party? The present Conservative party is no more than a "coalition" of the former Conservative and Reform parties, and I assure you that there remain a healthy number of separatists amongst that lot.

Although Harper and the Conservatives have shown that they are only to willing to deal with the devil if it is in their self-interest, they have, in the despicable and disreputable fashion with is the nature of their political discourse, vilified the Bloc and most Quebecers. Little in the interest of national unity, or progress for the Conservative party in Quebec (thankfully), is to be gained by such slander, and I'm confident we'll see the implications of this in the provincial election results next week, and in the next federal election. I think that whatever gains Harper may have made in Ontario and the west will be countered there.

Anonymous said...

Re: Harper gains... I'm somewhat pessimistic. Looking at the latest Ekos poll, giving Harper 44% of popular support across Canada...

Say Québec is 23% of the population. So the 20% the PCC gets here amounts to 4.6 (lets say 5)% of that 44% figure. So, to put it bluntly, Harper is scoring 39/77 in the ROC. 50% flat. And that may very well be more than that. How many of these 233 seats can he get with 50% support? If they have half a brain, they will take the separatist bashing hardline to Québec, anglo-Québec that is. They could then deal à vicious blow to the LPC and get way more seats without pouring resources in already lost fights in french Québec.

Another thing: The Internet is the big difference here. You watch late night news on the french network, and they are relating what this and that paper over there in the west has been saying. They have youtube clips of people saying stupid stuff...

The point is: Quebecers speak english and they are now watching what is being said about them in the ROC. The ROC mostly doesn't speak french and is thus somewhat oblivious to a potential backlash in Québec. That being said, the CBC are obviously aware of what this means to quebecers and are trying to make it known. Kudos to them.

But still, this stinks.

Anonymous said...

André Pratte of La Presse is denying there was such a thing as Québec Bashing from the conservative. Spector agrees. I am, well, stunned by such an open display of denial.

OlmanFeelyus said...

I can't even go near those editorials. They'll make me spas out too much.