|The clucking chickens come home ...|
And the NDP are framing the issue in a way that is unusually adept for Canadian politicians (other than Stephen Harper).
Thomas Mulcair says this:
Quebec NDP MP Thomas Mulcair raises a good point: What did members of Parliament think they were doing when they voted to recognize Quebec as a nation within a nation?Both Mulcair and federal NDP leadership hopeful Brian Topp point to the 2006 resolution to justify giving Quebec more seats in Parliament than other provinces get based on population.It's the kind of action, Mulcair said Monday, that will give meaning to the resolution that was put forward by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and supported by a majority of MPs from all parties five years ago.
Mulcair was responding to the accusation from Heritage Minister James Moore that New Democrats are pandering to Quebec by insisting that if B.C., Alberta and Ontario get more seats to reflect their population growth, then Quebec needs more seats to maintain its traditional clout.Mulcair insists that B.C.'s senior minister doesn't understand that Quebec's historic role in Canada, the role that Moore voted for, has to be protected.
How did we get here?
It's worth retracing out steps (courtesy of Wikipedia) to find out whodunnit. It all started with Michael Ignatieff, then the Bloc got into the act, and finally Stephen Harper tried to prove he was the smartest guy in the House:
Debate over federal government recognition of a Quebec nation was triggered during the leadership race for the Liberal Party of Canada during a September 10, 2006 leadership debate in Quebec City. Leading candidate and political scientist Michael Ignatieff mused that Quebec should be recognized as a nation in the Canadian constitution. When the Quebec wing of the federal Liberals adopted a similar resolution on October 21, 2006 many Liberals began questioning Ignatieff's judgement. In his 1992 book "Blood and Belonging", Ignatieff had championed the cause of civic nationalism based on "a community of equal, rights-bearing citizens, united in patriotic attachment to a shared set of political practices and values." Now he was endorsing "a nation, with a language, history, culture and territory that marks them out as a separate people," which sounded to many like ethnic nationalism. Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, criticized Ignatieff for lacking political judgement.
Sensing political division in his political opposition, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe scheduled a motion in the House of Commons for November 23, 2006—similar to the 2003 Parti Québécois resolution passed unanimously by the National Assembly in Quebec—that it also recognize "Quebeckers as a nation". He knew that the motion would probably be rejected, but argued he could use this to show that Canadians once again did not recognize the identity of Quebeckers. If the motion did pass, he could use it to make claims on Quebec sovereignty.Liberal leadership candidate (and eventual winner) Stéphane Dion moved to reconcile positions within the Liberal party, circulating a draft of a resolution that would change the wording of the resolution.
On November 22, 2006, the Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled the Québécois nation motion the day before the Bloc Québécois resolution came to a vote. The English version changed the word Quebecker to Québécois and added "within a united Canada" at the end of the Bloc motion. Dion said that this resolution was similar to the one he had circulated several days earlier. The Bloc Québécois members originally rejected this motion as overly partisan and federalist, but supported the motion the following day.
The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to pass the motion. The motion passed by a margin of 265 (yeas) to 16 (nays). There are 308 seats in the House of Commons, but two were not filled at the time. Of the rest, 283 MPs voted on the motion, 20 were absent for various reasons, three chose to abstain and two had pre-arranged to be paired with absent voters (not counting their votes). MPs then voted down the Bloc Québécois motion.
Members of the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois all voted for the motion.
Conservative members were ordered by the Prime Minister not to oppose the motion or be expelled from the caucus. Many of his MP's had deep reservations about the motion, but only six members of his caucus were absent, all from Western Canada. Harper's Intergovernmental Affairs minister Michael Chong resigned from his position and abstained from voting, arguing that this motion was too ambiguous and had the potential of recognizing ethnic nationalism in Canada.
Liberals were the most divided on the issue and comprised 15 of the 16 votes against the motion. Liberal MP Ken Dryden summarized the view of many of these dissenters, maintaining that it was a game of semantics that cheapened issues of national identity.
Those clucking chickens!
Talk about chickens coming home to roost!
That clucking sound you hear from our second most populated province are the millions of chickens coming home to claim what our Parliament promised them in that resolution.
And the issue raised at the time resonates today, as well: Did that resolution mean anything? Or was it some kind of cheap sleight of hand by quick talking politicians, designed to score points off the Bloc without committing the House to anything meaningful/
If it was not some cheap political trickery, then the question asked by Mulcair has validity. Why should the province of Quebec, as the home of the Quebecois nation, not be given separate and unequal treatment so as to protect their nation?
For if that resolution does not extend to the question of representation in our House, then what does it extend to?
Time for all those MPs who voted for the resolution to explain what they thought they were doing.