Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NDP's brilliant use as a wedge issue of the Quebecois are a nation resolution

Right now Liberals and Tories are getting warm around their collars because the major candidates for leadership of the NDP are supporting a special deal for the province of Quebec which locks in a permanent 25% of seats in the House no matter how small the percentage of population in Quebec is of the whole nation's population.
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.[6] 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.[7] Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, criticized Ignatieff for lacking political judgement.[8]

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.[9]
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.[10]

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.[11]

The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to pass the motion. The motion passed by a margin of 265 (yeas) to 16 (nays).[12] 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.[13][14]

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.[15]

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.

4 comments :

  1. But Quebec's traditional clout was based on a population percentage that no longer exists. Ergo, the clout is gone.

    Playing with words can be a dangerous game.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many if the original MPs are gone and replaced by new ones.

    The Conservatives can oppose a 25% minimum for two reasons: the Quebecois nation status was not defined to include a minimum percentage of seats for Quebec. Also, the Conservatives are not dependent on support of Quebeckers. Harper's party is the party of English Canada (to put it bluntly).

    The Liberals are in a more precarious position in that they need to decide where they want to get their future support.

    The NDP needs to build electoral support in English Canada. Their support for the 25% minimum seats for Quebec could be the Achilles heel that keeps the Conservatives in power for an extra four years.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The NDP could leverage the nation vote to argue for 25% of the seats for Quebec, but the other side has a point that they could use against them with regards to the NDP's leadership race:

    The Sherbrooke Declaration was to Jack Layton in Quebec what the Liberal Red Book was to Jean Chrétien in the 1993 election.

    It states that “the New Democratic Party, unlike the Liberal or Conservative parties, believes that society cannot be based solely on the primacy of the individual . . . We believe that an egalitarian and cooperative society has to accommodate, not eliminate differences.”

    But in the matter of the succession of Jack Layton, the NDP is in violation of both notions.

    The one-member-one-vote formula by which it will select its leader puts the primacy of the individual well ahead of the notion of regional balance.

    The formula also obliterates the reality of Quebec’s distinct political culture.

    The Liberals and the Conservatives do a better job than the NDP on both scores.

    In contrast with the New Democrats, they treat riding associations equally during a leadership or policy convention, no matter how many members they have.


    Possible stalemate here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. sharonapple88 - Hebert's criticism of the NDP's election process will reverberate in the province of Quebec. Right now the NDP is teering on destroying its magnificent breakthrough in Quebec by adopting a passive approach to the problem that the electoral wins there were despite the absence of any significant organization on the ground. By ignoring this, the risk they run is that the 43% of Quebeckers who now favour the NDP will feel rejected when the leadership contest results in massive majorities in the Anglophone provinces but few qualifying members voting in Quebec because few were signed up. The interim leader is obviously relishing her time in the sun in Parliament instead of concentrating on cementing the breakthrough won in the second largest province.

    This leadership ineptness might well mean we are now seeing the high tide mark of the NDP there, and will soon see - round about mid-February when the membership signup cutoff takes place and Quebec's poor position relative to the other provinces becomes glaringly apparent - the ebbing of the Orange Flood.

    The NDP will be able to thank Nicole Turmel and Topp for that sad state of affairs - they are two of the most prominent Dippers who are asleep at the switch right now.

    ReplyDelete

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