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Separatists in the House of Commons December 3, 2008

Posted by tomflesher in Canada.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Disclaimer: The title of my blog, “Heureusement, ici, c’est le Blog!”, is a pun, not an endorsement of the Bloc Quebecois. I harbor no particular affinity for the Bloc Quebecois. Though this post argues for acceptance of the Bloc as a coalition member, it does so solely on rational grounds which could be applied in any analogous situation of home-rule separatism.

There have been a number of complaints about the separatist/sovereigntist influence on the House of Commons under the proposed left-wing coalition in Canada. The concerns appear to be that A) Separatists are a bad thing to have in the national government, and B) It is undemocratic to topple the plurality government of the Conservatives. Behind the cut, I’d like to discuss these concerns.

Argument: Separatists should not be involved in the government.

Example: Vince Versace of On Deadline, who argues:

Our federal government, which represents the interests of all of Canada, will have its foundation of power based on a separatist party, a party which does not believe in the Canada the federal government is caretaker of. How is this logical and in the best interests of all Canadians?

I think this argument conflates separatism of the home-rule variety with separatism of the segregationist or destructionist variety. The most extreme example of destructionist sovereignty is Hezbollah, which aims to destroy Israel. Mr. Versace’s argument would be persuasive if it pertained to a destructionist party.

However, the BQ does not appear to envision the destruction of Canada-minus-Quebec. The BQ envisions Quebec-qua-nation as a trading partner of Canada. It is in the interest of a nation to maximize the economic health of its allies. Therefore, it is in the Bloc’s interest to maximize to the extent possible the economic health of anglophone Canada. To that end, their separatist intent is irrelevant to their ability to govern, and should not be seen as a concern.

B. It is undemocratic to overtake the Conservatives’ plurality government.

This coalition does not represent how the majority of Canadians voted in the recent federal election. You cannot count on the Bloc Quebecois numbers because they are skewed, having run candidates only in Quebec, they are not a national party…what are they again…oh yes, a separatist party. The Liberals and NDP will assume power thanks to the backing of a separatist party. You combine just Liberal and NDP election results and a majority of Canadians still did not choose them to govern.

This argument has two main weak points, in my estimation. The first is that the Bloc, while it is indeed a separatist party, they have adopted a pragmatic standpoint including policies aligned with the centre-left. (Cite 1. Cite 2.) The Bloc’s stated goal in this election was to prevent a Harper majority.

Anti-Conservative sentiment is not enough to base a coalition on. However, it is misguided to dismiss the BQ as a player in national politics based solely on their status as a separatist party. The party likely siphoned significantly more voters from the Grits and Dippers than from the Tories.

Incidentally, arguing that a majority of Canadians did not elect a coalition government is misguided; a majority did not elect the Conservative government. A party opting to administer a minority government, particularly one which is outnumbered by a divided opposition wing, does so at the risk that the divided wing will coalesce in order to strip it of power. The left-wing coalition will likely be shackled by disagreement at the margins of the parties’ platforms, but such is the fate of a coalition government.

If the Conservatives disagree, they’re free to attempt to court enough Bloc spoilers to take power.



1. On Deadline: Above the Fold to -30- - December 4, 2008

There is no denying of the Bloc’s stated intent before the recent election, preventing a Harper majority and frankly, they did a better job of doing so than the NDP and Liberals.

Obviously though, if they were a national party, running candidates from B.C. to Newfoundland, how successful would they have been? And that is a key point, this coalition, if it even exists by or beyond Jan. 27, may represent a majority of parliament but not a majority of Canadian voters. The Bloc are a one-trick party and you can bet if they actually ran candidates nationwide (a left field scenario), there is no way they would have secured the number of seats they did.

No arguing their pragmatic approach has served both them and parliament well, for what it is worth. It would be silly to dismiss them as a “player” on the national scene but it is not misguided to call a spade a spade, they are a separtist party with a sole intent, the best intentions of Quebec before the best intentions of Canada. It is this point that hurts the credability of this coalition, in my humble opinion.

Harper needs to wake up and stop trying to govern as if he has a majority. The Liberals and NDP need to wake up and strengthen their parties for the next election and earn their victory instead of stealing it- even if it is allowed.

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