[It seems worth noting that this post took two days to write. I wanted to think about it first -Dennis]
I like Steve; really, I do. Everybody who comes by here knows that. But sometimes, just sometimes, he leaves me shaking my head, wondering “just what the [bleep] is he thinking??” This is one of those times.
As most of you already know already, HMPM Harper basically put Ping and Pong on either side of the third rail of Canadian politics yesterday when he rose in the Commons to take what could well be the biggest political risk that we have seen any politician gamble on since… well, I can’t think of when. Just what did he have to say that could be so risky? Well, amongst other things:
“Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Bloc Quebecois will present the House with an unusual request that we here at the federal Parliament define the Quebecois nation.
“As a consequence, with the support of the government and with the support of our party, I will be putting on the Notice Paper later today the following motion:
“That this House recognize that the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada.
“Once again, the leader of the Bloc and his separatist friends are not concerned with defining who Quebecers are but rather what they want them to become, a separate country.
“The separatists do not need the Parliament of Canada to define what is meant by the sociological termination. My preference has been well known. I believe that this is not the job of the federal Parliament. It is the job of the legislature of Quebec, but the Bloc Quebecois has asked us to define this and perhaps that is a good thing, because it reminds us that all Canadians have a say in the future of this country.
“Having been asked by the Bloc to define the Quebecois, we must take a position. Our position is clear. Do the Quebecois form a nation within Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Quebecois form an independent nation? The answer is no and the answer will always be no, because Quebecers of all political persuasions, from Cartier and Laurier to Mulroney and Trudeau, have led this country and millions like them of all political persuasions have helped to build it.
“With their English- and French-speaking fellow citizens and people drawn from all nationalities of this earth, they have been part of making this country what it is, the greatest country in the world.
“To millions more who live in a dangerous and dividing world, this country is a shining example of the harmony and unity to which all peoples are capable and to which all humanity should aspire.
“I say to my federalist colleagues and I also say to the separatist side that we here will do what we must, what our forefathers have always done to preserve this country, Canada, strong, united, independent and free.”
Call me whatever you like (and I’m sure some of you can think of plenty), but this whole idea gives me nebulous but implacable sense of unease. It’s like hearing the sound of a distant siren and finding yourself wondering, for no good reason, if your house is on fire.
Sound silly? Fine. It feels silly; but it still isn’t going away. That’s why I’m trying to take as much time as I can to try to digest this before shooting my mouth off, instead of just shooting from the lip as usual.
On the one hand, such a declaration smacks of capitulation to the PQ, Blocheads and the other motley assortments that would gladly rip my country apart. But if that’s so, then why is Gilles Duceppe in such a piss-up-a-rope mood over it? See what I mean:
The glum look on Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe’s red face was also worth the price of a Commons admission. His chance to boost Quebec resentment against the Liberals and put Harper in a deadly python squeeze over the Quebec nation question in the next election evaporated minutes after the prime minister started speaking.
Could it have anything to do with the fact that this won’t actually change anything, legally or constitutionally speaking? After taking a day to step back and get a good, long sniff of this, I’m more and more coming to the same conclusion that many other observers have already come to. The emerging consensus is that this is a move worthy of a master chessplayer. In one stroke, Harper has taken some wind out of the Bloc’s sails:
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe says his party will vote in favour of the motion, which calls the Quebecois a nation within a united Canada.
…beaten the Librano$ to the punch:
The grim face of interim leader Bill Graham and sagging shoulders among Liberals even as they struggled to their feet to give Harper a standing ovation told the story of a party beaten to the punch and whacked in the head.
…and shown the Dippers to be incapable of taking a stand on just about anything:
NDP Leader Jack Layton said Wednesday his caucus would support both the Tory and BQ motions.
All in all, not a bad day. Some people have suggested one possibly huge fly in the ointment, however:
Good for a snicker, but not likely to happen. Yes, this may piss off a few people in the West but, with all three federalist parties on board, any protest vote has no place to go.
All in all, I still haven’t made up my mind about this yet. But at least I feel a little better about it than I did 48hrs ago. One thing is for certain: this is either a political master stroke worthy of some of history’s greats, or Ping and Pong are toast. There will be no middle ground on this one.