Monday, November 27, 2006

Men of Principle

Updated at bottom...

I think the most upsetting thing about this nation notion is how it is being rammed down the throats of parliamentarians and Canadians without any proper debate on the topic and respect for the will of Canadians. There's a reason that Meech and Charlottetown were so popular with the elites at first but crumbled once Canadians had a say and, given a bit more time, we'd see the same thing on this Harper/Duceppe/Ignatieff/Dion/whoeverelseistakingcreditforit motion.

People are starting to speak out - Ken Dryden has announced he will be voting against the motion tonight. I encourage everyone to read his statement because he has, as usual, eloquently summed up how Canadians feel. Michael Chong has taken an even bigger step, resigning from Harper's Cabinet over this. Remember, this is his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs - the man in charge of this sort of stuff who was apparently not even consulted on what he thought. Chong's resignation just shows how this is being forced onto parliamentarians by leaders too afraid to lose votes in Quebec. Read Gloria Galloway's Friday article in the Globe on how this resolution was hatched. Here's how the Liberals decided to support the resolution:

About 10 minutes before it ended, Mr. Graham and Mr. Harper had a tete-a-tete in the rear hallway. Mr. Harper told the Liberal Leader about the motion. Mr. Graham listened, but did not offer a commitment. Nor did he bring it back to his caucus. Instead, he consulted some "key" MPs, and decided to sign on.

There wasn't even a caucus debate over what amounted to a reversal of the Liberal Party's traditional position on National Unity. Now, I understand that Graham, Layton, and Harper were all under the gun because of the Duceppe motion but I would have hoped that one of them would have recognized that Canadians as a whole do not support this. Tom Axworthy, Serge Joyal, and Jerry Grafstein have a fantastic article in the Globe today detailing the opposition of Canadians to the officialized ethnic nationalism being thrust on us. Consider some of the following polls:

Ipsos Reid (November 6th)
-42% indicate that if they knew that the new leader of the Liberal Party wanted to "recognize Quebec as a nation within the country of Canada" they would be "less likely to vote Liberal", versus just 10% who say this would make them more likely to support the Liberal party.

-Among self-identified Liberal supporters, 44% say this potential development would make them less likely to vote Liberal (15% say it would make them more likely to vote Liberal).

CBC Poll (November 7th)

Do you think that Quebec is a nation within Canada?
Yes 39%
No 57%
NA 4%

The same question, among Quebeckers:
Yes 61%
No 34%
NA 5%

A 2004 CBC Poll

Which of the following best describes your view of Quebec?

Quebec is a nation alongside the Canadian nation 16%
Quebec is a nation within the Canadian nation 17%
Quebec is one of 10 equal provinces 21%
Quebec is a province that is a distinct society within Canada 42%
Other 0%
Did not know 4%

So there you go. Canadians are against this. It appears that many Quebecers themselves are against this. And Canadians are less likely to vote for a Liberal Party which supports this sort of thing. Of course, you don't need a poll to show you that. The Liberal Party has bounced back and forth between those who take a strong stand vis-a-vis Quebec and those who follow the Tory position. Let's take a look at the results:

Trudeau/Chretien federalism
1968: 56 seats
1972: 56 seats
1974: 60 seats
1979: 67 seats
1980: 74 seats
1993: 19 seats
1997: 26 seats
2000: 36 seats

Martin/Turner federalism
1984: 17 seats
1988: 12 seats
2004: 21 seats
2006: 13 seats

Now before people jump on me, I'm aware this isn't a fair comparison but I think the point stands. The Liberal Party has had success in the past by opposing things like this. Will the party gain any votes in Quebec by supporting this motion? No. The people who are impressed with vote for Harper since he's the one who put it forward. It'd be like the Tories transforming into the "daycare party" - no one would buy it.

I know Bill Graham was under pressure on this question - I get that. I know Bob Rae was afraid of losing his Quebec delegates so he couldn't oppose it - I get that. I know there are people like Ignatieff and Dion who fall under the Meech/Turner/Martin federalism wing of this party who are probably voting their conscience on this - that's fair enough too. And I understand why many Dion organizers will be forced to criticize Gerard on his stand, even while they quietly applaud - this is a leadership race after all. But, as a whole, a Liberal Party which supports a strong Canada would be a stronger party for it. I'm just glad some members of the party recognize this.

And, yes, I'm aware that this post talked a lot about the electoral perks of opposing this so maybe "men of principle" wasn't the best title but sometimes the popular thing is the popular thing because it's also the right thing to do.


WHAAAAAAAAAAAA? After seeing Lawrence Cannon on QP yesterday, this shouldn't be surprising, but boy, does my head hurt after reading the full transcript over at Wells' site. Mark Watton picks out the best part:

Reporter: "...just to make it very, very clear, especially to my readers at The Gazette, when you talk about les Québécois does it include every resident of Quebec regardless of which boat their ancestors came over on?"

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: "No, it doesn't. It doesn't. Let's be clear on this."

The vote passed 266-16. 15 Liberals, including Dryden, Volpe, and Fry voted against it. Jack posts the list of the nays and it sure seemed to cross leadership lines with a few high profile MPs from all camps saying no. Garth Turner also voted against it while Chong and Skelton were no shows (not sure if Skelton was excused). Looks like Harper whiped it good with not a single Tory opposing the motion. No word on how many of the 266 actually knew what they were voting on...


  • Calgary Grit

    can I not support this motion with my principles?

    By Blogger Antonio, at 6:14 PM  

  • CG:

    I think it is very wrong to paint this as an extension of the Trudeau/Chretien vs. Turner/Martin wars. Wrong on so many fronts.

    Not least of which is that Trudeau and Chretien hold a very different view. Chretien passed a distinct society clause that directed the government to take distinct society into account when drafting legislation. It went way further than today's recognition motion which mandates no government action.

    Let's not use the old wars to carve out distinctions in today's leadership race.

    The motion should stand or fall on its own merits and demerits.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 6:20 PM  

  • I don't have an opinion on Chretien, Trudeau, Martin or Turner when it comes to their style of federalism, but when you put those numbers up in this post, I couldn't help but notice that you definitely weakened Trudeau's successes in Quebec by adding the Chretien numbers, no?

    By Blogger scott, at 7:03 PM  

  • It's perfectly possible to make the principled argument againt recognizing Quebec as a nation but I think it's highly unrealistic to pretend that doing so won't be the end of the Liberal Party among francophones. There is not a single francophone politician I am aware who is remotely sympathetic to your point of view. Referring to the glory days of Trudueau doesn't exactly prove otherwise

    By Blogger Starry -Eyed Pessimist, at 7:09 PM  

  • Your analysis of seat results actually shows the opposite of what you purport it shows. The real split is pre-1980, post-1980 in terms of the kinds of numbers.

    Pre-1980 there was no soft nationalist alternative to voting Liberal for Quebec. The Progressive-Conservatives had a bunch of anti-Quebec members, while the Social Credit party, while nationalist, also had some other nutty stuff going on.

    Since 1980, the political option capitalizing on the soft nationalist vote: Mulroney in the 80's, and the BQ (and to a lesser degree, Harper) afterwards have won the lion's share of the seats in Quebec.

    Secondly, your notion that "this is unpopular" conflicts quite heavily with the notion so many others have that "this is a cynical political move". Generally speaking, intelligent folks like Harper and Bill Graham (who surely have at least comparable access to polls as yourself) read those polls and knew it was unpopular.

    So you're going to tell me which is untrue - either the opportunism notion or the "this is elitism" one.

    Since I'm assuming you are pinning your flag to the elitism thing, I frankly don't see why governments should govern by polls anyway. On top of that, I feel a lot safer knowing that the two-thirds of Quebec that believes Quebec is a nation within Canada have a political home in federal parties (and what is more, they can take their pick).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 7:10 PM  

  • CG, even you have to admit that Kennedy's argument today for his position on this matter was awfully shallow.

    I think it is fair for someone to agree with Kennedy's conclusion on the question - to vote against the motion - while still recognizing that Kennedy didn't explain his position very well, as Jason did.

    Dryden's piece is quite a bit better.

    By Blogger robedger, at 7:21 PM  

  • Great, now we have two unilingual leadership candidates with no support in Quebec taking this position to gain an advantage in the leadership race. Dryden was for the motion on Friday - what made him change his mind over the weekend other than a "bad feeling"? Maybe he figures this will help him survive past the first ballot.

    Do you have any idea how this will play in Quebec? The story will be that the Liberals have rejected Quebec, yet again. Kennedy and Dryden have given the Bloc exactly what they hoped for, a split in the Liberal party that they can exploit during the next election campaign and the next referendum.

    I agree with everything Dion said about this motion. It is not the way we should go about promoting Canada, but it is clear enough to be supported, especially when it is merely symbolic.

    By Blogger Jack Angry, at 7:22 PM  

  • Isn't it funny that the Liberal Party ran in 2004 on a platform the left no doubt about their support for equal marriage, and yet the Conservatives have spent the last 2 years blasting Paul Martin for demanding cabinet solidarity on an issue that every single Liberal knew was government policy?

    You'd think that Stephen Harper would therefore be somewhat flexible on an issue that was certainly not the platform he ran on, but not only must cabinet support it ALL MPs must support it or resign. Michael Chong, even by leaving cabinet, still can't vote against it without being thrown out of the party - something that didn't even happen to Bev Desjarlais in the NDP. A three-line whip, on an issue neither the party nor the caucus has ever had a chance to even discuss, let alone approve.

    I guess it just goes to show you that no matter what anyone thinks of the Liberals, the Conservatives lose no time, whenever we're foolish enough to allow them into power, in proving that they wrote the book on sleazy hypocracy.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 7:24 PM  

  • BTW, where has Rae been hiding all day today?

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 7:25 PM  

  • Rae was on Newman today, sounding quite anti-nation.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 7:31 PM  

  • The road to victory:

    Forget for a moment about decisions of principle which I beleive Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Dryden have made.

    For months those who have talked only about "winning" at any cost have pointed to Quebec.

    The truth is that ever since the Bloc has existed the seats in play in Quebec (those that the Bloc don't win by a gazillion votes and those not already held by Liberals) are much less than a dozen.

    Then you look to Ontario and you realize that there are 50 seats in play that we don't hold where we can win with the right candidate - oh and by the way - that equals a majority government...

    By Blogger polopark, at 7:33 PM  

  • Dont forget to thank ignatieff for starting all this. Boy just think of where the discussion would be if all this time and effort wasnt spent on "quebec is a nation." Maybe on something that actually mattered more?

    By Blogger propatria, at 7:36 PM  

  • antonio - sure. Like I said, I think Dion and Iggy are voting their conscience on this so good on 'em!

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:45 PM  

  • rob; Kennedy's reasoning sound good to me. Obviously Dion needs to beat Kennedy to win this thing so I don't expect many Dion people to recognize that but I think Gerard outlined the key reasons he's against it quite well:

    Today, Liberal Leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy issued the following

    I cannot support the Harper-Duceppe motion currently before the House.

    The Prime Minister's responsibility is to protect the constitution and the unity of the country. This motion does neither. It is wrong for Canada.

    The motion creates an unmistakable expectation by giving official
    legitimacy to the "idea" of nation, without defining it. This is an irresponsible step, as there has never been greater need for honest dialogue between Quebecers and the rest of Canadians. Rather than improving national unity, the motion will exacerbate divisions and generate misunderstanding in Quebec and across Canada. It is for this reason that throughout this campaign I have consistently opposed the "officialization" of the notion of Quebec as a nation.

    Canada is a united country that must be constantly defined by our
    common values and a shared purpose. The introduction of this resolution contradicts this need and instead sows division over uncertain symbols.

    I respect the sense of identity shared by many Quebecers, reflecting a common culture, language, history and accomplishment and I will
    continue to promote that identity, rather than playing divisive political games with it. Further, this motion does nothing to recognize, and potentially takes away from, aboriginals, Acadians and other official minority groups with a distinct culture and heritage within Canada.

    I deplore that anyone would use this as a wedge issue for political gain. As Liberals, we have to understand that there is no easy way to rebuild the party in Quebec but we must stay resolute in our vision for the entire country. I want Quebecers to know that as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada I will forge a common understanding of the best way for Quebecers and all Canadians to work together on our real challenges: globalization benefiting all families not just a few; an aging population and the
    growing divide between rural and urban regions.

    Out of respect for the interim leader Bill Graham, I am not requesting that any caucus member supporting my candidacy change their vote to reflect my position.

    Canadians will know that I do not feel bound by this vote or this

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:49 PM  

  • Dryden forgot some hoary cliches. What about the Rockies and amber waves of grain? It's apparent some in the Liberal party are writing off Quebec to gain seats in English Canada, but this message that Quebec isn't needed to form a government is exactly what the PQ needs to promote the idea Quebec is better off outside the federation.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 8:12 PM  

  • cg,

    how does this all tie in with his international nation view of Canada? Seems his position might be pretty consistent with a general worldview/foreign policy so maybe we shouldnt be surprised by the stance.

    also, I'm having difficulty finding Gerard's policy on First Nations? There's no section for it on the policy part of his web site. Do you know where I can go for that?

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 9:02 PM  

  • The government motion has passed; the Bloc motion has been defeated.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 9:03 PM  

  • Also note that those CBC 2004 numbers you highlight are Quebec only. Of course the Canada-wide numbers are different, although not as different as some might think.

    By Blogger the Braeden Caley Campaign, at 9:16 PM  

  • Volpe just voted against the motion (sadly, of the three leadership contenders who voted against it, he is probably the best one to speak in the French language media on the issue).

    Calgarygrit, I demand that you commend his principled stance. COMMEND IT!

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 9:17 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Iccyh, at 9:26 PM  

  • Obviously Dion needs to beat Kennedy to win this thing so I don't expect many Dion people to recognize that

    Quite the cheap shot. Why don't we deal with each other's arguments instead of what we perceive to be each other's motivations.

    I won't say that you see a deep argument where there is none because of your candidate affiliation.

    My point is this: Kennedy's argument is shallow, filled with conclusions rather than reasons. An easy test to figure this out is this: pretend that you disagreed with Kennedy on the motion; what did he say that might change your mind?

    A good example of people who would pass that test today would be Dion and Dryden.

    Also, Kennedy offers no real alternative.

    I respect the sense of identity shared by many Quebecers, reflecting a common culture, language, history and accomplishment and I will
    continue to promote that identity

    What does that mean? I don't see how Kennedy can argue that the motion isn't clear enough, and then provide that piece of ambiguity as the alternative.

    By Blogger robedger, at 10:50 PM  

  • Rob - fair enough. Here are my constructive comments.

    1. Kennedy has talked about increasing the number of Canadians who can speak french as a second language in his education platform so he clearly buys into the linguistic duality argument.

    2. Kennedy's arguments are:
    -The motion is irresponsible because the terms aren't well defined in it. After seeing Lawrence Cannon's press conference, it's pretty obvious this is a major problem.
    -The resolution creates divisions in Canada, rather than uniting us. Makes sense to me.
    -The motion does nothing to recognize first nations, acadians, francophones outside Quebec, and other groups. This creates more problems (check out the Globe front page this morning)
    -Harper is using the motion for crass political purposes

    3. Kennedy's been consistent since he opposes the officialization of Quebec as a nation - that's what this is.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:23 AM  

  • Nice attempt at obfuscation; I believe the facts will win out.

    The CBC poll asked about "Quebec" (i.e. the province) as a "nation". Which was basically the Bloc motion, and which was soundly defeated by the House with only BQ MPs voting in favour.

    The Harper motion made it clear that it was "the Quebecois", that is, a certain collection of people within Quebec, who were being recognized. Not all Quebeckers, as Cannon also made clear.

    This is unambiguously a reference to a "cultural" or a "linguistic" view of "nationhood", and most certainly not a "civic" or governmental sense of the term "nation". That the motion went on to acknowledge its existence within a united Canada - that the civic sense of the term "nation" was unaffected by the motion - eliminates any remaining doubt.

    The adoption of the motion is a recognition that some people self-identify as a distinct group within Canadian society, and an important one to the structure of Canada. It doesn't change one's "nationality" (which refers to the "civic" sense), which is still Canada.

    That some Liberal leadership contestants would prefer to play politics with the issue and promote clearly incorrect interpretations for their own potential gain says much about their leadership qualifications.

    By Blogger Paul, at 3:41 AM  

  • Has kennedy talked about putting more federal money into strengthening the french language outside of quebec?

    By Blogger propatria, at 3:41 AM  

  • On a side note, I am just wondering if anyone thinks this whole mess will damage Iggy come the leadership vote this weekend. Actually, I set up a non-scientific poll entitled Will Iggy Stay In Federal Politics Should He Lose The Liberal Leadership

    By Blogger Left Right and Center, at 9:42 AM  

  • CG: I was talking about making sustained and cogent arguments that add to the debate. You just listed Kennedy's talking points.

    Look at the difference between Dryden's statement and Kennedy's statement to see what I mean.

    By Blogger robedger, at 10:07 AM  

  • hosertohoosier said...

    Calgarygrit, I demand that you commend his principled stance. COMMEND IT!

    And after you do that, I demand you kneel before Zod.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 10:21 AM  

  • I don't understand your confusion over Cannon's remarks. contra Coyne/Kinsela and apparently yourself, the motion does not recognize the territory of the province of quebec as a nation, it recognizes the descendants of the original french immigrants - therefore, 'quebecois' - as forming a nation.

    Therefore it only makes sense that not everyone currently living in the province of quebec falls under this motion. They are all Canadians and even Quebecers, but not necessarily 'quebecois'.

    don't know why this is so hard, but then, I'm just a guy...

    By Blogger just a guy..., at 1:34 PM  

  • I think the confusion comes from:

    1) the fact that LeBreton had just said it included Anglophones, and

    2) Cannon uses Quebecker and Quebecois interchangeably when most recognize that Quebecker is the English version of all those who live in the province of Quebec and Quebecois means the ethnic based francophones who liver in Quebec, and

    3) other Conservatives have said that this is not an ethnic based recognition, and

    4) just read Cannon's transcript: he sounds like a blithering blabbering idiot.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 1:51 PM  

  • Some snippets from today's G&M on the latest Decima poll which do not bode well for Ignatieff after the first ballot:

    "The data suggest that Mr. Ignatieff may have a steep hill to climb to make up 20 percentage points he needs to win, Mr. Gregg said.
    For example, Mr. Gregg said that Mr. Ignatieff would barely get any of the second-choice support of those who back the also-rans, Mr. Brison, Mr. Volpe and Mr. Dryden. He would do better with Ms. Hall Findlay's supporters. "Let's say all those guys drop off, he's barely going to inch up," Mr. Gregg said."


    "When supporters of Mr. Dion and Mr. Rae are asked which candidate they would never vote for, 46 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, say Mr. Ignatieff. Mr. Ignatieff does slightly better with supporters of Mr. Kennedy, among whom 34 per cent say they won't vote for him."


    "If Mr. Kennedy were to pip Mr. Dion for third, and force Mr. Dion off the ballot, Mr. Dion's delegates then become the sought-after group. Only 11 per cent of Mr. Dion's supporters would pick Mr. Ignatieff as their second choice, while an even number of 21 per cent would pick Mr. Kennedy or Mr. Rae."


    "Michael Ignatieff is the leading candidate heading into the Liberal convention, not many of the delegates supporting other candidates on the first ballot are willing to consider him on the second, a Globe and Mail/CTV poll finds".

    There must be a fair degree of panic right now in Ignatieff's camp after this poll. Talk about being in a stall!

    By Blogger CuriosityCat, at 2:03 PM  

  • M. Cannon further clarified in the House today that the terminology is not "exclusive": if Anglos, immigrants, or whoever wants to consider themselves included as Quebecois, they are welcome to do so. This is true for all citizens resident in Quebec.

    I would contrast that with the Bloc motion, which seems to have been intended to force all Quebec residents to be identified as members of this "Quebecois" nation, in an attempt to draw in a "civic" definition of the term "nation".

    By Blogger Paul, at 5:11 PM  

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