Men of Principle
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?
The same question, among Quebeckers:
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%
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:
1968: 56 seats
1972: 56 seats
1974: 60 seats
1979: 67 seats
1980: 74 seats
1993: 19 seats
1997: 26 seats
2000: 36 seats
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...