Wednesday, 4 May 2011

On the "demise" of the Bloc québecois

Most people and commentators in English-speaking Canada are still crowing about the melt-down of the Bloc and how that signifies the a renewed commitment to federalism in Quebec. Unfortunately it signifies nothing of the sort, it only demonstrates how little people outside Quebec understand what's going on there.

The Bloc had, over the past few years, lost its purpose for existence. It only remained strong because at each of the past few elections, issues arose in a timely manner to keep voters loyal. In 2006, it was Harper's vilification of the Liberals over the sponsorship scandal (which turned out to be a $3.75 million tempest in a teapot if you examine the facts laid bare by the Gomery Commission) which kept Bloc voters loyal. In 2008, it was Harper's announced cuts to cultural spending. (That concern over culture should become an issue in Quebec shows how different that province is from Harperland.) But this year, there were no issues like that. So when Duceppe/Harper/Ignatieff struck out during the French TV debate and Layton was all likability, the Orange surge suddenly took off and we now have the result.

But people who follow political developments in Quebec, remember the fate of the ADQ which came out of nowhere and returned to nowhere in one short session. The same is likely to happen to Jack Layton's 58 Quebec MPs (well, more accurately, maybe only 55-57 of them). Not only will the NDP have to swing towards Quebec wishes, but, since they won't be able to deliver (remember, Harper is now in total control), the voters won't likely be still with him for the 2015 federal election. The Bloc was a federal safety valve for Quebec nationalists diffusing the pressure for separation. So all the "demise" means is that Quebec "nationalism" is now once again totally centered on Quebec, with the result that the separatist focus will sharpen during the coming months or years - unless the NDP becomes the BlocNPD. And that's not likely to happen

Long before then, something else will happen - a provincial election in Quebec, most likely in 2012. The provincial Liberals face almost certain defeat because of the monumental dislike for Premier Charest. That means a Parti québecois government in power at the same time as Harper in Ottawa. There will almost certainly be a referendum on Quebec independence. How Harper handles that will determine the future of Canada. Well, it's already too late to worry about that now, because we're all helpless in his grip.

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