Broader representation is a healthy thing

A majority, that promised land of governance, must seem very close right now.

Pour la Gâzette - les souverainistes sont les "cancéreux" du système politique canadian, "l'autre" intolérable, malade, déraisonnable, etc...

By-elections are rarely indicators of broad political trends. Local personalities, regional issues, voter apathy and low stakes generally make them mere backwaters, sheltered from the main political currents of the day.

However, Monday's three federal by-elections in Quebec do seem to confirm and make tangible the findings of recent polls. And so the three new members of Parliament pose an interesting problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As he prepares a Throne Speech for Parliament's new session Oct. 16, Harper must decide what he wants: to use his opponents' disarray to push his legislation through Parliament or to move speedily to an election.
It is hard to imagine a Throne Speech that all three opposition parties would reject, since a quick election would by all indications be a nightmare for both the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois.
The Liberals have already started gnawing their own entrails over Stéphane Dion's leadership, and it will likely be a full year before he is either replaced or secure.

As for the Bloc, we now dare to hope we are seeing the final shrinkage of this cancer on the Canadian political system. The Bloc was originally supposed to last only a few years, until the Glorious Day. Instead, it has turned "representing the interests of Quebec" into a perpetual-motion machine of recrimination, condemnation and posturing. By pushing other political parties out, the Bloc has done all it can to isolate Quebecers from the parties that govern Canada.

It's time for that era to be over. In this context, the election of Tom Mulcair in Outremont is encouraging, because the New Democrats deserve a genuine place in the federal political landscape of Quebec, which is in many ways Canada's most "progressive" society. But for decades, until recently, unilingual NDP leaders in Ottawa and sovereignist activists in parts of Quebec have together doomed the NDP to irrelevance here. But today, the New Democrats, like the Conservatives, have a leader who speaks serviceable French and is open to Quebec.

What the NDP does not have, so far, is many candidates of the stature of Mulcair, whose political skills, professional background, years in the Quebec Liberal Party and principled resignation from Jean Charest's cabinet over the Mount Orford issue all make him very well qualified to be an MP. Party leader Jack Layton was on hand through the campaign, but it was reflected glory that warmed Layton on Monday night. Can the NDP find more such candidates in Quebec? We'll see.

It would certainly be healthy for all three Canada-wide parties (what ever happened to the Greens on Monday?) to have representation in each part of Canada. From John A. Macdonald and Georges-Étienne Cartier onward, Canada has worked best when francophones assume their fair share of shaping the country's policies. That's why the withering away of the Bloc would be great news.

Will Harper roll the dice and ask the governor-general for a quick election, seeking to build a majority with Quebecers' support? As he has seen, passing legislation in a minority context is a constant struggle.

Surfing the wave of popular support for the like-minded Action démocratique, Harper and his party now appear well positioned to gain ground in Quebec.
A majority, that promised land of governance, must seem very close right now.

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