In Scott Gardiner's new political satire King John of Canada, Quebec is kicked out of Confederation by the other provinces after they tire of decades of "political extortion."
"A hundred and forty-odd years of two-nations protocol had been based on the premise that Quebec would look out for its own interests exclusively ... while across the table their opponents were committed to working for both sides equally."
Confirmation that truth can be stranger than fiction comes in the form of a Bloc Quebecois motion that will be debated in the House of Commons today. In language that could come straight from the pages of Mr. Gardiner's savage parody, it denounces the "laissez-faire" attitude of the government in regard to negotiations with Boeing over the purchase of four military cargo planes and the fact that Quebec did not get its "fair share" of economic spin-offs from the contracts.
A "fair share," in the Bloc's opinion, should be nearly 60% of the $1.1-billion purchase price, since the province is home to 60% of Canada's aerospace industry.
According to this kind of logic, the Bloc should account for 17% of the fatuous ideas coming out of the House, reflecting its parliamentary representation, yet it is clearly punching way above its weight in this department.
The Bloc's shamelessness should not surprise -- the party's attitude is perfectly reflected in Mr. Gardiner's mocking prose: "What use was Confederation, if not to pay for things?"
More odious is that the federal Liberals have been almost as vocal in demanding Quebec get its "fair share."
Denis Coderre, the new Liberal defence critic, said he believes in the "fair share" argument and criticized Industry Minister Maxime Bernier for his "laissez-faire" approach of letting the market decide where the investment spin-offs should go. "He's abdicated his responsibility -- he's pleased a foreign company won [the contract].
"It's important to say, if there's a cluster [of aerospace companies], we should be there to make sure they have the share they deserve."
This is a curious position coming from a member of the Liberal party, which, strictly speaking, should be forbidden from making any comment on military procurement after costing the country $570-million in compensation after the EH101 helicopter fiasco under Jean Chretien.
Curious because, under the CF-18 modernization program with Boeing signed by the Liberal government, there were no regional commitments included in the contracts.
Still, Ottawa has become accustomed to the Liberals reversing positions they held mere months ago.
The party is addicted to rhetoric that it would ditch like dirty socks if it were ever to form government again.
This in itself looks unlikely --at least until the party restores its faith in the market as the best instrument of efficiency. For a federal party to stipulate to a supplier that it has to source from a particular province makes no sense politically nor economically.
Mr. Coderre at least understands the political implications and is coy about whether he will support the Bloc motion. "I'm going to hear what they have to say. I'm more inclusive -- I don't want to see it being one region against another."
But, given his sympathy for the Bloc position, it seems likely we could see the two parties tag team on yet another issue, just as they did to defeat the government on three separate votes in the House on Tuesday -- the anti-terror legislation, an opposition day motion on immigration and a committee motion.
The immigration debate was a perfect example of how sterile the debate, and how toxic the atmosphere, has become in the Commons.
Don't bother reading the official account in Hansard. It boiled down to the opposition parties accusing the government of being war-mongering racists and the Conservatives in turn decrying their parliamentary colleagues as a bunch of namby-pamby, welfare bums. I exaggerate, but not much.
King John of Canada describes a country plagued by a series of dysfunctional minority governments, torn between regional interests and on the point of break-up. Take a trip up to Parliament Hill and you may need some convincing it's a work of fiction.