The prime minister's empty promises on Quebec 'nation'

The PM has promised to enshrine resolution in the Constitution, but no one believes it

Canada-Québec - sortir ou rester ? <br>Il faudra bien se décider un jour...

Stephen Harper lost his intergovernmental affairs minister over it.
Justin Trudeau came out against it.
And on Christmas Eve, Harper upped the ante, saying his famed Quebec "nation" resolution should be put in the constitution.

Let's call it fighting over an empty shell.
After all, this resolution that was adopted by Parliament in November 2006 calling Quebecers a nation within a united Canada is of no concrete consequence for Quebec's powers or status.
That explains why, after decades of debating this question across the country, there was hardly any controversy over the issue in the rest of Canada.
That non-reaction was also due to the fact that in perfect Trudeauite ideology, where Canada is seen as a mosaic of ethnic groups, not as a pact of founding nations, Harper made sure his resolution referred to "Québécois" in its English-language version.
That made it pretty obvious that the resolution covered so-called ethnically defined old-stock French-Canadians, not all of those who reside in Quebec.
Justin Trudeau just doesn't seem to get that part of it.
Nor do those who consider that ethnic nationalism or an ethnicized vision of Canada can't be found in federalist circles.
But even Michael Chong, who is Harper's former intergovernmental affairs minister, could not be fooled by it.
He quit over the resolution, calling it an expression of "ethnic nationalism."
But before you run and hide thinking the Meech monster is being resurrected by Harper, or that the Tories' cosmetic nation resolution could be given teeth by putting it in the constitution, note that the prime minister refused to set a timetable for his promise.
"When the ground is fertile for it," we'll do it, he said.
In other words, there's a greater chance of Don Cherry turning into a francophile than of Quebec being recognized as a nation within the constitution.
The prime minister's new sortie appears to be a serious case of pre-election jitters. With the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP gearing up for an election in early 2008, it's no coincidence that Harper's statement came on Christmas Eve and was targeted at francophones in an exclusive front-page interview with La Presse.
For the chronically naive, the headline was eye-catching enough: "Harper wants to settle the Quebec question: The prime minister waits for the ground to be fertile to include in the Constitution the nation resolution adopted last year."
With recent polls showing the Tories losing ground to the Liberals in Ontario and even to the Bloc in Quebec, Harper has no choice but to fall in love with La Belle Province all over again.
After his "open federalism" speech garnered him 10 new Tory MPs in Quebec in January 2006, it's no surprise that Harper is trying again to snare soft nationalists. It worked for the last election, right?
But this time he could be pushing his luck in the suspension of disbelief department. Harper and just about everyone in this country with a high-school diploma knows that since the failure of the Meech and Charlottetown accords in 1990 and 1992, no one in Ottawa or English Canada wants to reopen the Constitution to accommodate Quebec.
This makes you wonder just how many Quebecers Harper really thinks would be ignorant enough even to think that he means to keep this strange promise.
In his pre-election sequel to his Grande Séduction of Quebec, Harper also likes to credit his "open federalism" for having allowed "national reconciliation." As a corollary, he says it pushed the sovereignty movement into "a terrible retreat in the past couple of years."
Not to rain on the prime minister's parade, but some would venture that the cumulative effect of Lucien Bouchard's constant hesitations on sovereignty and André Boisclair's tenure as head of the Parti Québécois should get some of that credit, too.

But should Liberal leader Stéphane Dion fail to come up quickly with a more generous policy toward Quebec, Harper, even with his empty promises, stands to remain a palatable federalist voice here, if only by default.
- source

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