The real threat to national unity

Élections 2006

According to last week's Liberal campaign ads, Stephen Harper wants to raise taxes to send your kids to Iraq. Either that, or else shoot them with handguns so he won't have to pay for their daycare.
Alas for Liberal hopes, this line of attack does not seem to be working -- not if the opinion polls are to be believed. So get ready for the next round of attacks. Indeed, since I must finish this column before the Monday English-language leaders' debates, the next line of attack will likely already have been launched by the time you read this Tuesday morning:
You are about to hear that Stephen Harper's secret agenda also includes (after killing all the babies with American-made handguns) working with the Bloc Quebecois to destroy Canada.
The line made its debut in the 2004 election campaign, and got its first full airing as Belinda Stronach's justification for her walk across the floor. It looks likely to end its career as the last shrieking accusation of a failing Liberal campaign.
Really, you have to give the Liberals credit at least for this: They have nerve. Their own corruption discredits what remains of federalism in Quebec -- and then they offer themselves as federalism's saviors.
The truth is just the opposite.
The surest way to empower the Bloc -- and to strengthen Quebec separatism -- is to return the people responsible for Adscam back to power.
The only thing uglier than the Adscam scandal has been the excuse the Liberals have used to justify it. "Sorry for breaking the law, but it was an emergency. We had to take that money and pass it around to our friends as part of our strategy to prevent another referendum after 1995."
In other words, Adscam was not just about graft and theft. It was about an attempt to pervert Quebec's political process. And many Quebecers will be watching the election results on January 23 to see: Does English-speaking Canada share their outrage? Or are they alone?
A Liberal defeat would be a unifying moment for Canada, a moment that brings together Canadians from every region and every province to uphold norms of integrity and decency in Canadian politics.
Another Liberal victory, however, will put Canada back on the path to a third Quebec referendum and other grave threats to national unity.
The blunt fact is that Quebec elects separatists as a protest against Liberal over-centralization. The sequence of events tells the story.
1974: Liberal majority.
1976: PQ elected in Quebec.
1984: Conservative majority.
1985: PQ defeated.
1993: Liberal majority.
1994: PQ returned to power.
The next Quebec election will probably occur in about a year's time.
Nothing -- nothing -- would strengthen the separatist cause more than the re-election of the Martin government. If Martin still holds power when Quebecers next vote provincially, the separatists will be free to run against Liberal corruption, Liberal perversion of democracy, and the Liberal refusal to answer such basic questions as: "Who received the improper Adscam funds?"
But if the Liberals have been defeated by English-speaking and French-speaking voters acting together, the separatists will face a much tougher problem. They will face in Ottawa a new, dynamic and honest government, fully committed to investigating and punishing wrongdoing. Electing a Conservative government would deprive Quebec separatists of their best issue. Electing a Liberal government would wrap the issue up for them and tie a bow on it.
Nor should we forget that Quebec separatism is not the only threat to Canada's unity. There is tremendous discontent in Western Canada too.
A poll commissioned by the Western Standard magazine this summer found that more than one-third of Western Canadians -- and 42% of Albertans -- agreed that the Western provinces should explore setting up their own country. A Liberal defeat would cut off the fuel that keeps that pot bubbling; yet another Liberal win would turn the bubbling into a boil.
The Martin Liberals are the party of downtown Canada. They are the party of downtown values and downtown interests. And they are adamantly determined to impose those values and those interests on the rest of the country. That fact undergirds all their talk about "the Charter" and "Charter rights." Just as they refused to respect the democratic process in Quebec, so they do not respect the democratic process when it comes to fundamental questions of faith, family and society.
Returning these characters to power would be like the Sorcerer sending Mickey back into the workshop with a whole new volume full of badly understood spells. They have not learned their lesson. But the voters of Canada surely have.

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