Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Federal states with regional identity issues fail under clear circumstances. The former Yugoslavia broke into a vicious and bitter civil war when the economic crisis brought on by the collapse of Soviet Union gave cause to ethnic nationalist movements. The Soviet Union fell apart into its constituent states after it collapsed and sparked an economic crisis.

Under such circumstances there is a responsibility for national leaders to respect institutions and mechanisms of government if they wish to avoid falling into crisis. Whatever one feels toward the Liberals, Bloc and NDP, they are acting within the law and within the system of checks and balances built into our parliamentary system. Stephen Harper is duty bound to accept this reality. However, his behaviour to date suggests he is not interested in this. By framing the issue as one of national unity, he is promoting disunity. James Laxer comments:
He’s now moved to new and very dangerous ground. Yesterday, he virtually denied that Bloc MPs were entitled to perform their parliamentary functions and to have a say in the governing of the country. Since 1993, the Bloc Quebecois has been a major party in federal politics. In every general election since then, the Bloc has won more seats than any other party in Quebec.

At present, support for sovereignty in Quebec has fallen to a ten year low. By agreeing to support the coalition, the Bloc has undertaken to put sovereignty on the back- burner for the next eighteen months so that the government of Canada can grapple with the economic crisis. Surely, pragmatic arrangements of this kind are precisely the way ahead for a Canada that will always include Quebec.

In questioning the legitimacy of Quebec’s MPs, it is Stephen Harper who is endangering the unity of the country.
By fanning populist fires and wrapping himself in the flag, he is diverting attention from parliamentary process. In effect he attempts to delegitimise parliamentary institutions, playing on the ignorance of his confused supporters. When Harper and his ministers use terms like coup d'etat and dictatorship with confused and ignorant people who do not understand what is happening, he risks bloodshed. By stoking these flames on the cusp of massive jobloss, he is setting the stage for something very ugly.

So perhaps we see a strategy emerge. Harper knows his goose is cooked as nearly every constitutional expert agrees that the Governor General will not decide in his favour. So, he does two things. One, he wraps himself in the last refuge of scoundrels desperately hoping something will come of it. And two, he engages in a fighting withdrawal, poisoning wells and salting the earth with inflamatory, populist and worst-order nationalist rhetoric and outright lies. If Harper can't have the country, he will leave it a mess for his successor.

If Harper does eventually leave Ottawa, and if Laxer is right and SH is returning to his Reform roots, then he may reemerge in Alberta and fan separatist flames here. He's already sparking the tinder from Ottawa. The man is simply toxic (h/t Mark).

No comments: