The next Prime Minister of Canada should come from Quebec and he should be Stephen Harper. This statement may not seem to make much sense at first but I believe that it would represent a brilliant strategic move by the Conservatives to form the next government.
After a week of secret tapes and bribes, let’s have some fun and consider an unlikely yet interesting scenario: Stephen Harper the Quebecer. Allow me to propose some ‘outside the box’ type of thinking…
Stephen Harper should immediately move to the province of Quebec and reside in the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent from which he should run for its seat in the next federal election. The riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent is the most ‘winnable’ riding in Quebec for the Conservative Party of Canada. While Stephen Harper is not in Ottawa, he should be in Quebec, he should enroll his children in a school there and he should join its PTA.
“What on Earth could this hope to accomplish”, you might ask? The Conservative Party of Canada needs to make a splash in Quebec, and it needs to do so in a big way. It needs to do so not necessarily for electoral success in that province, but for electoral success in Ontario. There could be no greater expressions of outreach, backed up by the perceived risk of incredible personal failure, than by packing the moving van and moving the family to la belle province and by running for election there.
Canadians, and indeed Quebecers would question this apparent political suicide. And then they would come to a realization that Stephen Harper would be going for broke. Many in the party believe that Stephen Harper will step aside if the Conservatives lose another election campaign. Running in Quebec represents a net advantage for national Conservative electoral fortunes. What would be Mr. Harper’s former riding of Calgary Southwest is safe for the CPC. The party and Harper’s significant gesture of outreach in Quebec would only serve to increase vote totals in that province, in Atlantic Canada, and in Ontario. There are only two scenarios in the next federal election: a Conservative win or a Conservative loss. A Conservative loss would likely see the exit of Mr. Harper from federal politics. A Conservative win and a Harper loss would see an immediate Alberta byelection for Stephen Harper to regain MP status in the House of Commons.
Prior to the election, the Conservative Party should outline what I believe to be its two greatest strengths within the framework of Canadian federalism: its unfettered commitment to the resolution of the fiscal imbalance and its promise for greater provincial respect. I believe that the issue of uncertainty of our national unity has been borne in the failure of the federal Liberal Party on these two issues. Look to Alberta, look to Newfoundland, and of course, look to Quebec for testaments. Jean Charest has been lamenting the fiscal imbalance since he became Premier of that province. His fellow Quebecers who believe in Canada (and even those voters that do not) know that it’s the contemptuous attitude from Ottawa that has poisoned the well for as long as many can remember. Alberta and Quebec are mutually maligned in this respect and Harper’s move from the former to the latter would accent this to the point where it could even define the entire election campaign.
Paul Martin is from Windsor Ontario but he claims to be a Quebecer and a few people actually believe him. Stephen Harper is from the West and it’s safe to say that nobody, at first glance would believe that he’s a Quebecer. However, if Mr. Harper reached out to Quebec by running for a seat there and if he reached out in the context of Alberta’s shared common experience of fiscal contempt from Ottawa, Mr. Harper, styled after Kennedy’s 1963 speech from Berlin could proclaim in Montreal, “Je suis Quebecois” and many more would believe him.
Yes, Stephen Harper would definitely be a fish out of water, yet many Quebecers would come to appreciate that he’s very much one of them.
To win an election, one must define it. The Conservative Party should commission a poll in Quebec that simply asks if the Liberal party has done more to help or to hurt national unity. The answer will likely surprise people from Ontario. Stephen Harper should then run the Tory campaign, and indeed define the election, on national unity (everyone will understand Adcam as the subtext). This may win enough seats in Ontario to win at least a minority Conservative government. Its time to pull out all the stops and this idea might be radical enough to make the difference.