So today, on an imminent challenge from the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservative government tabled a motion today that defined Quebec as a nation within Canada but one that would never been independent of it.
Predictably, western conservatives are upset with their adopted son who now governs from Ottawa. Predictably, Gilles Duceppe is upset with the rug that’s been pulled out from beneath his feet.
Stephen Harper has been playing with the notion of Quebec nation since at least the time that his caucus met at the Citadelle in Quebec City. Some say the Bloc forced federalists into this resolution, however there are political factors to consider as well.
First, this puts Harper’s preferred Liberal candidate Michael Ignatieff in a good position. Ignatieff will get some credit for being the Liberal leadership contender to “initiate” this latest round of discussing Quebec’s nation status.
This also bodes well for Stephane Dion who could split the delegates firmly into his camp if he chooses to continue to adamantly defend his position that Quebec is indeed not a nation (at least constitutionally), not within Canada, not independent. Ignatieff of course wanted to define Quebec as such in a constitutional sense. The Prime Minister (and the HoC’s) declaration of Quebec as a nation is merely a sociological distinction.
Has the Prime Minister, in essence, shifted the Liberal leadership race off the axis of Ignatieff-Rae to Ignatieff-Dion? And in doing so, has Harper forced the Liberals to pick his preferred candidate?
Does Harper’s play today also appeal to the true notion of asymmetrical federalism? Will we see a western nation, a northern nation?
Does this also play into a model of reform for the Senate of Canada, a model which would emphasize regional and cultural minorities (such as Quebec)? This track of reform has been discussed for over 100 years.
Constitutional measures are not supposed to be taken on a whim so does this fall into a pre-planned larger redefinition of the Canadian dominion? Then again, this doesn’t appear to be Ignatieff-envisioned constitutional measure, but merely a sociological distinction to recognize the Quebec people as a people.
The question remains… does this have constitutional repercussions for Canada, or is it a subtle position that means nothing of the sort but appeases the desire for some in Quebec to be recognized if only as a concept? If Harper were to form a majority government, his planned legacy may be to put Canada’s constitutional house in order. But, if this is merely a sociological distinction, is today’s news non-consequential to any type of reform?
This, of course, raises many questions for debate in the future. Many of which are unanswered at this early stage.
UPDATE: No news release yet from the Ignatieff camp on today’s news. Is he refining his position again?
UPDATE: After watching a few more press conferences, I’m starting to rethink Dion’s chances here. This will take a huge bite out of Dion if the Liberal caucus buys this nation business wholesale. One thing’s for sure, Dion is up tonight thinking about how next week can unfold. Will Dion fight the nation resolution or could he even drop out of the leadership race as early as tomorrow? How on Earth can he run to lead a party that will wholeheartedly support this motion?
UPDATE: Looks like everyone is treading lightly even Dion:
Harper’s proposal also won the approval of Stephane Dion, the lone Quebec contender who has fiercely criticized the Liberal approach on the issue. He said Harper’s motion is “very close” to a compromise he’s been floating among Liberal leadership candidates.
Dion said Harper’s recognition of Quebecers as a nation, is more in keeping with the sociological sense of the word, whereas the Liberal resolution is more ambiguous, suggesting Quebec is a “nation-state.”
Looks like Dion’s still going to fight on. He’ll certainly lose delegate support on this though. Warren Kinsella also looks at the man that now finds himself tied in a knot.