Alas, poor Stephen; not only is Quebec insufficiently grateful that he proclaimed it a “nation,” but his party’s fortunes are sliding faster there than a toboggan at the Winter Carnival. According to an Ipsos Reid survey released this past weekend, the Conservatives have dropped five points in Quebec, to a dim 13% support among voters, while both the Bloc Quebecois, at 44%, and the Liberals, at 31%, are up one point. The latter is particularly amazing, given that Stephane Dion is regarded by even soft nationalists as only slightly less odious than would be the second coming of Pierre Trudeau.
If Harper is really serious about getting somewhere in Quebec, he may have to revert to the traditional course for Prime Ministers: bribery. After all, Canada is best run, not as an idea, not as a country even, but as a business. One of the few bright things Chretien did after the near-fatal Quebec referendum was to slap the corporate logo up all over the place, as if to reassure the nation’s shareholders — er, citizens — that they really were getting bang for their buck. Sure, the Gomery Commission revealed that all those “Canada” banners cost a bit more than they should have, but still, they did the trick. And the only thing that ever did the trick better — as Chretien plainly also knew — was tossing a little federal largesse around.
So, an aerospace plant here, a golf course there, and Robert’s son oncle. Harper, however, may be too much of a middle-manager to really get the concept. Today in Mirabel he announced that farmers there may buy back the land exproporiated from them to build the airport back in 1969. Buy, Mr. Prime Minister? We give you money? No no no: that’s not the way it works.
Of course, if Harper ever does start throwing rich contracts Quebec’s way, it’ll piss off his western base even worse than his “Quebec as nation” proclamation. CF-18s, anyone? But until the Bloc finally convinces everyone that the country is unworkable, he should keep in mind that this is the season of giving. And for Prime Ministers, the season of giving never ends.
– Zeff Davies (Eleanor Claire will return)