An Unbeautiful Mind


Amid the hysteria, demagoguery and desperation of the last two weeks, there were at least a few attempts to explore the matters of Stephen Harper’s mind and motivation (see here, here and here). A quick review of the testimony.

“He did not do that for ideological reasons. He did it because he wanted to destroy the Liberal party. That’s what it was all about … He pushed away his ideology because he thought he could win … This isn’t the first time he has gone down a road like this … I don’t think he’s a man who possesses a high level of emotional intelligence. He just doesn’t get it … [Like] someone with a drinking problem who falls off the wagon with damaging consequences … When things don’t go Stephen’s way, he has a tendency to go into a really dark place. When things don’t go his way, his reaction is to quit … He is unable to live the Churchillian principles of being magnanimous in victory and defiant in defeat. He’s mixed them up … He got to where he has by being highly partisan and highly disciplined, but to move from a partisan to a statesman, you need a capacity for magnanimity … He’s not a politician. He does not adapt to a popular way of speaking … He is incredibly brilliant but he’s pathologically partisan. He just has this partisan gene that just drives him to poke political foes in the eye at every opportunity … He likes to take everybody to the brink and push the envelope all the time. It’s inherent in his nature … You ask anyone, any objective analyst from any party, they’ll all give you the same answer, it’s all about Harper. He just wants to crush his opponents and to achieve that objective, he triggered this uncalled for crisis.”

In other words, if Stephen Harper had been blessed of above-average athletic ability, he might have had a career in professional sports. Talent in pro sports is obviously important, but it’s a relative truth that ultimate success is largely dependent on a willingness to compete, a consuming desire to surpass your rivals.

(Note, this is different than the ridiculous cliche that Team A beat Team B because Team A “wanted it more.” Team A beat Team B because Team A was better prepared, more talented, more efficient, luckier or some combination thereof. On an individual level though, “competitiveness” matters. If it could be measured, the best performers would almost always turn out to be the most competitive. Michael Jordan was probably the most competitive player in the history of the NBA. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are blessed of various inherent abilities, but they’re the two best players in the NBA right now because of how competitively they approach the game. That desire informs how you prepare, how you work to better yourself, the standards you hold yourself to and how focused you are to the task at hand. At the highest level of any profession, the difference between one person’s performance and another person’s performance comes down to how much and how hard each person works. In sports, that comes down to competitiveness. It sounds like an over-simplification. But sometimes it really is that simple.)

Politics is, in obvious ways, a sport. And on that level, Stephen Harper is an impressive competitor and a formidable opponent. If you wanted someone to manage your run for town council, Stephen Harper would be the guy. He thrives in The Game. And he is most celebrated when politics is discussed in terms of The Game.

But to what degree do we want that in a Prime Minister? If we witnessed anything these last two weeks, wasn’t it the limits of The Game? Or, put another way, didn’t we see what happens when The Game is put first, foremost and only?

I just purchased a copy of Bernard Crick’s In Defence of Politics. I haven’t read much more than a few pages yet, but I gather that one of Crick’s points will be that the political process requires a certain amount of gamesmanship. And that this is quite often for the best; that through The Game and its adversarial nature, we achieve a reasonable kind of governance.

That’s probably true. But it probably assumes a certain balance between The Game and what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, Reality. It probably assumes that The Game is merely the forum through which we pursue things that actually matter; that relate directly to people’s lives, whether they be informed by ideology, objective evidence or personal belief. And, in this case, the political gambit that launched all of this had absolutely nothing to do with anything that actually mattered. The “economic update” was symbolic at best, bordering on the irrelevant. The government conceded as much in the days immediately after when it withdrew the “initiatives” upon which the “update” was based. It appealed only to one person’s desires: Mr. Harper. It sought only one goal: the destruction of the Liberal party.

As a partisan, Stephen Harper is free to pursue such ends. But as a Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is probably supposed to be pursuing something more than the destruction of his political rivals, no?

So. What matters to him? What does he want to do? What vision has he articulated? What has his government shown us? Aside from beating the Liberals, what are his priorities? Does he have any other priorities? Is there anything that comes before that? If there isn’t anything, are we all okay with that?

(Spare me the sarcastic, reflexive, partisan answers to those questions. I ask the above quite sincerely. Whether you believe it or not, 95% of the questions posed here aren’t rhetorical in nature.)

The fate of the coalition, the internal struggles of the Liberal party, the demise of Stephane Dion, the surrender of Bob Rae, the emergence of Michael Ignatieff, the parameters of our parliamentary democracy, the role of the Bloc Quebecois within that… all of these things are terribly interesting. But in the middle of it all, at the start of all this, is Stephen Harper. And through him you can, if you are so inclined, get to all sorts of questions about what it is we’ve got and how it is we’d like it to be.

We know, from what we see and hear, how Stephen Harper understands this thing. And, for sure, politics, for all those obvious reasons, is a sport.

But surely it is not just a sport.


An Unbeautiful Mind

  1. He’s like someone with a drinking problem but he’s not like Churchill?

  2. Well I think Harper’s entire political career has been about destroying the ability of a strong, central government to do good in society.

  3. “Privately, he was highly eccentric with his preference for communing with spirits, including those of Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his dead mother, and several of his Irish Terrier dogs, all named Pat..”

    Guess which Liberal Prime Minister ruled Canada was the longest-serving Prime Minister in British Commonwealth history and is the current model for the party’s unironic sense of entitlement as the “Natural Ruling Party of Canada”?

  4. “So. What matters to him? What does he want to do? What vision has he articulated? What has his government shown us? Aside from beating the Liberals, what are his priorities? Does he have any other priorities?”

    Seems to me that those answers can be found in his essays and speeches during his time prior to becoming an office holder.

  5. Apparently the best source for what matters to Harper is Tom Flanagan.

    So, on that basis I can kinda get Harper.

    But I have a harder time getting Flanagan.

  6. ‘Tisn’t just a sport — but then, you have to judge the results at a distance — look at the state of the country before Harper, look at how it is now, imagine how his rivals in the party or in other parties might have handled the various issues that came up…

  7. Flanagan’s problem is that he craves the spotlight and, as such, doesn’t know when to shut up.

  8. Steve – I’d recommend a book called ” The Strange Case of Hellish Nell”. It shows how such thinking wasn’t confined to King. It was rife throughout the upper classes of Britain at the time.

    Besides, it’s a great book title.

  9. Does Harper fit this criteria?

    ICD-10 Criteria for Dissocial Personality Disorder

    The dissocial personality disorder is described by the World Health Organization by the following criteria:

    1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy.
    2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
    3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
    4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
    5. Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
    6. Marked proneness to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior bringing the subject into conflict.
    7. Persistent irritability.

    The more I watch him the more I wonder. Maybe he is a warm and cuddly sweater-guy in private (I really doubt it) but that certainly isn’t his public image.

  10. What matters to him? What does he want to do? What vision has he articulated? What has his government shown us? Aside from beating the Liberals, what are his priorities? Does he have any other priorities? Is there anything that comes before that? If there isn’t anything, are we all okay with that?

    The lens I’ve always viewed Harper through is the lens that your colleague Paul Wells’ presents. Wells isn’t exactly enamoured with Harper at the moment, but if you’re looking for a central, driving theme to Harper, it seems to me that the obvous one is this:

    To create a centre-right party that can remain competitive in Canadian politics.

    Now, one can argue that this particular goal is a partisan one, but if you have the world-view that Canada is better off with a party that can challenge the Liberals (as I am), than that’s a good goal. It really shouldn’t be the focal point of a prime minister-ship, but it is a good goal.

  11. I’ve never liked Harper, but I used to think he was reasonably competent and I had some respect for him.

    Then the last couple of weeks happened and he screwed around with national unity just to hang on to power. Now I DESPISE him.

  12. Jean it’s because you’re taking your own talking points too seriously

  13. “To create a centre-right party that can remain competitive in Canadian politics.”

    Well, that certainly seems like a reasonable goal for Harper. But if that were really true, if he really was trying to build his party for generations to come, shouldn’t he be encouraging the development of a strong supporting cast? It strikes me that Harper has firmly been a one man show (whether that’s good or bad in a PM is debatable). If he really was trying to build a lasting centre-right party, he should be relying a little more on some of his Ministers and even backbenchers.

    As for vision, my personal opinion (based on absolutely nothing scientific) is that Harper is more of an issue by issue kind of leader, rather than a big vision for Canada type of leader. Obviously he has a certain ideology, but my guess is that he uses that ideology to find solutions to problems, rather than use it to project out some grand future.

  14. Seems to me that those answers can be found in his essays and speeches during his time prior to becoming an office holder.

    I’d agree. Seems Harper has long been motivated by the sheer mediocrity of this country. Coming in third on every measure of excellence is just embarrassing for Stephen Harper.

    If this didn’t come from someone who has had no measurable success, quantitative or qualitative in anything outside of politics (and the final evaluation of that is looking pretty grim at this point), I’d find it an intriguing avenue of enquiry.

  15. Steve Wart – Very few things are more powerful than fear and hatred and Harper has inspired both in spades. It might not be pretty but that’s the truth. He backed people into a corner and now we have no choice but to fight back.

  16. rather than a big vision for Canada type of leader.

    Even though Harper has stated that we wouldn’t recognise Canada when he’s finished?

    I think Harper has a huge vision for Canada. We’re just no allowed to know what it is.

    I despise Harper and have for a long time, of course, but that only solidified and became irremediable at the time of the Iraq invasion.

  17. I think Harper has two goals:

    1. Reduce the role of the national government in the federal system to its bare minimum.

    2. Reduce society’s expectations of government as a director of social evolution.

  18. GREAT post. I think you hit on something important when you wrote “he is most celebrated when politics is discussed in terms of The Game.” That pretty much sums up Harper right there. He is called tactically brilliant, a strategic genius, etc. But I’ve heard almost no one call him a great prime minister, or a great statesman. I don’t even think Rutherford or Adler have gone that far.

  19. I think Harper has a huge vision for Canada. We’re just no allowed to know what it is.

    We can catch glimpses though. I think what we’ve seen of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the free trade agreements with the EU and Columbia, the ongoing interference with environmental pacts, the move to industry-led food inspections… I think the vision is of a mini-USA.

    I think there is a deep respect for the US among right-wingers. I think they identify with the American right wing and envy their power and wealth. Mike Harris explicitly pointed to Michigan as his model for Ontario.

    This is reflected in Harper’s adoption of right-wing political tactics. The population is to be split down right-left lines and those on the right will absorb their conservativeness as tribal identity. Those on the left are to be mocked and feminized and – due to the messy, policy-focused nature of the left – will struggle to provide a dead-simple message appealing to the id of the undecided.

    It worked for the Republicans for 15 years. It continues to work – if GWB hadn’t been such an overwhelming failure and if Obama hadn’t been such a compelling candidate, the Republican party would *still* be in power.

    It’s pretty terrifying to see Canadians robotically repeat talking points fed to the by the right, just like American right-wingers do. The talking points are not questioned, and cannot be challenged even when they’re abject falsehoods. There’s no attempt to form one’s own opinion; membership in the right-wing tribe requires wholesale acceptance of party spin. You can see it here, you can see it on right-wing blogs, you can hear it on call-in radio shows.
    It’s a race to the bottom, just like we witnessed south of the border. I’ve watched it closely since the 2000 election debacle and I have no idea how the left can fight political actors who simply don’t care about what’s good for the country and don’t mind creating a devastating split among the population.

  20. I’ve given up being *fascinated* by the psychology of the Right. I do however, never cease to wonder why the lies coming from the Right are not more robustly challenged in the media? Harper’s been lying for years now, and it’s only recently that we’re seeing the “L-word” being used by mainstream commenters.

    Of course, quite a while ago, Andrew Coyne used his own blog to carefully caution the rest of us about calling Harper a liar. Therein lies the problem.

  21. This just in … we’ve officially crossed the threshold and have now each spent more time thinking about what Stephen Harper thinks than Stephen Harper ever has.

  22. Alan: “But if that were really true, if he really was trying to build his party for generations to come, shouldn’t he be encouraging the development of a strong supporting cast?”

    The way I look at it, there are two ways to do this.

    The first is as you suggest: build a strong supporting cast. The problem being if one of the cast doesn’t share your view of the final goal as the most important item and decides that their ambition is. Chretien and Martin are, in some ways, a good example of the potential perils of a strong supporting cast.

    The other is to remove the competition and then worry about the supporting cast. If there’s no one around to effectively oppose you, then supporting cast doesn’t matter as much. It’s still somewhat important, but you can take your time building it up after there’s no one around to worry about pulling it all down on you.

    If you (general you) believe that a competitive centre-right party is Harper’s goal, then the latter would appear his route.

  23. One of the contradictions with Harper’s agenda to reduce the power of government in our lives is that he has to wield that power to achieve it. He is therefore bound to be a more focused game player in pursuit of his goals than his philosophy really supports. He has to play a game that he does not really enjoy and has no natural aptitude for.

    This contradiction has ended up making him pretty ugly sometimes, and has led to him to make some clumsy moves. This is in contrast to Chretien, who seemed to relish his position and to find the opportunity to wield power enjoyable in itself. Chretien liked being Prime Minister in a way that Harper really doesn’t seem to. Also, Chretien’s long career taught him how to be patient and to deal with defeat as a natural part of the political cycle. Harper sees defeat as catastrophic and is prepared to do anything to avoid it.

    it would actually be more pleasant for all concerned if Harper did see politics as sport, rather than the ideological struggle that he makes it.

    All comparisons to Churchill are way off base

    Personally, I prefer Harper’s agenda to Chretien’s (and Iggy’s), but he makes it very hard to defend,since he arouses so much personal antipathy with his attitude and approach.

  24. All the pundits unfairly judge the PM, I think.
    He is leader of a party that for better or for worse has had to Govern in the most rarest of events of minority situations. With a fresh Conservative party that has been out power for over a decade and a country that is largely to the left.
    Is there a format that a PM can use in this situatioin. An example to follow. No and No
    To have a complete judgment of PM Harper he would be fair to see how he performs with a majority mandate. More the norm in Canada.

  25. I am right of centre, but I like it when my government has a (published) strategic vision for the country. This government is nothing but gimics (eg. transit pass tax credits).

  26. An aside: this notion that Harper put the fundraising thing in the Update JUST to destroy the Liberals is likely false. For starters it would not have permanently decimated them. Yes, it would have hurt them greatly in the short term. But long term, nobody seriously doubts that the Liberals would have been able to eventually get their grassroots fundraising in order. The fundraising proposal would have hurt the Bloc – and the separatist movement in general — FAR more than it would have hurt anybody else. The Bloc, needing to only focus on one province (for both on-the-ground staffing and advertising) gets all the money it could ever need from the $1.95-a-vote method. And thus the PQ is able to have the donors all to themselves. Harper’s proposal would thrown this nice cushy arrangement completely out of whack. Again, it’s the separatist movement that would have been hurt the most by the elimination of public financing. Strangely, this point has been lost on most of the media.

  27. Patrick: You mean that was Duceppe in the two year “Not-A-Leader” campaign? Huh. Looked like Dion to me.

  28. He’s gone to long lengths to say he isn’t the man of those past statements, pre-2001. But while Harper disassociates himself from his real beliefs with the theory that they are politically unpalatable, like a logical warrior, he continues to take the stance of someone who has spent a lot of time being ignored.
    His efforts to find a core message or symbolic vision for what his government believes in — the northern star, Canada is back, etc, — haa neither galvanized the nation nor been expanded upon other than as an advertising slogan. I think that reveals a piece of the troubling puzzle about him — that he wants to succeed at all costs, but currently has no faith in us to give it to him ‘on his terms.’
    Show me any evidence that he’s willing to govern Canadians as a whole; nearly every time he faces opposition, including from outside parliament, his instinct is to marginalize, divide and thrash. Those instincts may work on the battlefield or as a situational response, but not when the nation is looking for reasons to feel ‘led.’
    Instead of marginalizing his opponents with warm embraces and tough love, he lashes out. You couldn’t say that he’s completely focused on his conservative base, not with his free-spending, fiscally questionable policies. He tries to sell us all vacuum cleaners this week, tupperware next week, and always throws in a punch to the opposition.

  29. It’s unlikely that Harper can change his basic character, which includes his constant need to bash those he perceives as his enemies using any kind of base ammunition he can find. And his enemies are so numerous – anyone who is not a Conservative seems to be on the list. The Conservatives are still fund-raising using negative tactics – this was posted on another blog site this afternoon. I quote:

    “Yesterday afternoon, as a member of the Conservative Party, I received another “donate or Canada is doomed” email from Doug Finley (National Campaign Chair) which includes the following passage:
    “Make no mistake: Stephane Dion, Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe will continue to do whatever it takes to force their coalition into power. From day one, the Liberals’ backroom coalition has been nothing but a naked power grab.”

    The most glaring example of a naked power grab was Harper’s attempt to get a majority by calling an election when he had said he would not. . He failed – and he will fail gain

  30. Harper’s fault is that he can only listen to and internalize input that reinforces his cast in concrete opinions.
    That’s why he surrounds himself with fellow travellers and sycophants.
    That is why he is congenitally incapable of admitting when his was wrong and his judgement was faulty.

    now – lined against him is a man whose training in life has been flights of unfettered intellectual ruminations – who is now hobbled by too many advisors behind the scenes telling to watch yourself here and watch yourself there…

    I saw those fetters change Jean Cretien from an inspirational speaker to one – who when working from a script – sounded boring and uninspiring – and who only sounded like he was speaking from the heart when speaking mischieviously about golf balls!

  31. Why over complicate things?

    It is simple.

    The Liberal Party under Jean Chretien was an organized crime syndicate. It stained our national institutions with it’s filth, from the courts, to the RCMP, to the BDC, to Canada Post, to the Mint, to HRDC to our Embassies. It left nothing untouched with its malignance and malfeasance. In the middle of this cesspool of criminal garbage the pig Chretien told those of us hardworking honest Canadians who pay our taxes and don’t break the law that we weren’t good Canadians if we weren’t Liberal. Something inside me snapped that day, and I have recognized since that day that Liberals are the enemy of my country and must be hurt at all times and in any way. If its Liberal, it suffers.

    Maybe he’s just pissed off like me.

  32. Michael
    Dec 10, 2008 14:06

    “Well I think Harper’s entire political career has been about destroying the ability of a strong, central government to do good in society.’

    Whoa! Well said.

  33. Peter – Wow, are you ever a zealot. You have confused Chrétien with Sadaam Husein or someone. Get a grip dude, get a grip.

    By the way it seems to me that the West did okay in the Chrétien-Martin years. How does that jibe with your world view. Let me guess: everything good that happens to the West is due to the hard worth ethic of the reg’lar folk who live out there (and nothing to do with the good fortune of sitting on a shitload of old dinosaur bones), and everything bad that happens is due to the scheming, criminal, Quebec-loving, possibly homosexual, artsy fartsy welfare bums out East. Is that it? Is that really how you see things? Man you need a bib.

  34. Ignatieff’s aura of great intelligence is highly overrated, to say the least.

    Ask the man one question, and see how inspiringly intelligent his answer is.

  35. Francien – Is that your high fallotin’ “logic” at work? Because it seemed like a cheap, unsubstantiated personal attack to me.

    ‘Ignatieff isn’t really as smart as people think’. is that what you’ve been reduced to?

  36. Jean,

    I hereby offer you the challenge to set the record straight:

    What in Ignatieff’s newsconferece today amounts to intelligent answers?

    Would it be that only Harper bears complete responsibility?

    Perhaps you consider Iganatieff’s answer to be highly intelligent. We then merely differ on what the meaning of intelligence is to be all about.

  37. Give up arguing with Mijnheer Verhoeven, people. The Dutch consider themselves the smartest, most perfect people on Earth.

  38. Ti-Guy for someone who routinely channels Warren Kinsella you’re taking some surprising liberties with this site’s terms of use.

  39. Aaron,

    I had not read you intro to the topic. My mistake because I think the subject you touch upon might hold the key to what has played itself out over the past few weeks, months, or perhaps years.

    I believe that Harper is very competative. But I also believe that he did not enter into Canadian federal politics to tow the line of old style politics.

    This country of ours is a very complex political entity, and for so many years likeminded partisan politics has left its marks. Quite deep marks, I must add.

    This country finds itself at considerable crossroads at a time when communication between people also finds itself at considerable cross roads.

    When during the past few years of minority Conservative goverments, major attempts have been made to appease a Quebec nation, outside of complete constitutional overhauling, and many attempts have been successfull, although taken in small steps, then when we look at the past election and what do we find:

    The Conservative had proposed to publically name the hardest of youth criminals, and to hand the judges of our courts additional leverage for sentencing, nothing more and nothing less,

    and the Conservatives had proposed a reshufling of arts funding just before the election campaign, which in reality amounted to an overal increase for arts funding,

    Yet, these two items, the increased option for youth sentencing and naming, and the reshufling of arts funding, had managed to completely derail the campaigns of all parties because:

    Duceppe had managed to mangle the proposed changes into two one-second sound-bites: the cons want to lock up all youth, and the arts are killed off.

    The old style politics meant that sensative issues, such as holding opinions differing from Quebec’s majority of opinion, must not be brought to the fore. The old style Canadian politics still believes, and firmly believes, that the ROC must at all time be overly sensitive to Quebec’s sensitivities.

    Harper does not want to play that role. I believe he is asking this country to have an open debate without letting one province slip in through the back door and be able to hold more and more power without being asked to participate fully within a Canadian debate.

    The fact that Harper comes from the west has nothing to do with his particular take on things, but the fact that he believes old politicking is the wrong way to fall back into might explain some of his most recent moves.

    Personally I think he has done a superb job of trying to pry open this room of silence in which backroom decision-making sets the tone for Canada as a whole.

    Harper is a modern man who wants a modern Canada, in which all regions count and are given the rights to hold onto cultures specifically to the regions. But in order to accomplish the new direction for a truly united Canada, we must not be afraid to have issues open on the table.

    His proposal to do away with party subsidies would indeed have hurt the Liberal party and the BQ the most, but leaving the party subsidies in place forms THE biggest obstacle within the attempst of setting Canada on a progressive roadmap.

    The fact that the Liberals do not have their internal financial house in order, should not be blamed on Harper, ever.

    But what is even more shocking is the fact that the media was more ready to come to the rescue of an ailing party (the Liberals not being able to fundraise at all) then to come and see the reality of federal subsidies being handed out to a provincial party participating within federal elections. In other words, most in the media across this country had found it more important to hide the Liberal shortcomings than admitting as much that federal taxdollars are being doled out to prop up a party, the BQ, which then must be competed against within federal elections. If that does not ask for competitive spirits, than what is it that we need? More old style back-room deals being piled up on one another, pretending to make things better?

    Dreaming about a truly united Canada is one thing but actually making the right decisions in practice is quite another. I think Harper is fully prepared to engage the nation, if the nation is ready to take on the challenge likewise.

  40. Francien – Ha! The mask is off and the real face of Conservatism is finally revealed. it Is all about putting Quebec in its place (unless it cooperates of course and gives Harper his majority so he can do what he likes to the ROC). Ugly, ugly, ugly.

  41. No, Harper does not want to set Quebec in its place; only Quebeckers can do that themselves.

    No specific culture survives if the self is not engaged. The rest of Canada cannot create a Quebec distinct culture; only the Quebeckers themselves can do that.

    No distinct culture should harbour the idea that outside adoration can make their culture flourish. Because such ideas create an aversion, namely that the Quebec culture will come to stand on the crutches of a victim-player.

    That does not bode well for the people of Quebec and it does not bode well for the ROC

  42. Quebec is already a distinct society, already has a distinct culture and is already a “special” semi-independent jurisdiction. It is the only Canadian province that is also home to a nation (unless you count Newfoundland or the First Nations). This is already a reality and has been for a long-time. The only thing missing is for us, as Canadians, to realize this and to change the form of the constitution to reflect the reality on the ground. But its no big deal if we do or not. The on-the-ground reality is what really matters.

  43. <<<<The on-the-ground reality is what really matters.<<<<<<<<


    So why, if Quebec is already entreched as being a nation of Quebecois, then why do the people of Quebec feel it is necessary to vote for a provincial party when deciding in federal elections?

    Do the people of Quebec not want to vote for a party which offers a national outlook? After all, they do have a provincial parliament as well. And they don’t have to vote for the federal Conservatives if they don’t want to. They could vote for the LPC, the NDP or Greens.

    Yet, they choose to send BQ members to the Canadian parliament, our House where national matters are discussed.

    Why would they want to select to be represented by members of the BQ who have no platform to offers on national affairs? None, whatsoever.

  44. We agree Francien! Finally! I too agree that Quebecers would be better served by voting for the Liberals, NDP, Greens, heck maybe even the Conservatives. I imagine the only reason they continue to support the BQ is because of identity politics and because the other federal parties are splitting the anti-BQ vote.

  45. I wonder, Jean, if the non-BQ parties couldn’t come to some kind of agreement about not running against each other in Quebec — they could keep their current seats and divide the other ridings among themselves. Or would that just irritate Quebeckers? Seems to me they would all pick up a few seats at least.

  46. So why federally subsidize the BQ against which the real federalist parties must compete against?

    First the Liberals want to subsidize the BQ for running within federal elections and then they go out and compete against that provinvial party.

    That would be like Canadian tax dollars being used to fight itself. No, actually, it IS Canadian tax dollars being used to fight itself.

    Does your Liberal party think that is a wise way for spending Canadian tax dollars during these tough economic times?

  47. Jack,

    you take the cake!

    In order to circumvent the real discussion of why a provincial party should be propped up by federal subsidies, you find it better to let truly federal parties form some sort of pact to counter the BQ.

    I am amazed at how far Canadians are willing to go before the real issues are allowed to be discussed.

  48. Francien, it’s quite simple. Quebec separatists, even the most firebreathing kind, pay Canadian tax dollars. As long as they’re Canadian citizens, electing Canadian MP’s (yes, the Bloc MP’s are Canadian MP’s), you’re simply obliged to treat them like every other MP.

  49. Francien, you can’t unilaterally decide to “get tough” with Quebec. Believe me, that will quickly lead to Quebec’s independence. Do you want that?

  50. Jack Mitchell – That’s an interesting suggestion and I have contemplated something similar myself. However it would have to be handled just right or else it would look like all the federal parties were ganging up on Quebec nationalists and a tribal counter-reaction would kick in. It is always very important to maintain a a distinction between sovereigntists and nationalists. But that is easier said that done.

    People from the ROC often seem to feel that Quebec is split more or less 50/50 between sovereigntists and federalists. It is much more complicated than that. Almost every francophone Quebecer is a Quebec nationalist. That nationalism can choose to express itself through support for sovereignty but it does not have to do so. I guess what i am trying to say is that Quebecers have very mixed feelings about Canada and about Quebec independence. This is not so much a sign of confusion however, rather it is an expression of the complexity taht characterizes our post-modern landscape.

    Of and of course there is still a large portion on non-francophones living in Quebec, including a still sizable anglophone community. People forget about that too.

  51. Jack Mitchell – Francien probably does want that. It is more important for him that things be simple and black-and-white rather than the country stay together. Who cares about Canadian unity when you can have ideological purity?

  52. What I want is a PM who does not have to compete with a provincial party within federal elections. I want a country in which federal parties face off against other federal parties. If the BQ wants to run within federal elections, they should present a national platform. And if BQ wants to have a seat at the governing table of my federal government, then they better have a national outlook to present during election time.

  53. Thanks, Jean, for the insight. Yes, I had a feeling it wouldn’t really work. I guess the problem is that Duceppe & Co. are so practiced at using trivial issues to stir the pot that if you gave them a real issue, like “The Bloc vs. Them,” they’d just take it and run with it.

    If only the Greens and the NDP would stop running in Quebec. If only there were another Quebec nationalist party to split the Bloc vote! Ah well.

    So, do you think Iggy will appeal to francophone Quebeckers? He’ll be the first Liberal leader in a long time with a noticeable accent in French, right? (I know Martin wasn’t perfect, but he sounded a bit weird in English too; also he claimed to be a Quebecker.) Sponsorship rather skewed the stats, but you’d have to go back a heck of a long way to find a non-francophone Liberal leader who did well in Quebec — Pearson? Mackenzie King? I.e. pre-Quiet Revolution! Well, here’s hoping the Count can pull it off.

  54. I am a Canadian first and foremost. I do not wish for one region of this country to be able to have the ear of the federal government BEFORE other provinces have a chance to be heard equally.

    It is that simple.

    You may not like my preference for a united Canada, but there it is!

  55. Francien, Jean Proulx and I would also prefer it if the Bloc did not exist. The problem is, it does, and it appears to be here to stay for at least another decade. Wishing it away does not help.

    On the plus side, it’s encouraging to see how quickly the ADQ went up in smoke. Quebeckers have an amazing ability to just say, collectively, “You’re done.” They might say it to Duceppe, eventually. The key thing would be to overcome the Bloc’s appeal in the next five years, before it becomes a generational institution. Quebeckers are very reluctant to do away with generational institutions.

  56. If only Canadian tax dollars wouldn’t be wasted for fighting iself.

  57. I am not against the BQ. If they want to run as a party during federal elections, that is their right. But why should we finance such party? What exactly is the purpose of that?

  58. Francien . . . Try and understand this: within “Canadian tax dollars” are also “Quebec nationalist tax dollars.” The party subsidy is based on votes cast. Many Quebeckers voted, alas, for the Bloc. All those Quebeckers pay Canadian taxes. You are not being ripped off. YOUR tax dollars are not being used to fund the Bloc.

    Feel better?

  59. Jack – I am very optimistic about Ignatieff’s appeal to francophone Quebecers. I think they will love him.

    Nevertheless there are a lot of parties out there competing for votes with the BQ.

    In addition not everyone in the Liberal Party has as sophisticated an understanding of Quebec nationalism as someone like Ignatieff. This has hurt us before. I am hopeful he can educate Liberals about Quebec nationalism and show them that it is not something to be feared.

    Finally there is the fact that the Liberal Party has some substantial baggage in Quebec. Hopefully we have reached a point in our history now where people are willing to forgive past arguments and move on in a constructive direction. I think it may help a lot that Harper has just shown Quebecers what a really chauvinistic and small-minded Canadian nationalist looks like.

  60. >>>>YOUR tax dollars are not being used to fund the Bloc<<<<

    Come again!!!!

    That statement is false.

  61. Francien – How about if its phrased this way…

    ‘The tax dollars of Quebec sovereigntists are being used to fund parties like the Conservatives and Liberals. That’s not fair!!!!!!’

  62. Quebec sovereintists would prefer not to send any tax dollars to Ottawa but nevertheless as long as Quebec remains part of Canada they follow the law and they DO send tax dollars to Ottawa.

    Its just a question of putting yourself in the shoes of the other party. You can do that, right? Think of it as mental exercise.

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