The NDP and Quebec

The likeliest route to a revival of the Bloc Québécois is a replay of those heady days in 1990

by Paul Wells

When Gilles Duceppe became the first MP elected as a member of the Bloc Québécois in 1990, he went to Ottawa to join a Bloc caucus that already had 8 MPs in it. Which sounds like quite a trick until you remember (or a blogger informs you) that in its earliest days the Bloc was made up of people who’d abandoned other parties’ caucuses: Lucien Bouchard and five other Progressive Conservatives, and Jean Lapierre and another Liberal.

Only two days after Monday’s election, it’s already becoming obvious that the likeliest route to a revival of the Bloc Québécois is some kind of replay of those heady days in 1990. NDP Caucus Services will have its share of challenges over the next little while, but one item on its to-do list should be the preparation of a contingency plan for the bright morning when a dozen or 20 of its Quebec MPs decide Canadian federalism has failed some arbitrary test of its flexibility and it’s time to join the Bloc.

(This sort of fracture of the Quebec NDP caucus is not guaranteed to happen, but it would clearly be handy to plan. Newly-elected NDP MPs are making the sort of deeply unserious comments about which country they live in, or would like to, that we haven’t seen since, well, the days of Lucien Bouchard and Marcel Masse. Here’s one now, allowing as how if “the project” of a seceding Quebec “is interesting,” she’ll “probably” be in favour. Let’s put Mme Latendresse down as undecided.)

On the other hand, Jack Layton is actually getting some very serious reinforcements on this whole question of secession, in the person of Romeo Saganash, his new MP from Nunavik. Saganash has long served on the executive of the Grand Council of the Crees of Northern Quebec, whose 1996 book Sovereign Injustice is a masterful survey of the legal literature and political debate on secession. The book is linked, in several sections, from this page; the introduction, by Saganash’s colleague Matthew Coon Come, is here. The Cree, with the Solicitor General of Canada and the (NDP) government of Saskatchewan, had the most direct influence on the Supreme Court of Canada when they wrote their 1999 decision on the Secession Reference. Saganash will know, or be able to recall from the dusty recesses of memory, more about these issues than anyone in Parliament except perhaps Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper. One hopes his expertise won’t be needed during the life of this Parliament.




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The NDP and Quebec

  1. Hey…Canadians wanted Amateur Hour, and that's exactly what they got.

    Layton will have to borrow duct tape from Harper.

  2. Given that my personal inclination tends to wishful thinking with regards to the NDP's new MPs, I'm actually quite glad of these constant reminders that things could plausibly turn out quite badly.

    Thanks!

  3. Maybe NDP caucus will fracture around who thinks it is good idea to go public with conspiracy theories and those who know it is clever to keep them to yourselves.

    Looks like mixed bag for new caucus – funny that people are complaining about young ones when it was Mulclair who caused most commotion today – google translate mangled cyberpresse article but I am guessing I would not be impressed with Mme Latendresse who I think describes herself as Leninist.

    "The NDP got its first taste of the perils of prominence Wednesday after being forced to handle two public relations disasters as the newly elected Official Opposition.

    While MP-elect Ruth Ellen Brosseau was scrutinized for allegedly filing falsified nomination papers in Quebec, deputy leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, drew gasps when he said he does not believe the United States government has photographs of terrorist Osama bin Laden. He also hinted there may be “more going on,” behind the scenes of his assassination than the U.S. is making known." NatPost, May 4 2011

    • Or as the news said tonight:

      'Stay tuned for the latest news and clarification of the clarification which clarified the earlier story told.'

  4. New MP's coming into parliament is hardly a new phenomenon. Have a little more faith people. If you think any sucker can get elected, why didn't you run?

    I find this snickering at the newness and (supposed) flakiness of the NDP members quite disgusting. All of it coming from people that have never run for office.

    You know what? I'm glad the haters have spared Canada their services.

    • While you certainly won't catch me doing any snickering (I have to do a little work to contain my enthusiasm for Quebec going NDP, I truly think that is the best possible outcome for the country), I also am very glad for these perspective checks:

      Quebec has, in very recent memory, elected and turfed a new party they took for a test drive (the ADQ). Unless the NDP can convince Quebec voters that they represent their values and that they are indeed the best choice for them, it is entirely possible that the NDP gains in Quebec could disappear very, very quickly. Now that they're won those seats, the NDP actually has a pretty tough act to follow since there were a large number of quality Bloc MPs who did good work in Ottawa for their constituents. If these new MPs can't deliver, it could well be an issue.

      And, it seems that more than a few of these new MPs are um, not exactly strong federalists. It'll be very interesting to see how the NDP manage to deal with that, as it has the potential to affect not just their support in Quebec but across the rest of the country as well.

      You don't need to smirk or snicker, or even to disrespect these new MPs to have legitimate concerns about where their election could lead us.

      • The NDP is no ADQ. Maybe new to Quebec, but hardly new to Canadian H o C. Parties are run as voting blocks and there is likely enough people with experience that will know how to whip (hey, I mean in a parliamentary sense!) the new members of caucus. Plus the NDP has lots of depth to draw on with their close provincial affiliates.

        There will be fodder in time for egg on the face for both sides, but to suggest that someone isn't qualified or doesn't really deserve to be in the H o C when the got elected fair and square… not cool.

        PS: I am not suggesting that you hold such an opinion.

        • I agree, but the approach I'll take mentally is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

          PS: Thanks.

    • I find this snickering at the newness and (supposed) flakiness of the NDP members quite disgusting.

      Then get a load of my snickering: Neither the party nor the candidates themselves had any expectation of winning — or, I bet for more than one of them, the desire to win. For being totally unserious about running a real campaign in those ridings, they have earned my snickers. My snickering is extended to the electorate who decided to vote for these phantom candidates.

      • Far be it from me to suggest that there are no grounds for criticism. Nor would I suggest that your inner jackal should not be salivating at the prospect of carrion. But to suggest that the candidates that got elected are not serious about getting elected when they have demonstrated seriousness in allowing their name to stand is illogical. And to suggest that the NDP is not a serious party, having formed and successfully (not always, eh, Mr. Clarke) run governments at the provincial level and having been in Canadian politics as a viable entity thanks to hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer labour by honest and dedicated Canadians for over 60 years is thoroughly disgusting.

        It also needs to be pointed out that, while the NDP in several senses did win, it did not win the PM's post, surely the gold standard of winning in Canadian politics, in this election. So, do try to relax a little and keep things in perspective. As I have said elsewhere, you are far more likely to be disappointed by the CPC's reign than by anything the NDP will be able to accomplish.

        • But to suggest that the candidates that got elected are not serious about getting elected when they have demonstrated seriousness in allowing their name to stand is illogical.

          They were placeholder candidates. Sacrificial lambs. Profit centres(*). Not serious at all. That is how you get your name on list.

          And all the major parties do this. The NDP just has the (mis?)fortune of getting caught.

          (*) "Profit centre" explained: http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/05/04/a-personal-ref

          • Raw recruits have a long history of being fashioned into serviceable troops.

            I'm glad this seems to gall you. Somebody is jealous.

          • Where am I galled that a few of these people might work out well? Try reading what's written; that usually works better than listening to the imaginary voices instead.

            I snicker when unserious candidates end up elected. You continue to ignore just how unserious they were, which is your right. But I must warn you that getting disgusted (over the natural reaction to a real situation) will not work well for you, long-term.

          • If by "try reading what's written" you mean agree with you, then, no I shall not. What I shall do is ignore your petty outbursts and laughable attempts at chastisement springing from my pegging your jealousy.

            Kind regards,
            CS

          • If by "try reading what's written" you mean agree with you

            There you go again. I mean "don't make stuff up."

    • If the new MP's are going to be as thin-skinned as you, it should be even more fun to watch the NDP caucus than I first imagined. Thanks.

      • A rhinoceros has one of the thickest skins in the animal kingdom. It needs it. They make bulls in china shops look graceful. The only response it has to any confrontation is to charge relentlessly forward and hope it can cause more damage than it sustains. Most animals end up leaving it alone. The effort just isn't worth it. The thickness is just too impenetrable.

  5. And speaking of deeply unserious comments, we have Doubting Thomas Mulclaire spouting conspiracy theories. Everyone was waiting for the Honourable Member from Las Vegas to put her foot in her mouth, but Mulclaire was supposed to be one of the adults.

    • You have four years to learn how to spell Mulcair. If the cheap-seats posters here are to be relied on for precedent, it will prove as baffling and elusive a task as spelling "Ignatieff" properly has been.

      • 'Doubting Thomas' is worth a thumbs up though.

      • Sir, I stand humbled and corrected. Here is my Bart Simpsonesque penance:
        His name is spelled Mulcair.
        His name is spelled Mulcair.
        His name is spelled Mulcair.
        His name is spelled Mulcair.

        • How about a little rhyme to help:

          His name is spelled Mulcair.
          Mull the sea and air

        • Thumbs up! I would have also settled for:
          His name was Robert Paulson.
          His name was Robert Paulson.
          His name was Robert Paulson.
          His name was Robert Paulson.

  6. Ladies and gentlemen, the NDP MP for the riding of Sac-a-Merde Qu'est-ce-que-j'ai-fais?

    • I read this as the argument he made to sovereigntist voters, not his personal beliefs. It's actually a pretty winning argument – hey, maybe you do want Quebec to be independent, but it's not, so let's at least participate in Canadian politics in the meantime.

  7. Yeah I guess these youngsters form Quebec may say some unexpected things while the backbench conservatives remain tightly muzzled. It certainly provides great contrast in the House. In the NDP caucus, youth, Quebecers, women on the other side Rob Anders. If the NDP are smart they will define the Harper Govt. out of the gate as old and retrograde, just as Harper defined Iggy as an intellectual early in the game. And as the NDP now have less power than before the election they might as well concentrate on the next election. The Conservatives will be busy trying to dig themselves out the fiscal hole they dug for themselves.

  8. I assume all of the armchair constitutional experts in the room would be perfectly fine with the entire NDP Quebec caucus immediately crossing the aisle to the Bloc, unburdened by lingering doubts as to the legitimacy of such a move. That's how our parliamentary system works, I'm scolded. We elect MPs, I'm told. Learn a little something about the history of parliamentary democracy, I'm admonished. Winston Churchill crossed the floor twice, I'm reminded.

    On the bright side, the people of Quebec put a great deal of thought into precisely which members of the young NDP campus clubs they wanted to represent them, and I'm perfectly willing to assume that they all became federalists overnight.

  9. I'm starting to regret the way I wrote this. I do think a lot of the new recruits are headed for trouble, but I didn't mean Saganash to be an afterthought. He arrives in Ottawa with more interesting and pertinent experience than almost any rookie MP from any party. It's not all a gong show. Maybe not even mostly. And one or two of the absolute rookies might end up looking more like Jean Charest than like Vegas.

    • When I read your piece I didn't take away Saganash as an afterthought. My take-home message was that there were some real diamonds gathered up from the Quebec NDP ranks. At least that was how I read it.

  10. Actually, my initial thought on seeing the NDP success in Quebec was that this is a good
    thing that has the potential to turn out very badly. Kinda like Sherman's march through
    Georgia … they're still fighting that war.

  11. Saganash will be a valuable asset, specifically if secession rears its ugly head. It is too bad that he views Harper in such a negative manner. JMHO, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will become just another entity to register complaints with.

    "Working later on in Government Relations and International Affairs for the GCC, Saganash was able to take his own place in the Declaration's history. He followed and contributed to the process diligently until the UN General Assembly adopted it in 2007.

    However, much to his dismay, while Canada did sign the Declaration recently, Saganash believes it doesn't have much meaning in this country under the Harper government.

    “When you carefully read Canada's endorsement of the Declaration, Harper is essentially saying, ‘Yes we endorse the Declaration but we will continue to do what we do now'.”

    But, Saganash said if the NDP were in charge of government, this would not be the case since it was the NDP in the first place that passed the motion that pushed Harper into signing and party leader Jack Layton who also managed to get the Prime Minister to make the 2008 Residential School Apology."

  12. Then you will have no problem answering my question: Where am I galled that a few of these people might work out well? I submit nowhere, and if you would "try reading what's written" you would have seen no such gall. Hence my subsequent suggestion not to "make stuff up." I await the support you might wish to offer this false claim.

    I shall continue to snicker mightily at these dogs who actually caught the car (they did not even realize) they were chasing. You are free to be as disgusted by that as you wish.

    • Piff. Your recourse to "a few of these" is a prevarication after the fact of your original snickering post. You lie to me and yourself, for the truth of your attitude rests in your "I shall continue to snicker…" paragraph directly above. You tar all of them by assuming with your false conception that "standing for office can be an non-serious act" when you really mean to suggest that they had a low expectation of winning or how it is, given that they seem intent on taking office, evidence of being "Not serious at all."

      I can't for the life of me, figure out why you'd consider the surprise of their winning as grounds for snickering, save to attribute to you a deeply unflattering degree of cynicism.

      • Reading comprehension is not your forte. Let me try repetition:

        For being totally unserious about running a real campaign in those ridings, they have earned my snickers. My snickering is extended to the electorate who decided to vote for these phantom candidates.

        Somewhere in there, you see gall that some may turn out ok.

        • Oh, ho ho, MYL! I didn't say that portion was evidence of your being galled by the events. No, in light of the very first post of mine which you responded to is the unhidden statement that I find such sentiments as you have expressed disgusting. Your gall was extracted as you attempted to defend an extremely unflattering posting that made you look petty and jealous.

  13. Oh, well then, thanks for, uh, clearing that up.

    • Most welcome.

      • some thoughts after reading this little bunfight: 1) madeyoulook should not snicker at Quebec voters, who have a reasonable expectation that a national party should run non-ludicrous candidates. 2) while I am having fun with this as much as anyone, it seems the only truly ludicrous candidate is Vegas Brosseau. The rest of the surprising MPs are merely kids in the NDP club (Lorne Nystrom started that way) or sovereigntists (which aren't ludicrous NDP candidates in and of themselves but evidence of Layton's Mulroney-style deliberate gamble on an alliance with sovereigntists.) 3) Cold Standing, surely we can all agree it's not disgusting to laugh at Vegas Brosseau.

        • As I posted above: Far be it from me to suggest that there are no grounds for criticism. Nor would I suggest that your inner jackal should not be salivating at the prospect of carrion.

  14. There are known diamonds in that group and some of the fresh faces will work out as well. Some will be jaw droppingly awful though, and this should suprise no-one.

    The nationalist card cuts across all ideologies. The removal of it allows for a more traditional line up. But that also means that its reemergence will also cut across lines. And rather than the cons it will hit the NDP, if it comes to that. There is an inherent contradiction in the more centralist version of the NDP and the nationalist leanings of its caucus.

    It may become sovereignty association incarnate. We shall see.

  15. This published article was thoughtful and inciteful and I wish all the "newbies" – a welcome! They come with fresh ideals, fresh ideas and unlimited visions of what could be possible in politics. That they shall have a rude awakening will be for them to discover the world is round, and what people say isn't what they mean. Nevertheless new politicians are freshman or freshwomen and shall learn as they go. Sometimes the old, tried and tired politicians no longer have the spirit to help make things better in our world – but they undoubtedly will. Thank you,

  16. is this the 19 year old kid? he made remarkably savvy comments i thought, even though some nuances got lost in translation. he has a future in Canadian public life.

  17. Truth is, we never know which new MP will become that leading figure in their party or in the House. I think it's more a combination of opportunity, timing and personal acumen than anything particular on their resume. Put the right new MP on the right committee, give them the right parliamentary duties and pray that they've got the right touch of finesse and smarts when it comes to constituency matters, and you just might fashion a legacy MP.

  18. ROMEO SAGANASH TO LEAD THE NDP!
    THE PEOPLE WANT ROMEO!

  19. ROMEO SAGANASH TO LEAD THE NDP!

    THE PEOPLE WANT ROMEO!

    Romeo
    Saganash – admired, respected, astute, seasoned lawyer, seasoned politician, writer, trilingual. If
    Romeo leads,  more people will come, those that haven’t voted, they will
    come, people will change their loyalties. He will be popular in Canada.
    He will be bring with him a renewed vigor and interest in politics, the
    world will follow the progress of the success in anticipation.   LETS
    GO ROMEO!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Romeo-Saganash-For-NDP-Leadership/192438304157779

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