Be very afraid … Prime Minister Harper wants to woo Quebec!

Yikes! Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper: It’s always dangerous when Conservatives decide to counter threats to national unity. Below. W.L. Mackenzie King.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Why should you be afraid, you wonder? It’ll be right there on the front pages of tomorrow’s Alberta newspapers: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heading to Quebec to, in the words of Postmedia News, “counter a potential threat to national unity.”

Now, it’s never a good thing in this country when Conservatives start messing with the national unity file. Those of us who were around at the time saw what happened when Brian Mulroney succumbed to this temptation – and Mr. Mulroney was reasonably well intentioned, at least as far as Quebec’s role in Confederation went.

But Mr. Harper, it is said here, is not all that well intentioned, and he sure as heck has a tin ear when it comes to what will play in la belle province.

But naturally our dour neo-Con prime minister wants to save his own political skin – what with Thomas Mulcair and the New Democratic Party continuing to hold onto their lead in Quebec public opinion – so this dangerous foray into French-speaking Canada was probably inevitable.

To hear Mr. Harper’s friends tell it, the PM merely has an image problem, and it’s not his fault. He’s practically the next William Lyon Mackenzie King, some of them say, an unloved but effective strategist.

“Party supporters say Quebecers generally agree with the Conservative government’s economic policies, but the problem comes from personal attacks and criticism directed at Harper that rarely draw a response from the government,” intoned the friendly Postmedia stenographer in what’s bound to typical of the coverage of the PM’s upcoming charm offensive – an oxymoron, come to think of it, that’s astonishingly appropriate for what is likely to happen.

But one of those friends had a more revelatory quote about the mood in Quebec: “People hate the guy,” Postmedia quoted a veteran Conservative organizer from Quebec explaining. “They really hate him. They think he’s got horns and a tail and eats babies, and I’m sure Harper has no idea that this is the case.” (Emphasis added.)

Sorry, but his doesn’t sound like Mackenzie King to me. The trouble, from the perspective of the prime minister’s professional spinners, is that it’s what the prime minister actually stands for that really seems to bug Quebeckers.

Remember, Mr. Harper and his coterie are the people who repeatedly told tout le monde Quebec to bug right off on the topic of the long-gun registry, and who indeed continue to do so, the better to play wedge politics in the last federal election and the next one. The arts? Ditto. Afghanistan? Ditto. F-35s? Ditto. The environment? Ditto. Neo-conservative economic calls for the privatization of everything? Well, maybe ditto there too, or at least enough agreement to get some good pot bashing going in certain parts of town on a Saturday night. And, yeah, I think you can add “Dutch Disease” to that list too.

Hell, maybe they don’t even like it in Quebec that this government seems determined to kick the crap out of refugees who wash up on our shores to win a few votes in some of the more backward corners of the West.

Let’s face it, Mr. Harper’s problem with Quebec may not be that the criticisms directed at him are unjustly effective – it may be that Quebec’s voters are actually paying attention to what he says and does!

Well, nobody’s going to accuse us of paying attention out here in Alberta! (Jason Kenney, c’mon down!)

What’s dangerous about this charm offensive is that it’s being mounted by the most divisive prime minister in Canadian history – quite willing to pit one region of the country against another for transitory electoral advantage. (And never mind his projecting his own strategies onto Mr. Mulcair, who had the temerity to speak the obvious truth about the impact of Canada’s petro-loonie on its manufacturing regions.)

Facing a tough and focused opponent for the first time in a spell, he’s likely to do or say anything to hang onto his majority.

Add this to his tone deafness on Quebec and his now-closeted history as a firewall-touting Western independentiste, something that’s bound to be useful to genuine Quebec separatists, and you can see how this adventure has the potential to end badly for everyone.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

9 Comments on "Be very afraid … Prime Minister Harper wants to woo Quebec!"

  1. Ian says:

    Quebec is paying attention. And they have found the Conservatives, and Mr. Harper, just not up to the job of running Canada. They see the NDP-NPD, and Mr. Mulcair, as a more viable alternative.

    The irony is that, even though the rest of Canada may view Quebec as a separatist province, it is Quebec that wants a united Canada.

  2. ck says:

    As a Quebecer, I can say the only way Harper can improve his image is to resign; retire; take an indefinite vacation. Ok, I’m sort of kidding here. Sort of being the operative phrase here. For those ridings who did vote in Conservative MPs, did so because of the candidate and has very little to do with Harper. Maxime Bernier, I believe still rides the coat tails of his father–former PC MP for the Beauce, Gilles Bernier. Even then, he did see his vote count go down the last election. I venture to say that should Bernier leave politics, that the Conservative vote count over there would go down even further, again, depending if they pick another home grown star or not. Just an example.

    Peter White has been a staunch critic of Harper’s for a very long time now. When he says that “people really hate the guy”, you can bet that he includes himself in that group.

  3. Holly Stick says:

    I like the part about Mulroney knowing Quebec. He might know Quebec, but he sure didn’t handle it so well.

  4. Holly Stick says:

    Oops, I got that from a different article, about Harper having a secret meeting with Mulroney: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/22/stephen-harper-brian-mulroney/

  5. Anna says:

    Harper won’t get anywhere with Quebec because you are right he is hated there and they would separate in a heartbeat if it meant another term of harper’s insults. And B.C. may well follow. It too will not stand for the inevitable oil spill which would come from the Gateway. This is the only means to stop a government bent on selling our assets to foreigners at the expense of jobs in Canada and any other industry besides oil. The national interest is a lie. harper is out for global corporate interests and the only way to inure oneself from his monumental changes is to separate.

  6. the salander says:

    Quebec has enacted a moratorium on fracking .. that can’t sit well with a Prime Minister invested and ensconced by petro-partners in China and neighboring US of A .. Can’t have neighboring New York get into line along with Pennsylvania and North Dakota about fracking yet have the Quebecois declare ‘non, merci’ ..

    In case you missed the inference in previous comments, it appears that Stephen Harper has awarded China and American interests, a distinct influence on our domestic affairs involving the tar sands, logging, and any related environmental issues or native Canadian life forms.. influence higher than Canadians actually have ….

    Our Environmental Laws have been repealed and replaced by vague and confused political edicts, the scientists and wildlife managers that would contest them, fired… Let go .. Gone …

    Hell a Loo Ya ………..

    Steve.. you’re a real eastern pig …. oink oink …
    when you and your ugly friends snort from the trough..
    it would be funny .. maybe
    if it wasn’t happening in Canada …..

  7. Alex P says:

    Who had last week in the hell freezing over pool, please claim you prize.

  8. fubar says:

    Agree with ck on this one.

    Harper has completely alienated Quebec, and is slowly (too slowly to my thinking) pissing-off the rest of Canada.

    I think that Mulcair / NDP victory in the next election can be laid at Harper’s door. He just doesn’t get it and keeps not getting it. How else can you explain a plurality (39%) majority, and a rush to piss-off the soft centre of that vote that got you elected? He will be crushed in the next election.

  9. needabreak says:

    Just what the country needs is an NDP federal government. They put Ontario in debt with their socialist handout. We could all quit our jobs because the government will take care of us. Government has to get out of business and stick with governing.

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