Saturday, March 22, 2014

Some thoughts

Resignation of Mr. Flaherty:  This is a man who inherited a $13 billion surplus from the last Liberal government and managed to turn it into a $20 billion dollar deficit in two years, during good economic times and before the 2008 recession.  Squandering $33 billions in that amount of time takes talent, hard work and dedication.  That fact should put everything else he did as Finance Minister into perspective.

Resignation of Alison Redford:  She was probably the reason for the surprise win of the Alberta PCP a couple of years ago.  Such a feat should have earned her some loyalty from her caucus and other bigwigs in the party but that was not the case.  That might be why some of the statements from the announcement of her resignation was her giving the rhetorical middle finger to her former colleagues.  I would not be surprised to see the PCPofA relegated to the Opposition benches next time, which really is where they should have gone the last time.

Stephen Harper:  Just got owned by the SCC. 

Quebec election:  Still a lot of time to go but the election is not unfolding as Ms. Marois would have liked.  She is still going to win, maybe even a majority government, but I imagine there is a fair amount of angst amongst the PQ election team at the moment.  As well, it is probably becoming safer to say that the leader of the PLQ does not have to worry about his job after April 7.  He has done a pretty good job for someone that has only been a party leader for about a year.

Liberal nomination battles:  It always amazes me what Liberals fight each other about.  They tie themselves in knots and make themselves look stupid for the most trivial of reasons.  Here is a free piece of information for Liberals.  None one cares how political parties pick their candidates.  Really they don't, so why some Liberals have chosen this particular hill to die on just leaves me shaking my head.  As well, to the Liberals of T-S you have no hope of winning that riding in any by-election anyway.  There is no way the NDP is going to allow the riding last held by the wife of Jack Layton to get away from them.  The amount of resources they will pour into that riding will be ridiculous. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quel Surprise!

Well that did not take long.  Early in the first week of the Quebec election campaign Ms. Marois had to give the usual non-answer to the question of whether she will hold a referendum if she wins a majority government.  This has been a pattern for leaders of the PQ since the 1995 referendum loss.

You really cannot blame her. 

There is an aging and shrinking minority of Quebecers who support independence as a matter of principle and they expect a PQ premier to make it happen.  If Ms. Marois actually came out and stated that she would not hold a referendum because it is likely that she could not manufacture the "winning conditions" during a four year term there is a real threat that these people would stay home on election day and without them Ms. Marois loses.

Unfortunately for her, the broader Quebec society does not want another referendum and I would even say that at the moment they have no interest in independence.  This applies not just to federalists but to many of those Quebecers who would describe themselves as Quebec nationalists.  These folks care more about such things as the economy and other issues not having to do with independence and they do not want another round of divisive, acidic independence debates to divert attention away from those issues.

Hence the waffling on the referendum question from Ms. Marois.

Ms. Marois will probably win the election for the simple reason that Quebecers are probably not ready to hand the government back to the Quebec Liberals so soon after turfing them out.  Enough Quebecers probably still believe that the Liberals have not had a sufficient enough time out from government yet.

So will Ms. Marois call a referendum if she wins a majority government?  Probably not.

As I stated in my last post the next referendum, if it happens, will be the last regardless of the outcome and the PQ has to win it or they pretty much lose their reason for existence.  In addition they will have to win a decisive enough victory in any referendum to prevent those who lost from using the Clarity Act to fight results

How can they do that?  Pick a fight with the Feds?  On what issue?  Others before her tried but really there is just no issue out there that has the ability to fire up the passions of Quebecers enough for them to consider independence.

In addition, for any referendum to succeed the PQ must convince some of the ethnic groups around Montreal to back independence as the 1995 referendum demonstrated.  There are just not enough Fracophone Quebecers willing to take the chance on independence to carry the day on their own.  They need to convince some francophone ethnic groups as well.

That will be hard to do when the PQ is fighting an election on a Charter that essentially makes new Quebecers, particularly of non-European stock, second class citizens.  If that Charter is passed the PQ can kiss any chance of these people supporting their pet project during a referendum.

Which is why I believe that if the PQ wins a majority government they will water down the Values Charter so much as to make it meaningless while Ms. Marois appoints her version of Jason Kenney to go out and woo the very people she is currently alienating.

Not that such measures will actually work to build enough support for independence within a useful enough time frame for the PQ. 

Ms. Marois is trying to win a majority government, not because she particularly wants to have a referendum any time soon, but because that is what governments do in this country.  If she is successful she will try to build a coalition of Quebecers who support independence but I would not bet too much money on her chances of success.  Unfortunately, unless she can find an issue to fire the passions of Quebecers and she can convince enough new Quebecers to support independence she does not have much of a chance of succeeding.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Relax Folks, a Referendum has not been called

Since the PQ government in Quebec called the long anticipated election in that province commentators, both the ones who get paid to do it and the ones who do it just for fun, have been having conniptions at the prospect of a PQ majority government and a subsequent referendum.  Many of these commentators put forward "analysis" on how this will impact the current players at the Federal level and they lament the fact that they cannot see any current federal leader who can really defend Canada.

They are getting way ahead of themselves.

First, the PQ has not won a majority government.  Government is theirs to lose for certain but it is an open question whether the Quebec Charter can be sustained as the focus of the election for the whole of the campaign or whether some other issue, such as the dismal performance of the Quebec economy, crowds out that issue and thwarts their attempt at winning a majority government.

But let's say for the sake of argument that the PQ does win a majority of the seats on April 7.  What then?  Will we be looking at another referendum?

Not very soon if at all.

The next referendum, if it happens, will likely be the last regardless of the outcome.  Most Quebecers, including that aging and dwindling cohort of Quebec society that supports Quebec independence as a matter of principle, knows that if they fail to win the next referendum that will be it.  There will be no more after that.  It will be a case of "three strikes and your out" because most Quebecers, of any language, will finally say enough is enough.

So, the next referendum, if it happens, has to be as sure of a thing as you can get in politics.  It cannot be entered into on a whim or without a solid foundation of support for independence at the beginning of a campaign.

That solid foundation is nowhere near to be had.  In fact, the appetite for independence is the lowest it has been in decades.  It is going to take years to build that up to a tenable level of support, if it can be done at all. 

So how does the PQ build this foundation?  What issue does it use to do so?

In 1976 the PQ government had a century of anger and resentment at the English domination of Quebec to work with and they also had St. RenĂ© to fight for it.  The result was a dismal failure.  In 1995 the PQ government had the recent memories of the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords to work with and Mr. Bouchard.  They came closer but they still failed.

What issue would the current PQ government have?  The Quebec Charter?  Some future fight they pick with the Federal government?  The resentment of Quebec towards Stephen Harper and the Conservatives?  Do any of these issues have what is necessary to build a solid and enduring foundation of support for independence?  I do not think so and that is even before taking into account the fact that the one leading the independence side would be Pauline Marois.

One reason is the message from the 1995 referendum that taking Quebec out of Canada would be neither cheap nor easy has sunk in with Quebecers.  Many Quebecers ignored this message in the heat of the 1995 campaign but after the fires cooled from that and they had some time for some sober second thought they realized the verity of those arguments.  That is one of the reasons why support for independence plummeted so sharply in the years after 1995.  It will take a very hot issue to convince Quebecers to endure the economic and societal disruptions an independence process will cause.

Then we have to consider the Clarity Act and the Supreme Court reference that preceded it.

Certainly, if they could a PQ government would ignore both after a successful campaign but if it is close and/or the referendum question is not that clear it will give those in Quebec ammunition to fight the result.  As well, one unintended consequence of the Quebec Charter could be to convince those it targets to fight such a result because they have essentially been told that they are second class citizens in their home province.

In short, in order for the PQ to be truly successful they need to be able to go into another referendum with a rock solid majority of Quebecers supporting independence at the beginning of the campaign.  That is probably a nearly impossible task and even if they can do it the task will take a great deal of time, certainly more time than the life of the current Federal government.

Who the current leaders of Federal parties are is not relevant to a future referendum.  If we have one at all, it will be far enough into the future that the federal scene will be greatly changed. 

We all need to take a deep breath and consider the great obstacles standing in the way of a PQ government intent of moving towards Quebec independence.  Those obstacles could be insurmountable and even if they somehow succeed in doing so it is going to take a very long time.  A Quebec referendum is not imminent so there is no need to become all freaked out.