Monday, February 27, 2006

Conservatives "Scare the Hell" Out of Bloc

Great article in The Hill Times, outlining the Conservatives strategy in Quebec. One thing was clear this past campaign, the Conservative strategists are a shrewd bunch, with a coherent plan. Wasting no time in the post-election aftermath, Harper has already shown his hand and therein the future Conservative strategy for electoral domination:
In Liberal circles, one school of thought is that the Conservatives won't put water in their wine in the upcoming Parliament and will charge ahead with their program in an effort to get defeated early to win a majority.

The Tories see Quebec as one of the biggest potential targets to make gains. The Conservatives now hold 10 out of 75 seats in the province.

"That is going at an accelerated pace right now. They're targeting seats and trying to get some legitimate Quebec staffers into the game here now with the existing people and they're trying to crank the Quebec presence," said one veteran Liberal who is watching what's going on.

But in order to make gains in Quebec federally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) has to do everything humanly possible to make sure Quebec Premier Jean Charest wins the next election provincially, observed one Liberal, who pointed out that the only way that will happen is to have a big block of Tories on the federal side and "pulverize" the Bloc Québécois in the process.

"The Quebec thing is playing big. Most of it is below the radar at this stage, but it's playing and it's playing hard," said the insider.

At a time when new government's are usually preoccupied with setting up shop, the Conservatives have a long term vision in mind, with dreams of a majority. Pretty impressive strategy and a great read of the landscape- Liberals beware.

There is no question that Harper has formed a tight alliance with Charest. The mutual backslapping since their initial visit has been striking. Harper praising Charest on healthcare, Charest trumpeting Harper whenever a microphone appears. The early days of this government have shown a uneven focus on Quebec, which is clearly no accident. No wonder the Bloc is worried:
"My gut feeling is that I don't think anybody wants an election right now. I think that if it was held, we'd be in the best position to make some gains," said Mr. Gervais, a senior consultant at the Capitol Hill Group. "We came out of the last election united. We're strong. We've got money in the bank. We're ready to run the next election."

He said the Bloc is frightened at the prospect of facing a new federalist rival that is promising openness and flexibility instead of the centralizing views of previous Liberal governments.

"Now you've got a more conciliatory type of federalism and that is really scaring the hell out of the Bloc because we are actually picking up francophone voters," he said.

The Bloc have made it clear that they plan to support the new government. The reasons given seem sincere, but I think there stance is a clear recognition of the Conservative threat. This sentiment, coupled with the Liberal Party in short term flux, explains why the Conservatives appear bold, despite the seat count.

The Conservative attitude may be a calculation that they are in a "win-win". They can forge ahead on an ambitious agenda with virtual impunity. The threat of further Tory gains in Quebec effectively neuters the opposition for the immediate future. Force an election, we dare you. The Conservatives may actually force the opposition hand, with legislation that is bound to be contentious. The Conservative strategists seem to be operating with the same frenzy seen in pre-election mode- with dreams of majority dancing in their heads.


Anonymous said...

Look for Liberals to push for a francophone leader in hopes of stopping Harper.

Steve V said...


Yes, I'm sure Dion's stock is on the rise, although he is hardly the solution.