Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Harper Faltering in Quebec?

Given Harper's obsession with winning more votes in Quebec, the latest batch of relatively bad press should give him pause:
Harper's staunch defence of Canada's offensive combat operations in Afghanistan has raised eyebrows in Quebec, as have the government's lukewarm stance on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the failure to deliver on a promise to help fund a cash-strapped public zoo in Quebec City, and the decision to scrap a daycare deal that was to bring $806 million to the province over the next five years.

And now the government's tough new communications strategy is drawing fire in a province where the Tories are desperate to make gains.

I have always believed that, despite the cynicism of "renewed" federalism, Harper would always face an uphill battle in Quebec because the Conservatives right-wing agenda is not a natural fit with the province. Delegating more power to Quebec is clearly attractive, but Quebec is generally a progressive society, naturally at odds with Harper's philosophy. It is for this reason, that the Liberal Party still enjoys an opportunity to re-emerge in the province if it gets it's act together.

This fact doesn't detract from the simple reality that Harper has made extensive gains in the province. The Conservatives have placed a premium on developing an effective Quebec organization for the next election. However, no matter the hopes, this leopard can't change its spots and for that reason there will always be a chasm. If the Liberals can develop a new approach to federalism, beyond the tired policy of largely ignoring concerns, then Quebec remains future fertile ground.

As an aside, there was one quote in the linked story from Harper that I found interesting:
"To hear the Liberals talk, you'd think they're still entitled to be in power. You'd think that the recent election in which 70 per cent of Canadian voters called for change had never occurred or if it did occur people should vote again and get it right," he said.

Harper plays with the numbers, but fails to mention the fact that 64 per cent of Canadian voters don't support his "change".

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