Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Who Speaks For Canada?

Interesting comments by Mario Dumont, which basically confirms the fact that our national government lacks a Canada first perspective:
"The winning of 10 seats in Quebec by the Conservatives is just the beginning of this new alliance between the West and Quebec," Mr. Dumont said in an interview yesterday. "It is an alliance that can help Canada to decentralize and work outside a central government that has become heavily bureaucratic, much too powerful and highly centralized..."

Mr. Dumont said Quebec has a duty to build an alliance with Western Canada and prepare for a new round of constitutional talks that would include changes for the entire country, not just Quebec...

"Mr. Harper wants Quebec to have its place in Canada," Mr. Dumont said. "Every time I discussed constitutional reform with him,

Dumont's comments are relevant because, as he admits, the opinion is based on conversations with the Prime Minister. Clearly, Harper is the Western portion of the alliance, which is quite strange given his title. You have a situation where a region finds commonality with a national entity, which is supposed to speak for the whole. These statements serve as concrete proof that Stephen Harper is a regionalist, who's opinion on federalism starts from the provincial perspective. Harper's overtures to Quebec have little to do with genuine concern for the culture, but moreso a natural fit for a perspective which seeks to essentially trash the federal government.

It is important to note that the Canadian federation as we know it is already decidedly "loose" in composition, when compared to other international examples. Despite the historic complaints of various regional leaders, the provinces do in fact enjoy considerable power- this talk about a domineering national entity is mostly bluster. For Harper to take the position that the federal government has too much control, which translates into a further dissolution of powers, he in fact leaves the federal government as an impotent and ineffective entity.

The concerns of Quebec are genuine and do need to be addressed. However, it is frightening to see legitimate issues used by others to justify their own powerplays. It is the job of Premiers to fight for their province, it is the job of the federal government to speak to cohesion and "national" goals. We now have a situation where there is no voice for Canada, because the federal leadership is also a proponent of regionalism. Who speaks for Canada? The balance that federalism needs is lost, any constitutional talks under these circumstances are disastrous for people who believes in the notion that the whole is greater than its individual parts.

7 comments:

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Good question. And no answer readily in sight.

Harper has a hidden agenda, which includes dismantling the power of the federal government and transferring powers (financial and other) to the provinces, so that we end up with Premiers having the powers of feudal lords, with few checks and balances, and no-one speaking for Canada and for universal Canadian values.

I believe that the following statements summarize Harper's agenda, and challenge the New Tories and rightwingers to rebut them:

• Harper has an agenda which is contained in his speeches, going back to 1997 and more recently (including as recently at three years ago).

• This agenda was deliberately downplayed by the Tories in the last election, in order to gain power;

• The agenda does not match the expectations or wishes of most mainstream Canadians, so Harper will keep as much of it concealed as possible;

• However, a careful study of his public utterances does show his "core" beliefs (to use his words), and give pointers to what he will try to obtain, using "baby steps" (or, in his words, incrementalism) in order to gradually change Canada to suit his revolutionary, righwing conservative agenda;

• His agenda is so far to the right that most voters would recoil in horror if it was openly discussed, and he openly talked about it (rather than in closed meetings with rightwing groups, including US groups).

I do not expect a point by point rebuttal of these statements from Harper or his MPs.

Steve V said...

curiousity

I like the "feudal lords" reference for two reasons. First, it sums up the regressive, past mentality. Second, in an age where the world is becoming more closely integrated, it is regressive to think we need further divisions in a country which is known for its "internationalism" and inclusive character. Are we moving ahead together, or setting up "firewalls" as our P.M thinks necessary.

Mark Dowling said...

Steve

I'm sure in the past Westerners thought it odd that Liberal PMs called themselves Prime Ministers of Canada too... It's not right that any PM should lean strongly either way but that is the reality of politics in Canada. If the Liberals had a strong credible leader from say BC then maybe they could eat into the Tories hold on the West. Not Hedy Fry though!

Ti-Guy said...

No sensible Quebecker or nationalist francophone (moi) takes Dumont seriously, because they know...know that Harper's conservatism is regressive and anathema to French culture in Canada.

Dumont would do well to disassociate from Harper. But then, Dumont isn't very bright.

Steve V said...

mark

This circumstance is entirely unique. We have never had the propsect of constitutional reforms with a leader who is so outspoken in his disdain for the federal government. I firmly believe Stephen Harper more the eleventh Premier than the historical position of the PM. Where is the check in this scenario? I might add that I have lived in the West for several years, so I am not naive to the notion of alienation.

ti-guy

People keep saying don't take Dumont seriously, but the fact is he is plastered all over the press. Not to mention this:

"The first political consequence of Harper's new power of attraction — beyond the chance to deal with a more amenable Charest government — is that come the next election, he may be in a position to field the strongest federalist team to run in Quebec in two decades.

Already the name of Mario Dumont sits at the top of the Conservative wish list. And while the ADQ leader has so far resisted the overtures, the sheer fact that the Prime Minister now has access to the major leagues of Quebec talent speaks to his growing stature in the province."

There is something afoot here and we would all be wise not to dismiss it out of hand.

Ti-Guy said...

I didn't mean to imply that we should dismiss Dumont. It's quite clear he's being used by both the Albertan and Quebec separatists in a very dangerous game to weaken, or fragment Canada by manipulating the democratic process with tactics that are in bad faith.

What has to be focussed on is the inherent intellectual poverty of both kinds of separatism, which have their roots in racism and xenophia and which powerful people are now tapping into to further their own interests.

In any case, that's what I'm focussing on. Quebecers got taken once before with Jacques Parizeau, and I'm not sure they'll be in the mood for that again.

Steve V said...

ti-guy

Agreed.