Conservative political parties have long recognized that their relative weakness in Quebec is a critical factor in limiting them to opposition rather than government status. Conservatives have also observed that, when they came to power in Canada in the past century, they did so in coalition with the province's so-called "nationalist" forces. This lesson has been interpreted by the Canadian Alliance as meaning that the party should position itself as a nationalist force in Quebec and focus on the significant anti-Liberal vote.
Over the past few years I have concluded that this strategy is fundamentally mistaken. It ignores the real lesson of Canadian history -- that while Conservatives have come to power by exploiting a nationalist strategy in Quebec, such coalitions have never lasted very long. Indeed, they have ended in political disaster.
The broad lesson of history is that Canada's natural governing coalition always includes the federalist option in Quebec, not the nationalist one. This is what the Liberals were in the 20th century. In the 19th century, when the Conservatives usually made up the government, they occupied a similar position. It would therefore be a mistake, in my judgment, for the Canadian Alliance to focus on simply grabbing the anti-Liberal vote in order to build a beachhead in Quebec. The party must undertake the long-run work necessary to become a federalist option in Quebec acceptable to a significant number of Liberal as well as anti-Liberal voters.
Steve Harper 2002
Prime Minister Stephen Harper championed his "open" brand of federalism in Quebec's rural heartland Saturday night, finding an echo in the province's newly emboldened autonomists.
Harper - speaking exclusively in French - painted himself as a defender of the Quebec nation, and the federal leader best positioned to fight the province's separatist forces.
"When you are a nation, it is perfectly natural to be a nationalist," he told a crowd of more than 400 people gathered in the community centre of this farming town south of Quebec City.
"Open federalism is what we did when we asked the Canadian Parliament to recognize that Quebecois form a nation within Canada," Harper said.
He said a re-elected Conservative government would lead a Canada that was "strong, united and free, with a Quebec (that was) autonomous and proud." ...
Monday is Harper’s birthday, and after his speech, which was entirely in French, he was serenaded to the Quebec birthday theme (the seperatist song), "Mon cher Stephen, c’est a ton tour de te laisser parler d’amour," to the tune of Gens du Pays.
Stephen Harper 2007 dreaming of majority
Harper quotes Duplessis, engages in heavy petting with seperatists, and then enjoys the PQ national anthem. I guess the question for Quebecers, and I believe this an important point, does sincerity trump opportunism? Stephen Harper cares nothing for the aspirations of Quebecers, the talking points are merely a means to an end. Utter targeted phrases, offer token gestures, speak to the wallet, all in an effort to win over Quebecers.
The common assumption, Quebecers are a sophisticated electorate. The next election will put this belief to the test, because clearly Stephen Harper has concluded he can manipulate the Quebec voter. As for Canada, from a federalists perspective, last night serves as one more clear example why this country can't afford a prolonged Harper reign.