It’s all very vague now, but you have to wonder if that will be the case in an election campaign:
The Harper government is telling Quebec that if the Conservatives win a majority in the next election, they will look to reopen the Constitution and give more meaning to their recognition of Quebeckers as a nation.
The recognition of the Quebec nation within Canada allows us to think that we can put some meat around it, and that a majority government is more able to do a number of things, while being respectful of all of the provinces,” Mr. Blackburn said in an interview.
“When you're a minority, you never know what can happen, so it's not obvious to do that type of thing in the actual context,” Mr. Blackburn said on the topic of constitutional change.
The trick for the Conservatives, dangle the carrot, without getting into the details, or firm promises. The ability to do that is largely dependent on the Liberal reaction. Obviously, there is a way to use the majority scenario against the Conservatives in parts of English Canada, but the really intriguing part- how do the Liberals react in Quebec?
I’m of the mindset that Harper does get mileage by floating this idea in Quebec, if the Liberals respond with the same outdated language and views of federalism. As a matter of fact, the Liberals will be largely irrelevant in any discussion if the philosophy isn’t “modernized”. The hill is steeper, when you consider that Dion embodies the old ways, or at least that is the perception in Quebec. If there is going to be a discussion of federalism in the next election, the Liberals have to bring some new concepts to the table, otherwise Harper benefits, merely by suggestion, rather than concrete measures.
Last year, there was a highly touted book released, Reconquering Canada: A New Project for the Quebec Nation, written by a group of Quebec federalists. While there was a mention of the book on the Liberal website, there really wasn’t much discussion coming from our leadership about the ideas. I guess the effectiveness of Harper’s strategy may well be contingent on the Liberal response, and in some ways it could jumpstart adaptation coming from the Liberal ranks. Dion could possibly move past “Mr. Clarity Act”, at least enough to join the conversation within Quebec.
The trouble for the Liberals here, if they make a big deal out of Harper’s suggestions in English Canada, use fear of the unknown to hurt the Conservatives, it could further marginalize them in Quebec. Harper walks a tightrope by floating the Constitution, but he also lays a few traps for the Liberals, and hopefully people react accordingly. If the Liberals are passive, the exercise will only reaffirm their irrelevance in Quebec, allow Harper a free path as the only federalist option. If the Liberals are progressive, it could provide opportunity.