Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Liberals Need To Get Aggressive In Quebec

Hebert's column today highlights a sentiment that needs to be exploited by the Liberals. I think Ignatieff was wise to gently enter the debate surrounding Bouchard's recent comments on sovereignty. However, we really haven't seen any followup, nor is the Liberal strategy in Quebec apparent, or denoting any urgency. In reality, since the Coderre dustup, the Liberals have been pretty much dormant in Quebec, no overtures or concerted campaigns.

I believe the Montreal Conference could be an interesting springboard, but beyond that, the ground is fertile for the Liberals to seize the initiative, position themselves as the federalist alternative, and in so doing take DIRECT aim at the Bloc. For some odd reason, the Bloc has managed to maintain, even with separatist sentiment waning, their provincial counterpart struggling. I'm not sure this reality is a testament to shrewd politics from the Bloc, as much as it is a FREE pass from its rivals. The Liberals seem hesitant to get aggressive with the Bloc, even though the vulnerabilities are obvious.

As Hebert notes, separatist sentiment is down, the rationale questioned, and federalist affiliation an evolving consideration, waiting for a coherent messenger. Where are the Liberals, beyond isolated forays? We need a focused strategy that targets the underlying debate and re-positions the party to capitalize on old arguments. The Liberals have always thrived on the rigid conflicts, with a more subtle dynamic evolving, it needs to re-invent itself. Some of what Ignatieff has said speaks to the "dual identity" sentiment, but it's hardly a compelling thrust, that moves voters, or engages in any new way.

Everyone is watching to see what the Liberal do on the policy front, how they create the "alternative" that will underpin the future campaign. I'll be watching to see the Quebec specific arguments, because I think that should be a primary and aggressive focus.


Tof KW said...

The Bloc can count on the hard-core separatist vote, they are not going anywhere else regardless of how much the other federalist parties try to woo them. However a good number of the BQ’s votes are coming as a protest vote against the other traditional parties, and cross between the left-right political spectrum. These are all up from grabs since the possibility of a future referendum happening any time soon is very, very, very remote.

To their credit, the Conservatives have been trying to reach those soft-nationalist votes for years now, persuading the more right-leaning rural BQ voters that the their desire for a decentralized federal government with more power for Quebec and regional government corresponds to the CPofC’s views. And with 11 seats (from zero just a few years ago) you can’t say they haven’t done a decent job of establishing a beachhead in la Belle.

Likewise the NDP have been operating this way for decades now, at least since the 80’s when I was there. They’ve always snuggled up to the soft-nationalists (though of course the more left-leaning ones) trying to coax them by bringing up the social-democratic similarities between themselves and the PQ. Actually a lot of local candidates go right for the jugular and sell-out the Anglo-minorities in many of their statements in attempting to gain votes. Part of what I saw when living there still burns me, and makes me despise the NDP to this day. In my view the Quebec Conservatives are definitely more honourable in their attempts for appeal to the BQ voters. At least they don’t say anything drastically different there than they do in the rest of Canada.

The Liberals have really been on auto-pilot in Quebec for the last decade or so since the 1995 referendum. I think they believe that if left alone, without referendums and a reason to exist, the BQ voters will all just move by osmosis back to the LPC - and the Grits can enjoy future majorities again from winning Quebec like back in the good ‘ol days.

Hate to tell you Libs, but that isn’t going to happen without any serious efforts. It’s been almost 20 years since the BQ’s founding, and 30 years since the Liberals won almost every riding in Quebec in a federal election. Mr Ignatieff said the right things after M. Bouchard's recent comments on sovereignty, and I’m pretty sure he knows that a lot needs to be done for the party to make inroads in that province – and progress beyond just holding a few seats around Montreal and the Outaouais region.

You are quite correct Steve, the Grits need to re-define themselves in that province. And with the very reason for the BQ’s existence now in question, there is great opportunity there that has not existed for quite some time.

Red said...

The Liberals need to be more aggressive in other areas not just Quebec. They can't sit in Ottawa and expect that Canadian voters will come to them. They have to visit the boonies , shake hands and take photo ops. And oh yeah a few other regular duties as well.

Steve V said...

Sure, you can always say that, but you need a Quebec specific agenda. Especially for this party, if you ever hope to return to former glory, and understand Ontario will never be completed dominant again, Quebec is the realistic key.


I agree on the auto-pilot front. I will give this regime some early credit, they courted organization and looked like they were rebuilding early on. That said, since Coderre went offside, I've seen little to get excited.

Omar said...

I am two-thirds through Brian Crowley's new book 'Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values'. It is commentary on the view Canada has been shaped for the past 50 years by the entry of the baby boomers into the workforce and separatist Quebec nationalism. He tells the reader to forget about July 1 being Canada's birthday and opts instead for June 22, 1960 as the birth of the "New Canada". A date that will live in infamy for giving us five decades of expansive government programs, bilingualism, multiculturalism and the "appeasement of an endless list of demands from Quebec nationalists". So far the book has given some very interesting insights into the Quebec State and offers remedies for redemption within the Canadian fold. Normally I don't read books of such conservative bent, but Crowley doesn't come across as a new age Reform-Conservative and he certainly isn't a Harper theocon, so I thought I'd take the book for a spin. It is likely right up your ally, TofKW.

william said...

The problem in Quebec is multifaceted.

On the one hand, we have 44 candidates named. Some are doing a good job, some are not. Myself, I have made 5 annoncements in my riding over the past two months, and got great media coverage, 3 MPs have come down to visit. Exposure exposure exposure.

But other candidates are rather silent, or we have areas of the province that need a candidate but don't have one. This is a shortcoming.

On the other hand, the leader has been relatively absent from QC since the fall, in my opinion as a candidate. I haven't seen him in my area since he came to my riding back in August. He needs to ramp up is outside-of-Montreal presence.

Look, even in 2008 BQ voters were looking somewhere else to park their votes, door to door showed it. But they weren't able to come to us. The sentiment still holds. I am doing my part. But it has to be a team effort.

Steve V said...


Very much appreciate your insights.

JimmE said...

One way to get Canadians & especially Quebecers to take note of the LPC is to address this issue:

Tof KW said...

Omar, be careful with any of Crowley's books. I consider him one of the most dangerous neo-liberals our nation has produced. He is correct that we had a very different government prior to 1960, and that Canada’s increased social spending and expansive government period was due to the convergence of having to provide for the boomers, plus appeasement of Quebec nationalism (most other western nations only had to deal with the boomers). However Crowley is very ideological and his views go much further than the simple need to scale back federal spending programs, as he has publicly argued against EI, federal equalization payments and regional development programs. The problem with Dr Crowley is he is very intelligent and can persuade you that these are all programs that create a permanent welfare state and need to be scrapped. In fact these programs are nature outgrowths of classic Disraeli/Churchillian conservatism. Always be vigilant with those way-out libertarian economists; they are every bit as ideological, utopian and totally out of touch with the realities of human nature as a Marxist-communist.

As an aside, Dr Crowley also believes in deep integration with the US economy. Frankly that was never a facet of the Canadian identity prior to 1960. Before then it was the Conservatives who protected Canadian sovereignty and the Liberals who wished for closer ties to the US economy and free-market capitalism. You will note that the CPofC are now the ones pushing this much further than our current Liberal party. When you out-liberal the Liberals, that should make you think.

JimmE said...


I'm a tad confused -not a new thing ;-) in 1960 the first boomers were either 10 or 15 years old (depending on whom you call a boomer). So what am I missing?

Tof KW said...

Hope you don't mind me pitching in Omar.

The boomers' bubble caused every western democracy to go into deficit spending in order to create the infrastructure required to support their numbers. Education, health, roads, housing, etc all shot up due to the population blip. They may have only been 10 or so in 1960, but they were already effecting federal budgets.

CK said...

good number of the BQ’s votes are coming as a protest vote against the other traditional parties, and cross between the left-right political spectrum

tof KW is correct. Many of my friends and aquaintances here in Montreal have voted Liberal for many years, in fact some even donated money and/or volunteered for them. They now vote Bloc, simply because they don't like the leaders, and like myself, they fear a Harpercon majority. In an earlier comment at another posting at this blogsite, I suggested McKenna or Cauchon as potential Liberal leaders. My friends want to see Justin Trudeau; so I guess another possibilty that would succeed better than Iggy.

The Bloc in 2008 didn't even bring up sovereignty in last election campaign; it was an anybody but Harper campaign where our former federal Tory federalist now QC Lib premier even campaigned for them. The anybody but Harpercon campaign worked for the Bloc. I just don't get why it doesn't work in the ROC for the Liberals.

As for Sovereignty, I think Bouchard simply poked at a sleeping pitbull along with the desire to commemorate the fall of Meech Lake this coming June is slowly reviving the sovereigntist movement. Even Duceppe who hasn't taken real sovereigntist activities lately, is now travelling all over creation to promote it. It appears to be his priority now. Plus, he could probably sell it better than that shrew Pauline Marois.

No, a referendum won't happen right away; not under a Liberal gov't. If the PQ does the sensible thing and boots Marois out, because she is now a liability.

Also, Many French Quebecers, even so-called 'soft' nationalists in Montreal: as well as the hard core separatists and socially conservative rural Quebecers are still not over the sponsorship scandal. That will be a hard sell for the Liberals in Quebec,even in Montreal.

Omar said...

Pitch away, TofKW and thanks for the insight on Crowley. The man does come across as a little too clever by half.