Monday, November 27, 2006

Even Defter?

I have to admit, I'm starting to waver on the implications of that motion that Canadian PM Stephen Harper made to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. While some of the arguments in favor of it have been strong, others against it have been equally so; especially over that issue of what the resolution means in French vs. English. (I had, when I wrote that earlier piece, forgotten that Canada must publish everything in both official languages. That can lead to difficulty. It certainly does here.)

Still, there was pretty much a consensus that the motion was going to pass; even ardent federalists like Liberal leadership candidate Stephane Dion were backing it, and defending it. (Dion wrote a smart letter to the Toronto Star defending it, saying that such resolutions could be written for any of the many nationalities that make up Canada. Fair enough, although most of them don't want to leave.

Thing is, it didn't really matter, because clearly there was a consensus backing Harper's motion. Now, though, that consensus is gone, as fellow Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy has come out in opposition of the motion.

Kennedy believes the motion raises expectations of eventual constitutional entrenchment of Quebec nationhood without defining what is meant by the word nation. Moreover, he is worried that the motion will deepen divisions in the country, the source said.

Kennedy, a former Ontario education minister, does not have a seat in the Commons but is issuing his statement in advance of the vote on Harper's motion, expected late Monday.

Kennedy's decision could give him a boost at this week's leadership convention among Liberals who are adamantly opposed to recognizing Quebec nationhood but have no other outlet for their concern.
This is smart, smart politics; Kennedy has now placed himself in the position of the "outsider speaking truth to power", echoing the beliefs of a lot of Liberals and the majority of Canadians outside Quebec.

Everybody and his dog knows that the motivation for all of this has been strictly political: Harper wants to regain Quebec support, Ignatieff wanted to reorient Quebec opinion of his leadership away from his disastrous foreign policy, Dion was (until the Harper resolution) using the nation issue as a bludgeon to beat Ignatieff, and Rae was happy to let everybody do it, so long as he didn't get sucked in. Some of these strategies were working (Dion) and some weren't (Ignatieff), but things had gone badly enough that when Harper brought out his cute little dodge, everybody hung on, policy and consequences be damned.

Except, now, for Kennedy. That's why it's smart politics for him. His profile is instantly raised, and nobody had been paying attention to him previously. He knows that his support in Quebec is weak, but (assuming the deal with Dion is in place) will scoop up Dion's supporters if Dion bails out anyway. The harder of the Quebec nationalists will be with Ignatieff, and they'd be impossible for Kennedy to gain, thanks to his weak french and weaker Quebec operation. Where his operation IS strong, (Toronto and the Canadian West) he's likely to get a good reaction from the delegates, as the latter group opposes giving Quebec special status, and the former group lives in a region of so many nationalities that recognizing one would be, well, silly.

People concerned about the Harper proposal may end up shifting to Kennedy from Ignatieff and Dion; if the deal is in place, that would put Kennedy comfortably ahead of Dion, allowing him to absorb Dion's votes and get crucial momentum. If it ends up with him ahead of Rae, and Ignatieff doesn't have his 50%, it's probably over and Kennedy walks away with the prize. If he's behind Rae, he gets Rae to come out against the motion (or at least raise questions), hands his votes to Rae, and Kennedy walks away the kingmaker and THE man to beat after Rae.

Plus, he's now going to be the absolute darling of the growing number of pundits who are opposed to the motion; not the least of which whatzisname, who had no time for Kennedy before and now is praising him to the high heavens. He'll get that badly needed press.

(Not only pundits; every conservative who hates Harper's move to placate Quebecois nationalism is going to take a good hard look at Kennedy. SOMEBODY is going to think "Sure, he might raise taxes, but at least he believes in one nation.")

(That said, there are bunches of people commenting that this will be a disaster. Here, for example, where the prevailing belief is that this will make him a pariah. Perhaps. I don't think so, though. There are simply too many anti-nation Liberals out there for the movers-and-shakers to visibly marginalize them. We'll see, I guess.)

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