Monday, April 02, 2007

Dumont and Harper

I have seen too much analysis speculating that Dumont's success in Quebec is nothing but good news for Harper. The first error here is that Dumont is paving the way for Harper. Actually, it is more likely that Harper's gains in 2005 helped create an opportunity for Dumont, who improved his vote from 18% in 2003 to 31% this time, while Harper already picked up 25% in the 2006 election.

In any case, many of today's first time ADQ voters won't support Harper. There are some quotes to this effect in the March 31st edition of CBC radio's The House, which featured a documentary on the including from an interview with a new ADQ MNA who called Harper "too ideological".

Today Norman Spector provided a further antidote to any notion that Dumont is potentially helpful to Harper, especially in the longer run. I don't agree with all of this but it is worth reading:

In the 1995 referendum, Mr. Dumont campaigned for the Yes side; now, with Quebeckers balking at another referendum, he will try a different approach. But let's have no premature celebration of the Parti Québécois's demise: There's virtually no difference between Mr. Dumont's “Canada-Quebec structure” and René Lévesque's “sovereignty-association.” Let's also recall that Mr. Lévesque, too, quit the Liberal Party, and that Mr. Bourassa refused to go along only because he thought it imprudent to break up Canada to achieve their goal. Even Mr. Charest, speaking in French, compares his vision of Quebec in Canada to that of France in the European Union.

With the polls fluctuating and inconclusive, Mr. Harper may yet decide against a spring election. If so, he'd better make sure he's thought through his strategy before Mr. Dumont comes calling — possibly with the support of the Liberals and the PQ. Aside from potentially fracturing Mr. Harper's political base on both sides of the Ottawa River, the coming engagement with Mr. Dumont could put at risk the future of Canada.

There is too great a tendency in English Canada to see the imminent demise of the sovereignty movement in Quebec. The issue may be now somewhat in abeyance but we should not be surprised to see a revival of Quebec nationalism at some point in the future. It is the most difficult issue in Canada for a Prime Minister to handle. How soon we forget that Harper's plan for this spring's election was to start off with a comfortable re-election for his friend Jean Charest.

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