Monday, December 20, 2004

Defending Quebec's Interests. Which Interests are those Mssr. Duccepe?

Comment: Federal Election 2004

As the last week before the election winds up, the Bloc Quebecois clearly has the support of the majority of committed voters in Quebec. Gilles Duccepe the party leader has impressed political pundits and has even gained some popularity outside of Quebec for his stoic and stern single mindedness in attacking the Liberals and Paul Martin over the Adscandal.

It is clear Quebec is a battle between Mssr. Duccepe and Mssr. Martin. Not for government but for being the official opposition. Mr.Duccepe has waged a valiant struggle to defend social democracy, not unlike the NDP. He has railed against the Liberals stealing of workers EI funds to prop up their surplus budget, he has defended Kyoto, he attacks privatization, heck he defends the gun registry when even the Liberals avoid that question.

It is obvious to everyone except Mssr. Harper, that the Conservatives will gain no toehold in Quebec. And one reason is its current Liberal provincial government under Mssr. Charest. Charest like Harper was once leader of the Federal Progressive Conservatives. And like BC Premier Gordon Campbell, he now leads the provincial Liberals. His claim to fame is having led the federalist fight against the Quebec Sovereignty referendum.

The Liberals in BC and Quebec are a strange creature being a common front of right wing conservatives, since there is no provincial Conservative party in either province, and right wing federalist Liberals. But the real influence on Mssr. Charest is Ralph Klein, of whom Mssr. Charest when leader of the federal PC's said; "Alberta sets the agenda for the rest of Canada".

Mssr. Charest's Canada now includes Quebec, as his federalist slogan once proclaimed.
But his Quebec will not be the PQ's Quebec or even Mssr. Duccepes Quebec. His will be Ralph Kleins Quebec. He has taken a page from the neo-liberal bible; Reinventing Government, (How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector, by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler), and has made clear that his agenda for Quebec is to have a revolution. Not a sovereigntist or even federalist revolution, but a Klein revolution.

He has set the course to restructure the State to have it end its decades old tradition of being social democratic, whether under the Liberals or PQ. He intends to privatize and downsize government, as his mentor has done in Alberta.

He has already challenged Quebec’s unions, the strongest in Canada, he has faced them down in days of protest and watches as their resolve to hold a general strike crumbles before the onslaught of his neoliberal state.

Which leads us to question Mssr. Ducepe's insistence that his party will act to defend Quebec's interests. Which interests are those Mssr. Duccepe? Mssr. Charests and his new neoliberal Quebec state? Mssr. Duccepe is a sovereigntist as is his party, so he proudly proclaims that his sole function in the Canadian State is to be in opposition to the federalist government and parties. He and his party will act to defend Quebec's interests. Except that his left social democratic platform conflicts with the current Quebec government.

Say Mssr. Charest privatizes health care services, as he has announced he will, in spite of the Canada Health Act. Where will that leave Mssr. Duccepe and the Bloc? Like Albertan’s who opposed Bill 11 and the Klein Revolution who did they have to turn to; Ottawa and the House of Commons.

Provincial autonomy does not necessitate social democracy. Devolution of power to the provinces is not a recipe for sovereignty. But this is the game the Bloc likes to play. To equate sovereignty of Quebec with devolution of provincial powers is a dangerous game. With right wing governments in BC, Alberta and the Maritimes, and a quisling Liberal party in power in Ontario, who will act as a bulwark against the politics of privatization Mssr. Duceppe?

Will the Bloc align with its left ally the NDP in proposing amending the Canada Health Act to prevent privatization? Or will it back pedal seeing Quebec as special, and fearful of increasing federal power, literally wring its hands as Mssr. Charest travels down the same road as Mr. Klein.

Alberta and Quebec have long been political bedfellows, since the days of Peter Lougheed. Oh yes in red neck Alberta, Tories have bashed Quebec, it being the second favorite pastime after Ottawa (read Liberal) bashing. However whenever Alberta Premiers have been to Quebec they are like long lost cousins back patting and cozying up to Quebec. For whatever Quebec could get out of Ottawa, Alberta would be at the table too asking for more of its share too.

Facing the Charest privatization revolution in Quebec places Mssr. Ducepe in the position that what may be good for Quebec may also be good for the rest of Canada. What irony, in winning in Quebec the Bloc may have to be more social democratic than sovereigntist, as the interests of Canadians and Quebecois are united in opposing privatization.

No comments: