The most recent instalment of Political Staples’ panel podcast - Bloggers Hotstove – was a chat between two Tories (Political Staples and Stephen Taylor), one Grit (Jason Cherniak) and one Dipper (Sinister Thoughts).
While talking about contenders for Liberal leadership probably isn’t the best topic when people of contending parties get together, the idea of bloggers from differing political stripes having a live debate deserves credit. Far too many bloggers only bother to read sites of their fellow partisan kin, which is about as intellectually productive and stimulating as a parliamentary session in a dictatorship.
However, I wasn’t too impressed by some of the statements made by the panellists. For example, comments were made that the Liberals had “lost” Québec, and that their next leader should be francophone in order to win back La Belle Province. It also seemed universally accepted that the next Liberal leader must be bilingual.
Strategically, I can understand the desire to win over Québec. It was mentioned that the Liberals had lost considerable ground in both western Canada and Québec, but that it would be much easier for the Liberals to get back in the sack with the Frenchies than those from west of Ontario. Fair enough.
But to go from that argument to one of “the next Liberal leader must be francophone Québecois” is a massive leap in logic. And it shows a complete ignorance as to the needs of western Canada – and the very root causes of “western alienation”.
I’m certainly no Tory, but one of the few benefits I see about having Harper as PM is that he’s from a province other than Québec. It’s not that I dislike Québec, but does every single prime minister really need to be from Québec? Prior to Harper, the last non-Québecois PM to win a general election was Joe Clark in 1979. That’s 27 years between the Clark and Harper victories. More than a quarter of a century of electing Québecois PMs.
I don’t care which part of Canada our leader comes from. I’m British Columbian, but I’d be tickled pink by a Newfoundlander PM. In principle, I’m quite happy having a Québecois PM. But when our leaders are from the same, single province, time after time after time, it gets stale. What’s wrong with a little variety?
And this is precisely one of the reasons why western Canadians get pissed off with Canadian federalism, or at least the way our big political parties operate within it. They (and especially the Liberals) seem to think that it is a virtual necessity to have leaders from Québec, in order to appease the irritable constitution-snubbers. Election after election after election.
When the only things that strategically seem to matter to the backroom boys are Toronto and Québec appeasement, western Canadians grow rapidly tired. I would have expected the Maritimes to feel the same way; perhaps the difference lies in the economic divide – wealthy westerns want their voices heard, while the meagre Maritimes (sorry, the alliteration made me write it!) are happy to quietly collect their transfer payments. But, if I was from the Atlantic, I’m sure I would be just as annoyed by the antics of the Ontario-Québec axis.
So, when Torontonians make suggestions that the next leader of a large party, and possibly of our entire country, “must be Québecois”, simply for strategic reasons, it makes my skin crawl. There are plenty of talented Canadians across this country – limiting the pool to those from Ontario and Québec shallows the gene selection, and turns this country into a two-province entity.