12 October 2005

Why Don't the Harper Conservatives Realize the Importance of Quebec?

I didn't make much of a big deal of the handful of former Conservative candidates in Quebec who demanded Stephen Harper's resignation, on the grounds that they were essentially token candidates who had very little chance of being elected in a province that has only two strong political organizations, the Bloc Quebecois and the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party. A small number of voices in the wilderness calling for the head of a leader who still remains very popular with his base doesn't exactly foster a coup mentality.
However, an article that I read at the Globe & Mail today really makes me wonder if Harper truly desires the brass ring of the prime minister. The party does not even have a provincial wing in Quebec and does not appear to be in any rush to establish one. In this age of minority government and a multi-party system, is it really sound strategy to just forsake 75 seats in Parliament and expect to form a government? Further, given the strength of the Bloc Quebecois at this time, does it make any sense at all to attempt forming a government that has no representatives from Canada's second-largest province? This would give the Bloc an enormous amount of leverage in Parliament; the Liberals, even with their decreased standing in the province, still have enough people from Quebec to be able to act effectively with the Bloc and its constituents to soothe the needs of Quebeckers. A Tory government would have to work as a coalition with the separatists, giving the Liberals numerous fusillades for a future election, and the Bloc's agenda would become highly prominent in Parliament's business.
Harper must realize at some point that he is impinging on his party's efforts to be viewed as more than the old Reform Party. Obviously it is very important to him and his party's electoral fortunes to retain their base in the West and continue their breakthrough efforts in Ontario. However, without a legitimate appeal to Quebec the party simply will not be perceived as a true national alternative to the Liberal Party.

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