Friday, 27 May 2011

Ed Broadbent won 43 NDP seats in 1988. Deduct 59 Quebec seats from 2011 and you get 44 NDP seats.

The NDP as official opposition and the management of Quebec aspirations may prove tricky for all the Canadian federalist parties.
By Tom Thorne
Here are some basic facts about the 103 New Democrats making up the new Official Opposition. The NDP has gone from 38 seats in the old parliament to 103 in this one which gives them 68 inexperienced people to train and control. Fifty nine of their MPs come from Quebec as part of the bold experiment Quebec voters are having with a federalist party that had only one seat in that province at the last election call. Already some of the new NDP members have indicated that they are soft on federalism and have cryptic yearnings for an independent Quebec. 
Liberals got nine percent of Quebec’s 75 seats: Perhaps a dose of the NDP is just what Quebec needs at the moment. They certainly didn’t want Liberals or Conservatives in any numbers representing them this time. The seven Liberals who survived the debacle in Quebec are: Denis Coderre, Francis Scarpaleggia, Irwin Kotler, Justin Trudeau, Marc Garneau, Massimo Pacetti and former leader Stéphane Dion. It is interesting that Dion the former Liberal leader largely marginalized by Liberal party insiders, was re-elected while Michael Ignatieff their star choice was defeated not only in his Toronto riding but across the Canada.
Conservatives got eight percent of Quebec’s 75 seats: The six Quebec Conservatives are: Maxime Bernier ( remember he was dumped from the Harper cabinet for losing sensitive documents at his girl friend’s apartment), Stephen Blaney, Jacques Gourde, Christian Paradis, Bernard Généreux and Denis Lebel. Only Jacques Gourde didn’t make the cabinet. Harper had very little choice but to reward the Conservative survivors in Quebec with cabinet posts. 
The Bloc got five percent of the Quebec seats: Quebeckers neatly dumped the Bloc Québecois as a tired out passé party and installed the NDP as an exciting political experiment. They elected only four Bloc members.  The problem is, of course, knowing where this experiment leads. It’s like setting up a blind four year taste test which could swing towards separatism or federalism depending not so much on what Jack Layton does but more about what Prime Minister Harper does to keep Quebec on side. 
Quebeckers don’t like Mr. Harper, so it will be all uphill for the Conservative government.  Jack Layton and his Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair will also have to play the Quebec nationalist cards they have been dealt very close to the chest if he is to manage this giant Quebec contingent effectively. 
The Bloc with all its members never had the clout of actually ever being the Official Opposition. Their approach was always whether legislation was good or not for Quebec if their support was to be wooed.  If they thought that Quebec would get something useful they were for it. Their commitment to Canada was about as strong as skim milk.  The NDP should not encourage any separatist agenda if it can remain true to its own federalist roots.  However, because of their 59 Quebec seats they will have to play some Quebec nationalist games.

Conservatives or the Liberals will be hard pressed to condemn whatever the NDP does with their Quebec representation. In short the NDP holds  the majority in Quebec and the Liberals in particular have to play carefully if they hope to restore their own prospects four years from now in both Ontario and Quebec. Both the Liberals and Conservatives are so low in the Quebec public opinion the outcome of this experiment with the NDP is critical to the fate of federalism in Quebec.
The great trial begins...
It is a time of trial in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec voters are saying that they are prepared to play federalism of a sort for the next four years. All federalist parties must show that they can provide Quebec with a reason for participating in Canada. If the federalist parties are weak or vacillate on Quebec aspirations, then during the next four years the Bloc Québecois could rise again or to balance out Ottawa, Quebeckers will elect a provincial separatist government after they unload the unpopular Jean Charest Liberals . No one has put a stake through the heart of Quebec separatism. It is like a vampire waiting for the night.
Finally, of the 103 NDP members elected in 2011, 59 are from Quebec. If the NDP doesn’t play this advantage well and loses those seats four years from now, they will return to the highest numbers they got when Ed Broadbent was their leader in 1988 when none of their seats came from Quebec. In Broadbent's time and they won 43 seats in parliament. Deduct the Quebec seats from the 2011 election results and you get 44 NDP seats. Is this the natural level of NDP representation in the Canadian parliament?  That is why it is tricky having 57 percent of the NDP seats from Quebec.  The great experiment has truly begun. 
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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