ENGLISH
EDITION
HRVATSKI
MORE INFO CLUB TV PHOTOGALLERIES MINUTE BY MINUTE REVUES CHRONICLES HOME

Where am I?
Home > World
RSS SET AS HOMEPAGE ADD TO FAVORITES
OTTAWA
Canada Crisis Could Boost Quebec Separatists
Quebec has almost a quarter of the seats in the federal Parliament and Harper has wooed the province diligently since taking power.
Canada Crisis Could Boost Quebec Separatists
The Newest Articles
President Stephen Harper

Author
Reuters
File photo
TEXT
Published: December 05, 2008 20:12h
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign to whip up sentiment against those seeking independence for Quebec could place new strains on national unity even though the tactic may have come too late to help separatists in Monday's provincial election.

For much of the last 40 years Canada has been bedeviled by political battles with movements who want the predominantly French-speaking province of 7.5 million to become a nation.

Support for the idea of Quebec independence is waning and recent polls show the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) was heading for a bad defeat in the election.

Quebec has almost a quarter of the seats in the federal Parliament and Harper has wooed the province diligently since taking power after a January 2006 election.

But his conciliatory tone ended this week when the Bloc Quebecois -- the PQ's sister party in the federal Parliament -- said it would back an opposition coalition to bring down Harper's minority Conservative government.

The prime minister lashed out at the coalition, saying it would destroy the country. One legislator went so far as to suggest those dealing with the Bloc were guilty of treason.

The attacks sparked concern in Quebec that Ottawa wanted to start fighting old battles by smearing the province.

"If this crisis continues, the net impact of that might be that it will revive a sovereignty movement that was ... in hibernation, in a profound sleep over the past few years," said Christian Bourque of the Leger Marketing polling firm.

Not all Bloc voters are separatists. Some want more rights for a Quebec inside Canada and back the Bloc because it will stand up for their rights.

The Bloc refers to its supporters as "sovereigntists" because they want to gain control over their own affairs. In this context, the word "separatist" in French has insulting undertones because it implies that the Bloc's priority is to break up Canada.

Harper made a national televised address on Wednesday in both languages. In English he condemned the deal with the separatists but in French used the word sovereigntist.

"The Prime Minister is portraying not only the Bloc Quebecois but Quebecers in general as being a threat to national unity in Canada," said Antonia Maioni, head of McGill University's Institute for the Study of Canada.

"The way (he) has zeroed in on separatism has burned a lot of bridges in Quebec ... it's a very serious affront."

Canada's worst bout of tensions over national unity started in the late 1980s, when Ottawa tried and eventually failed to strike a deal to give more rights to Quebec.

The collapse of the so-called Meech Lake accord fueled a surge in nationalist sentiment in Quebec, climaxing in a provincial referendum on independence in 1995.

Although the referendum narrowly failed, the experience was traumatic for many, and since then few politicians have dared talk about the constitution.

"The Conservative leader denigrated the votes of all Quebecers," Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters in Ottawa after Harper's address, using language guaranteed to set off alarm bells. "He has asked his supporters to engage in the worst attacks against Quebecers since Meech Lake."

Michael Behiels, a political historian at the University of Ottawa, said Harper was being irresponsible.

"There's so much anti-Quebec rhetoric going on out there, that this is very, very dangerous and damaging to national unity," he said.

Before the crisis started, observers generally agreed that the separatist movement was in trouble. Polls put support for independence at under 40 percent, prompting PQ leader Pauline Marois to promise that, if she were to win Monday's election, she would not push for an immediate referendum.

Angry hard-liners promptly denounced Marois, only boosting the public impression that not all was well inside the party. A CROP poll in La Presse on Friday put the PQ on just 29 percent, a full 16 points behind the ruling Liberals.

"If this crisis continues, the net impact of that might be that it will revive a sovereignty movement that was ... in hibernation, in a profound sleep over the past few years," said Christian Bourque of the Leger Marketing polling firm.

The chaos in Ottawa prompted Marois to try to inject some enthusiasm into a flagging campaign.

"We can see clearly that this country doesn't work," she said this week. "The only solution is to get out of there, and choose our sovereignty."

Harper tried to modify his language on Thursday, saying Bloc legislators had a right to sit in Parliament. His chief Quebec adviser dismissed the idea that the prime minister was stoking tension.

"That's absolutely ridiculous. One thing to notice is that the Bloc doesn't have the monopoly on representing Quebec's interests," Dmitri Soudas told Reuters.

He noted that in the recent Oct. 14 federal election, the Bloc picked up 38.1 percent, its second-worst result ever. That said, the party holds 49 of the province's 75 seats.

Related Articles
ADS
CLUB
Nr. of members: 6524
YOU ARE NOT SIGNED IN
login
password
Remember me on this computer

ADS


Izrada portala: Info izlog d.o.o.
FOR WEBMASTERS     IMPRESSUM     MARKETING     CONTACTS     TERMS OF SERVICE     SITEMAP     NEWS SITEMAP
Copyright © 2006-2008 Javno.com   All rights reserved.