Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan has a modest suggestion to ensure the Senate doesn't do any more avoidable harm to Canada's democracy:
That we have no need for a second house of Parliament of any kind is the first proposition here; in today's world, no persuasive case for such a chamber, elected or appointed, can be made. There is no role for it that can’t be better played by others, whether the House of Commons or the provinces. If Canada was being created today, no one would think it needed two chambers, just as no Egyptian or Tunisian rebel has pleaded for a bicameral parliament.

What makes most sense in terms of both democratic theory and Canada's needs is to get rid of the damn place entirely before it scuppers more useful legislation. But abolition requires a constitutional amendment, which is also as likely as getting Tony Clement to show integrity. Still, the way forward is remarkably simple: Impose stringent term limits on sitting senators – I’m thinking Labour Day at the latest – and then just stop appointing new members. Before you could curse Mike Duffy, there’d be no more senators in the Senate.
- Andre Pratte may be right in theorizing as to why separatism is relatively popular among young Quebeckers:
Younger Quebecers are rarely exposed to passionate, intelligent arguments in favour of federalism and the Canadian experience. Most of what they hear from English Canada transmits, at best, indifference toward Quebec and the French language (witness the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games). Having not lived through two referendums and endless constitutional debates, they don't understand English Canadians' hostility toward changes that would be advantageous to Quebec.

Meanwhile, separation is promoted by their professors, by the artists they admire and by brilliant politicians young and old. Two weeks from now, when tens of thousands of people attend the huge Fête Nationale shows in Montreal and Quebec City, they'll hear pop singers and rap groups yell “Vive le Québec Libre!” at the beginning or the end of their performance. At l'Université de Montréal, there is an annual “semaine de la souveraineté,” when students can listen to figures like Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry explain why separation would be in Quebec's economic and cultural interests. Needless to say, there is no “semaine du Canada.”

Nowadays, no one speaks to Quebecers, especially the younger generation, about Canada and the principles and values that are the foundation of the federation.
But it's far from clear that the imbalance can't be changed - particularly now that for the first time in over two decades, Quebec has elected a substantial number of MPs who actually have an interest in building links to the rest of the country rather than presenting or harping about a sovereigntist threat.

- Meanwhile, there's also an open question as to how the Harper Cons will handle Quebec. And at least some of the party's own members are rightly frustrated about a failure to engage with the province:
Of the approximately 2,400 delegates and observers in at-tendance, just 200 are from Quebec.

Among them is Peter White, a vocal riding association president in the riding of Brome-Missisquoi, who argues the party didn't invest the necessary resources in its Quebec candidates' campaigns in the May 2 general election and that many of them are upset.

"We didn't get much help from outside and we didn't get very good results, so naturally, we're disappointed," he said Friday.

"There wasn't much of a national campaign in Quebec."

For example, White said his rural riding didn't get its signs until a week after the writ dropped, and not a single high-profile party official stopped by during the fiveweek campaign.
- And similarly, Chantal Hebert notes that the Cons have reason to listen to Quebec as well if they hope to build a party capable of winning more than a single majority:
The excesses described in Thursday’s auditor general’s report on the G20 summit spending also suggest that the sense of entitlement that helped bring the Liberals to their knees is already running strong within the ranks of Harper’s government.

Finally, some Conservatives always feared that the price to pay for a majority would be a government beholden to Quebec. The tenor of the party’s recent victory put those fears to rest.

But if Quebecers do re-engage in federalist politics long-term, their absence from the Conservative table could become the party’s Achilles heel.

The early seeds of the deconstruction of the Liberal coalition were planted when the party gave up on Western Canada. Allowing Quebec to turn into a permanent black hole would be just as short-sighted on the part of the Conservatives.
Needless to say, the same lesson figures to apply to the NDP - and hopefully we'll see it making some inroads into the few areas where the party is still running third (notably Calgary and much of suburban Ontario).

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