Wednesday, April 18, 2007


There's been some talk about SES' poll on how Quebec voters would shift their support if the Bloc didn't exist. But it's worth noting that an initial shift would only the beginning of the aftershocks from the Bloc disbanding - and the NDP would seem to be in a position to move further ahead from the Libs as those aftereffects played out.

After all, one of the primary reasons why Stephane Dion appealed to Lib delegates was surely his track record in fighting against separatism. And indeed, on paper he figures to be as well-placed as anybody to lead a charge against the Bloc...even if he's currently failing miserably in any attempt to build support on that (or any other) basis.

But if the Bloc were to disband and effectively remove separatism from the federal political scene, that would change the picture dramatically. While there might be a stronger perceived need for forceful federalists within Quebec's National Assembly if the Bloc's disbanding wasn't accompanied by Quebec ratification of the Constitution, the title would no longer carry as much value in determining who to send to Ottawa. Meanwhile, a track record built on the old federalist/separatist dichotomy could prove to be more of a burden than a benefit if Dion were seen as primarily a product of past arguments rather than current ones.

All of these factors would only add to Dion's difficulty in building Quebec support. Meanwhile, the NDP, whose stance on federalism simply hasn't become a major subject of debate, would be in an ideal position to present itself as the party looking to move Quebec and Canada toward a more productive discussion, rather than framing an entire province's political system around the answer to a single "yes or no" question.

Of course, the whole exercise is indeed a hypothetical one - if one with at least some basis in current discussion. And to the extent that constitutional talks might help precipitate the end result, plenty of care should be taken to ensure that any agreed terms can lead to positive results all around, rather than being based on a Harper/Dumont agreement to make government ineffective at both levels. But one way or another, it appears that the Bloc's probable decline and possible disbanding can do nothing but expand the NDP's opportunities in Quebec.

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