Barack Obama; Gilles Duceppe

Q: Aren’t the continued allusions to the winds of “change” in the U.S. and other attempts by Jack Layton to compare himself to Barack Obama a bit much? I keep thinking they’ll backfire. How far can he take this?

A: You have no idea how much further this could have gone.

Also, blame the focus groups.

Q: Why on earth is Duceppe talking about revising the Constitution again?

A: It’s his only move. Harper has re-created the famous Mulroney coalition, a brilliant scheme to win large majorities by appealing to both the West and (rural) Quebec. Both are populous, both tend to social conservatism, and both want a small federal government (in the case of Quebec, to give more power to a provincially-run welfare state; in the West, to reduce taxes and dismantle the welfare state). This is a fine trick if you can pull it off by balancing slashed environmental regulations for the oil industry in Alberta with disproportionately large infrastructure funding in Quebec. Ultimately, Mulroney ended up alienating both groups, which led to the rapid growth of the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois; in the 1993 election, his party went from 151 MPs to just two.

Anyways, the Bloc got in because les québécois were pissed about the lack of Constitutional recognition of themselves as a “distinct society” within Canada, and that was one issue Mulroney could never deliver on. Harper has done everything he can to buy the love of Quebec, going as far as to call Quebec a “nation”, but he dare go no further. And of course, crossing that boundary is the raison d’être of the Bloc. (Meanwhile, the Reform Party got in because Mulroney tried to recognize Quebec as a distinct society.)

Q: So is Quebec society really all that distinct from the Rest of Canada?

A: Yes. Well, I won’t speak for Newfoundland, since I’ve never been there, but it’s definitely quite different from the rest of the country, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.