"Look. I've got to suck up to Quebec, so just shut up and let me get on with it." Stephen Harper (Harperland, Lawrence Martin, 2010 P. 82)
James Laxer recently wrote a piece Stephen Harper: Now He’s The Champion of National Unity, in which he questions Harper's new found love of a united Canada. He invoked memories of Harper's Reform Party under Preston Manning, who had an Abraham Lincoln complex, hoping to invoke "A House Divided" in his handling of Quebec.
With a recent surge of NDP popularity in Quebec, Laxer believes that anything is possible. I still feel that Gilles Duceppe is pretty popular in this province and doubt that the NDP will capture many more seats, but stranger things have happened. It would be wonderful if a federalist party made inroads into the province. And I believe that this election will not be decided by the polls but at the polls.
However, let's look at Stephen Harper himself. His campaign is being run under the banner 'Here for Canada' (while hiding from Canadians). A stark contrast to his former plans for decentralization.
"Whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or 10 governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be." - Stephen Harper in a 1994 National Citizens Coalition speech.However, there was a more direct attempt by Stephen Harper in 2004, to divide Canada, based on the 'Belgian Model'.
The Conservative leader first floated the idea during a speech in Quebec last Friday. He said there are some areas where Ottawa could hand over some of its powers to linguistic groups, such as francophones or anglophones. "By devolving authority, not solely to a province, but to have an arrangement based on linguistic groups that cross the country," he saidThen Prime Minister Paul Martin said: "I think the role of the prime minister of Canada is not to build a better Belgium, it's to build a stronger Canada.
His party immediately went into damage control, because he didn't explain how this would work for Anglophones in Quebec or Francophones in other parts of the country.
Of course anyone following Stephen Harper's career, knows that few of his ideas are his own. As chief policy wonk for the Reform Party, he "cribbed" about 2/3 of their platform from the National Citizens Coalition handbook. (1)
And he also stole the idea of the Belgian model to handle Quebec, from Peter Brimelow's 'The Patriot Game'. In his book Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, William Johnson said that after reading the book, Stephen Harper was so excited that he went out and bought ten copies to give to friends. (1)
Brimelow lays out the Belgian model on Page 83 of his book. (2)
And after suggesting this model for Canada, André Lecours, from the Department of Political Science at Concordia University, wrote a paper on why Harper's (Brimelow's) idea wouldn't work. In fact it's not even working in Belgium.
So is Stephen Harper really here FOR Canada, or for what he plans to do TO Canada. Sometimes it's all in the preposition.
1. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3
2. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3