Saturday, March 1, 2014

Quebec as Scorched Earth

The devil is in the details. For the longest time, the Conservatives have identified a resurgent Liberals as their go-to target. Pollsters confirm that the Liberals have indeed enjoyed a bump in their support thanks to the new Trudeau Era. Even the media has placed greater emphasis on the Liberals, over the NDP as official opposition.

As such, many have concluded that this is a two horse race; and the Cons will focus their ammunition on the Liberals and forego the NDP. But a recent development suggests that may not be entirely accurate. 

I have held a long standing view that the Conservatives are not serious about winning in Quebec. They can make a show of it, and Harper can learn French, but ultimately I don't think their goal is to win seats as a sweep in the province. Rather, the party has focused on maximizing the odds of anyone but the Liberals winning.

It seems the Conservatives, since taking power have done everything they could to prop up the Bloc Québécois. Not actively, but indirectly by pursuing policy that Québécois would object to. Even their move to recognize Quebec as a nation, as part of a united Canada, has smacks of nationalism ideals that serve to embolden the Bloc and the Parti Quebecois. 

Now, with the Canada Jobs Grant going ahead without Quebec on board, they have created another issue. Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair warned that this could have an impact on the likely coming provincial election; and that it will give the PQ fodder to use during the campaign. 

Mulcair is quite right, but I don't know if he's seen the gears turning behind the scenes. The BQ is an organized shambles, but a PQ majority or enhanced minority will embolden the separatist movement in Quebec. And I think, that's precisely what the Conservatives are hoping to achieve.

By surging the Bloc forward, they hope to cut into NDP gains in the province and at the very least try to ensure any change overs avoid going Liberal. The Liberals lack the support base the Conservatives currently have, and no doubt preventing gains for them in Quebec is a major part of the strategy for the next Conservative victory plan.

It also has the double effect of neutralizing the NDP, by forcing them to focus resources on holding their Quebec gains against an emboldened Bloc Québécois. 

Of course, this is all speculation and conjecture on my part. But I've seen this same kind of push from the Conservatives for "scorched earth" in Quebec before. It seems to me they are more than happy to push voters away from themselves, provided it also pushes them away from the Liberals in the process. 

Perhaps I'm being overly suspicious, but it certainly seems like there is extra motivation beyond just getting the Jobs Grant program up and running. Mulcair is right that this will be an issue in a future provincial campaign; I just hope his team is preparing for the impact it may have federally. 

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