Quebec’s voting habits have distorted the political landscape and led to endless Liberal governments

Don’t let this happen again

To the Expositor:

The upcoming federal election is now only days away, and Canadians will have a decision to make far more important than usual when they go to the polls.

Either the hat trick of three consecutive election victories by the Conservative Party will continue with a fourth triumph—allowing this Prime Minister to continue down that fork in the road where he has taken Canada since first being elected in January 2006—or the age of Stephen Harper will come to an end with his ignominious defeat. That’s how his enemies see it anyway.

The election does seem to be one of those turning points in our history. Canadians will have to do a lot of navel gazing. The decision is not just about whether Obergruppenfuhrer Stephen Harper—as some critics call him—should be given the boot. Rather, it cuts to the bone of what kind of country we want Canada to be over the next half century.

Not even a Conservative can deny that the politics of Stephen Harper—and this Prime Minister personally—are very polarizing. In fact, I can think of no Canadian political figure so divisive or polarizing since…let me see…well since Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, reigned supreme during his 16 years at the helm. The difference is that Harper had to win his last three elections fair and square, whereas Trudeau Sr. lived in an era where federal election victories for the Liberal Party were more or less a foregone conclusion.

How could this have happened in the past, in a free and democratic society like Canada? In a word, Quebec. When Trudeau Sr. used to pull 74 out of 75 seats in that province, he was only continuing a tradition that prevailed in Canadian politics throughout the 20th century. Canadian elections were like a baseball game. The Liberal Party got to start running from second base, and were halfway to home plate before the election was even called. Voting habits in Quebec completely distorted federal election results, and led to an almost endless stream of Liberal governments for 110 years. Don’t let this happen again.

Both Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair are politicians from Quebec. Nothing wrong with that, except their Liberal Party and NDP party will each have to rely heavily on votes from Quebec for success or failure in this election. Who wins the bulk of those 78 seats from La Belle Provence could easily determine who forms the next government. If either of those two parties win the election, they will be tripping over their own shoe laces to resurrect the playing of Canada’s favourite national game—that of mollycoddling and placating Quebec. Witness, for instance, that Mulcair has already said that if elected, he will ignore the Clarity Act, and allow the ‘fifty per cent plus one’ rule to form the basis around which Quebec would be allowed to separate in a referendum.

Before Canadians go to vote they should consider if we really want to see a return to that old Quebec-centric form of Canadian federalism. That is why the Harper years have been like a breath of fresh air. The whole Quebec file has been allowed to suffer from ‘benign neglect’ and Canada as a country is so much the better for it.

As a young graduate student from the University of Calgary, Stephen Harper made his now famous “Winds of Change” speech at the founding congress of what was then the old Reform Party in Winnipeg back in 1987. He argued that Canada was ruled over by a relatively small incestuous group of elites who lurked in Toronto and Montreal, and then used Ottawa to implement their agenda nation wide. Harper referred to these people unkindly as “the political class.” He despises them even more today, than he did back then.

John Ibbotson, a journalist from the Globe and Mail, picked up on this idea, and expanded it in his book that came out in late 2012 called ‘The Big Shift.’ He coined the term the “Laurentian Elite” to describe this clique that Harper had been bitching about for 25 years. Ibbotson called their world view the “Laurentian Consensus,” and included Ottawa as well as Montreal and Toronto under this umbrella. He too argued that Canada had been ruled over for most of its history by this dusty small “I” liberal elite, which also took in the Red Tories from Toronto. Ibbotson explained the rise of Stephen Harper and the new Conservative Party, by saying that the Laurentian Elite were so caught up in their own private love-in, they hadn’t realized that money, power and population, were moving to Western Canada, and that this would result in a sea change in Canadian politics. The fact that the latest seat redistribution in the new 338 seat parliament gives Alberta and British Columbia together as many seats as Quebec, is just another example of this.

Not surprisingly, the most venomous Harper-Haters are the urbanites who come from eastern Canada’s three largest cities, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. These people include the academics, the media, and the cultural elite of central Canada. Surprising in some ways, they include the business elite too. An analysis of their anger, however, shows that it reduces itself to nothing more than just outrage that someone of their own ilk is not Prime Minister, and that there is not currently a Liberal government in power in Ottawa. Put another way, the stars are out of alignment in their view.

And my point is? Don’t let this lefty-lib urbanite rabble impose their Toronto-like vision of Canada on the rest of us.

When I think about this election, I remember the first address that my favourite country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, made to the American Congress after being sworn in as president. Mr. Lincoln was making it clear he wasn’t just ‘blowing smoke’ when he said he would use whatever level of military force that was necessary to keep the rebel states in the union. The best part of that speech will always be when he said, “The struggle of today, is not altogether for today. It is a struggle for a vast future…”

Canada is at a crossroads. The way we cast our ballot on election day this time around, could determine the kind of Canada our grandchildren will be living in 50 years from now.

Vote however you want, but do so wisely.

Brad Middleton