POLITICS

Quebec Election: Tory MP Part Of Group Urging Harper To Get Involved

03/12/2014 12:38 EDT | Updated 03/12/2014 12:59 EDT
CP

A long-time Tory MP is a member of a group urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get involved in the Quebec election or risk the possibility of a third referendum that could split up the country.

The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday that Edmonton East MP Peter Goldring, who belongs to the Montreal-based group the Special Committee for Canadian Unity (SCCU), believes the candidacy of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau for the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois is a game-changer.

"With Mr. Péladeau coming on board, it certainly tilts the pendulum directly towards a referendum," Goldring told The Globe's Daniel LeBlanc.

Another group member, Brent Tyler, told the paper that the feds can't sit "like a sphinx on the sidelines," and must reiterate that, as described in the federal Clarity Act, Quebec's secession can only occur in the event of a clear majority on a clear question.

According to the biography on Goldring's website, he founded the Edmonton chapter of the SCCU after travelling to Quebec City during the 1995 referendum and finding himself "appalled at the level Canadian unity and pride had sunk to."

The MP claims to have had an epiphany after returning to Alberta.

"The possibility of a Canadian break-up drove Peter to rethink his life, his priorities, his family responsibility and plunge into national politics," the biography reads.

Goldring spoke at a rally organized by the SCCU last June, railing against the PQ's controversial language laws.

Harper and other top Conservatives have vowed to stay on the sidelines of the provincial vote, lest they be accused of meddling in Quebec's

internal politics or giving motivation to separatists.

"It's not our election campaign, it's theirs," Heritage Minister Shelly Glover told HuffPost last week.

But the prime minister has been picking his rivals' brains about the possibility of a PQ majority and sovereignty push.

Story continues after slideshow

FLASHBACK: The 1995 Quebec Referendum

Harper has already chatted about the matter with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, as well as provincial premiers from coast to coast.

Provincial sources told HuffPost's Althia Raj that the prime minister wanted to ensure leaders supporting the federalist cause would speak with one voice — and not get lured into spats with PQ leader Pauline Marois.

"Let's not inflame or set anything off with regards to the federalist movement," recounted one senior official in a premier's office on the east coast who requested anonymity.

Mulcair has already pledged to stay neutral in the race and not support the federalist parties. The NDP leader has said he is waiting for the day there is a provincial NDP party in his home province.

But Mulcair has also said he is worried about a sovereignty push.

"I don't think a third referendum is a good thing for anybody," he said. "And having been through the first two, I can tell you that they are very divisive, right down to the family unit, and it's not something that I would wish upon my friends, and family and neighbours in Quebec again."

Trudeau, meanwhile, is supporting his provincial cousins, Philippe Couillard's Quebec Liberals, but isn't expected to campaign.

The Liberal leader and Mulcair have clashed in the past on this issue of Quebec secession.

Mulcair backs the NDP policy that a simple majority vote of 50 per cent plus one on a clear referendum question would be enough for Ottawa to trigger talks with the province on separation.

Mulcair reaffirmed his position in a Montreal speech last November which was recorded and posted to YouTube. The NDP leader said his party's position is clear, unlike the Clarity Act introduced by the Liberals, which he says lacks a proper threshold to start negotiations.

"I look forward to debating that with Justin Trudeau in 2015 and I know exactly what's going to happen: I'm going to wipe the floor with him," he said.

Trudeau accused the NDP leader of pandering to soft nationalists in Quebec and playing a dangerous game with national unity.

The NDP has the most federal seats in Quebec thanks to the "orange wave" breakthrough of 2011 and polls have shown Mulcair is the most popular leader in the province.

A possible Marois majority government and sovereignty push would add a whole new element to the next federal election, expected in 2015.

And according to The Canadian Press' Jennifer Ditchburn, strategists are already making calculations about how to position each of the leaders as best able to keep Canada united.

"It's going to be a major fault line," one federal Liberal adviser told Ditchburn.

What do you think? Should Harper — and other federal leaders — get active in the Quebec election or stay on the sidelines? Tell us in the comments.

With files from The Canadian Press