09/06/2012 05:14 EDT | Updated 11/06/2012 05:12 EST

Hey Harper, Take the PQ Win as a Chance to Step it Up


I wish to strongly condemn the violence this week that marred the Quebec election results. Such violence has no place in our country and in our democratic process, where millions of Canadians exercised their democratic rights by casting their ballots in peace and freedom. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

I would like to congratulate Pauline Marois on becoming the first female premier of Quebec. This is an achievement that is celebrated by everyone committed to gender equality and the advancement of women in politics. I also thank Jean Charest for his service to his province and his country for so many years.

The results of the Quebec election are positive for Canada and the strength of our federation. Over 70 per cent of Quebecers participated in the vote. While Quebecers achieved a change in provincial government led by the pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois, it's a restrained minority government. A strong majority of Quebecers voted for candidates committed to strengthening Quebec's place within a united Canada.

Quebec has and will continue to forcefully promote the strength of the French language and culture in Quebec. Canadians everywhere should support this effort. And the federal government must demonstrate to Quebecers that a strong Canada is pivotal in buttressing the French language in Quebec and indeed, across the country.

The advent of a PQ government in Quebec is both a challenge and an opportunity for Canada. This is a time for renewed national leadership that reaches out to Canadians to offers an overarching vision for Canada in the 21st century -- one where a strong federal government works with the provinces, with the municipalities, with aboriginal leaders in the national interest. A strong national vision and the specific policy proposals to make it real -- whether the environment, EI, equalization, language and immigration.

This is not the time for Stephen Harper's continued abdication of national leadership, his deliberate weakening of the federal role, and his consistent refusal to establish a meaningful national agenda that speaks to our collective challenges. Harper's absentee federalism threatens our ability to achieve effective national action far more than the election of a PQ government in Quebec. So does Thomas Mulcair's declarations about the responsibility of the prime minister to promote the nation of Québécois, with no comment on his responsibility to promote the nation of Canada and the national interest.

It has always been understood that in a dynamic federation, provincial governments will demand greater powers from the federal government from time to time. What is unprecedented is the degree to which Harper refuses to stand up for the national government and an acceptable balance of power.

Under cover of a steady stream of portentous pronouncements full of empty rhetoric from both the Conservatives and the NDP, Canada becomes more and more a disconnected collection of provinces -- a nation in name only in which we expect less and less from our fellow Canadians. We're losing the mutual sense of fairness and respect that is essential to building a prosperous future together as citizens of one of the most dynamic and diverse countries in the world.

I look forward to working with Quebecers and all Canadians to build a 21st century Canada -- one Canada, for all Canadians.