08/10/2014 11:50 EDT | Updated 10/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Harper in Quebec: It's Now or Never


Francophone Quebecois are unique, shaped by more than 400 years of history and an unrivalled environment. According to Quebecois publicist Jacques Bouchard, it is precisely this structural identity that defines the Quebecois Nation; it rules how it behaves as well as how it makes decisions.


( Source: Adrian Wyld, CP )

Despite claims from certain analysts, politics still stokes the flames in Quebec. When Quebec loves, it loves. Before the orange crush of 2011, there had been a blue streak in 1958, as well as a red one in 1980. But when Quebec no longer cares, it's time to run and hide, fast. Ask Gilles Duceppe or Pauline Marois, they likely have a lot to say about the subject.

Inspired by its latin-christian roots, Quebec also loves to forgive, especially those who know to find the humility of a sincere mea culpa. Robert Bourassa proved it by getting re-elected Quebec premier, after having been defeated by René Lévesque nine years earlier in 1976.

When he reclaimed power, Bourassa demonstrated his recognition of the distinctness of Quebec by using the notwithstanding clause to apply certain elements of the Charter of the French language that the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional.

If the past is any indication of the future, what could seem politically impossible for Stephen Harper today is in fact possible. Many seem to think that the next election could exclude any input from Québec. Those who think so are making a huge mistake.

Even though the proportion of seats occupied by Québec MPs will not be the same at the next election, la belle province will be playing a key role and Stephen Harper would be wise to place the interests of Québec at the heart of his next campaign's strategy.

Especially since his own polling data seem to indicate that Canadian voters are no longer as preoccupied by the economy. This would mean that in order to retain the keys to 24 Sussex, Conservatives will need to up their game; it will no longer be enough to present Stephen Harper as the only one able to manage the economy, while portraying Thomas Mulcair as being irresponsible and Justin Trudeau as unable.

In the next election, the gates of power will open to the man who will succeed in deciphering its theme and offer the relevant solutions. It has been a long time since the theme has not been so clear: despite what some say, there is more than ever an appetite for a round of constitutional negotiations.

Should one of the leaders choose to take this path, the road will certainly be difficult, but it is a road that will lead him directly to a majority, and this with seats in all regions of the country. To begin these negotiations in a strong position, while demonstrating a very open mind, Stephen Harper would have much to gain by proposing to eliminate federal spending power, thereby putting a definitive end to fiscal imbalance. This is perfectly in line with his vision of an open federalism and it is difficult to imagine a province opposing it.

Facing such an offer, provinces will be open to the idea of compromising on other topics, such as the reform or even abolishing the Senate, and finally recognition, not only symbolically but constitutionally, of the Quebecois nation.

Stephen Harper is the best man for this great challenge. Contrary to Trudeau Senior or Brian Mulroney, both Quebecois, Stephen Harper was born in Ontario and made a life for himself in Alberta. He is one of their own, he has their trust, confidence and he can convince them. The election of a strong federalist provincial government in Quebec has provided him with the ultimate opportunity and calling card. It's now or never.

Joseph Soares served as a communications issues advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada (2008-2010), as well as a Policy Advisor to his political lieutenant for Quebec (2006-2008).


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