Thursday, September 11, 2008

Separatism in ICU

Bloc Quebecois wounded by 'friendly fire'

Two days after criticizng the religious beliefs of a Conservative candidate as "out of touch with Quebec values", Gilles Duceppe is facing down a critical identity crisis within his party, as some senior Pequistes are wondering precisely what "Quebec values" really are.

"The leftist, ideological bric-a-brac (state interventionism, egalitarianism, pacifism, environmentalism, anti-Americanism) transforms itself, as if by alchemy, into ‘Quebec values' that we must defend furiously," wrote Jacques Brassard, a former Parti Quebecois minister. "The Bloc has thus become the twin of the NDP, that archaic Canadian socialist party."

"Sovereignty has more or less been put on the back burner. It's not discussed any more. The circumstances aren't suitable. But the fact remains that that's why the Bloc exists," Brassard wrote. "I'm sorry, but this does not suit me. I don't recognize myself in this party."

For his own part, Duceppe naturally disagrees with Brassard's assertions. "In a democracy there are people who belong to a family who do not necessarily agree with what happens in that family," Duceppe replied.

However, with Conservative party support rising in Quebec, Conservative trade minister Michael Fortier naturally rushed to take advantage of the situation, pointing out the Bloc's dismal record in Ottawa.

"Mr Duceppe cannot mention in all honesty a single achievement, a single real gain for Quebecers, which is attributable to the Bloc," Fortier announced. "Any municipal council accomplishes more in one year than the Bloc has in 18 years."

The Bloc's poor record and effective abandonment of the sovereignty issue may be to blame for the party's decreasing support. In the January 2006 federal election, they claimed 42% of the Quebec vote. With the 2008 balloting just over a month away, the party is poised to claim a mere 30%.

Brassard's comments come less than a month after an internal kerfuffle within the Bloc's provincial counterpart, the Parti Quebecois, as Francois Legault noted that the separatist cause in Quebec has suffered a significant setback.

All this being said, it would be premature to start writing off separatism as "dead", as Pierre Trudeau once did (to his own and nearly the entire country's chagrin), as University of Montreal political scientist Pierre Martin notes.

"All journalists should take the stories about the death of the Bloc and bury them. This is not going to happen as long as you have anywhere between a third and half of the electorate who claim to be 'sovereigntist' -- there will be a voice for that electorate," Martin said.

Separatism is far from dead. However, it's certainly in intensive care for at least the short term.

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