Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The NDP in Quebec: Jacques' Bloc

NDP revisiting their Bill 101 backstabbing bill

Even a week after an election that delivered a Conservative majority government -- as opposed to a Liberal/NDP/Bloc Quebecois coalition -- the NDP is continuing to send Canadians further signs that the country very narrowly averted a catastrophe in 2008.

Canadians remember it well: Liberal leader Stephane Dion, having been firmly rebuked by the Canadian electorate, teamed up with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe in a desperate bid to save their per-vote subsidy.

They've still never told Canadians precisely what were the terms of their deal with the Bloc Quebecois -- who was not to be formally a part of the coalition, but still signed onto the formal agreement that would have birthed it.

But there is one thing we do know, courtesy of Liberal Party lead negotiator Marlene Jennings. It's been mentioned on this blog many times before, but in light of recent news, warrants being mentioned again.

The Bloc Quebecois had demanded that Bill 101 -- the infamous French-only sign law -- be applied to federally-regulated industries. The Liberal Party said no.

What Jennings seemingly never accounted for was that the NDP had already said yes. She already knew as much. She knew it before the Liberals and NDP ever came together to form that coalition.

Now, through the promised reintroduction of a private member's bill that would apply "elements of Bill 101" to federally-regulated industries in Quebec. The bill was up prior to the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of the 2011 election. Jack Layton promises it will be back.

“It’s a very, very important law,” Layton declared.

The Bill, which originated with Thomas Mulcair, is allegedly meant to protect the right of workers in federally-regulated industries to communicate in French, without denying Anglophone employees the right to communicate in English.

The problem with all of this is that such a bill hasn't been necessary since the 1970s.

In reality, the bill is about something different: about the NDP supplanting the routed Bloc Quebecois as the voice of Quebecois nationalism.

“It’s obviously a political play to appeal to nationalists,” said associate director of the University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs Robert Asselin. “But in terms of feasibility, it’s a very irresponsible promise.”

“The country has moved forward on linguistic issues,” Asselin said. “It is not as confrontational as it used to be.”

But to Jack Layton, this detail may come second to the reality that, for the NDP, defeating the Bloc Quebecois may not be enough. Now that the NDP has seized control of the electoral coaliton that had previously sustained the Bloc Quebecois, it seems the NDP wants to render it permanent.

It isn't enough that the NDP defeated the Bloc Quebecois. It seemingly wants to become the Bloc Quebecois. With one seeming separatist MP (Pierre-Luc Dusseault) in the mix, this may be more than idle speculation: it may be only a matter of time.

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