10 December 2008

Who's afraid of the big bad Bloc?

One thing that has particularly upset Canadians most about the Liberal/NDP coalition, is the arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois. This is due in large part to people seeing the agreement as much more innovative than it is. It doesn't bring the Bloc into government, it simply says they will support the coalition on confidence votes, nothing more. In effect, the Bloc will do for the coalition in this Parliament what it did for the Conservatives in the last Parliament. In the last Parliament, it supported the Conservative government on a number of bills including two budgets, i.e. confidence votes. In other words, for the Bloc it's business as usual but with a new partner. The Conservatives had no problems with Bloc support then, but now ... well, they're separatists, you know.

So much for Conservative hypocrisy. But should progressives fear the Bloc?

The Bloc exists to promote the interests of Quebec as they see them, but then so do Liberal or Conservative MPs from Quebec, just as MPs from Alberta promote the interests of Albertans. That's what they're elected for, and that's what they get paid for. Bloc MPs also support the separation of Quebec, but that is largely irrelevant to the business of the House of Commons. House business generally concerns itself with environmental policy, Medicare, the economy and a host of other issues that have little or nothing to do with separation.

And on most of those issues, the Bloc's position falls somewhere in the liberal-left range of the political spectrum, essentially where most Liberal and NDP positions fall. There is a happy confluence of views. It means the Bloc should find it relatively easy to support coalition legislation, and it means the coalition should have to make little effort to gain that support. On issues such as the arts and youth crime, which hurt the Conservatives badly in Quebec in the October election, the coalition should encounter no problems. This is quite different from the last Parliament when the Bloc kept the Conservatives in power. I wouldn't dream of suggesting the Conservatives made back-room deals, but there could be no doubt they had to make more effort to get the Bloc on side.

Finally, a word about the separation thing. The Bloc position is, after all, perfectly legitimate. They want a separate country and they sincerely believe we would all be better off as two countries rather than one. I strongly disagree but, who knows, they could be right. In any case, this isn't some kind of betrayal of Canada. Splitting a country is fraught with danger, but some have done it with both sides agreeing they are better off. The former Czechoslovakia comes to mind. And Quebec separatists aren't threatening violence, just a democratic referendum and civilized negotiation.

There is little for progressives to fear from the Bloc Quebecois as supporters of the coalition on confidence votes. The Conservatives got their support in the last Parliament, and if there's no coalition, they may very well be seeking it in this one. Nothing new here.

1 comment:

  1. Well reasoned comments. I think a lot of Bloc support is due to the fact their social policies fall the Liberal left part of the political spectrum.