Monday, November 27, 2006

Canadian Unity, Parliament Style

Cracks are appearing in Parliament's political Quebec game today. Michael Chong, a Conservative GTA MP, quit Stephen Harper's cabinet because he said that he could not support ethnic nationalism. He was for civic nationalism, not ethnic.

Gerard Kennedy called it wordsmithing, a tactic that's led us into danger before.

Garth Turner claims other Tories are upset about the motion, but in this Parliament, as in previous ones I recent memory, I doubt any are going to risk being booted from caucus and will toe the party line. Which is a shame. (BTW Turner is doing something radical for an MP -- he's asking us what we think.)

According to Global National, Harper sent out Senator Marjory LeBreton as one of his mouthpieces, and she "said Chong made a 'personal" decision and it's important that cabinet ministers toe the government line on important matters such as national unity.' "

Now that's an interesting comment. National unity is considered so important that Harper will not allow a free vote, among cabinet members anyway, yet so unimportant that a motion affecting it can debated and voted on in a matter of days.

Kennedy has it right, it is wordsmithing. Harper excuses this motion as being symbolic. Symbolism can be problematic. Since it is an act of Parliament, our Supreme Court may decide to incorporate it into law. Nothing would surprise me when it comes to that Court's judgements. It presupposes les Quebecois are a bunch of nincompoops who'll be pacified by the right words. And it lets the government off the hook from doing things that will really enhance unity.

So far, this government, in an attempt to pander to this region and that region, has done little to bring us closer together as a nation, to show us how we're similar. Instead, he's done things that divide us and has played to envy and malice. To be fair, it isn't much different in that regard from previous governments.

We can never appease the separatists. They don't want our country. So why bother? Instead, if Harper is so concerned about national unity, why does he not start from the premise that each and every one of his government's policy decisions ought to unify the country? Let's start with the environment. Harper is ostensibly resisting the Kyoto Accord and putting out his pathetic Clean Air Act in order to pander to the Alberta vote. This has apparently inflamed Quebec, which if the media is to be believed, is where most of the opposition is to his attempts to keep the environment dirty. Thus Harper, through his environmental policy has pitted Quebec against Canada. Stupid move. Stupid because not only is Alberta a polluting province, it is also a province that leads in such environmental initiatives as wind power. He does not need to pander to the oil and gas companies when there are other Albertans who are as much onside as the greenest of BC'ers and Quebeckers when it comes to cleaning up the environment. If he had started with the premise that his environmental policy is to unify the country, then he would have understood that most citizens are for greening our industries. It's the companies that are not. Thus creating a Clean Air Act, with teeth and with provisions to help all the big polluters, not just in Alberta but also Saskatchewan and Ontario, and provisions to foster environmental companies wherever they may be located in Canada, he could have given a reason for all Canadians, including Quebeckers, to lift our heads back up and to look across the Pond to Europe with pride about how we're finally turning things around and becoming a good citizen of our shared planet.

Instead he came out with his lame Act and is trying to fix the resultant damage, and to counter the BQ's move, with words of symbolism. He seems to be a man who likes, excels at, and prefers the political games of strategy over the headier ambition of uniting a country through bold action. What a shame.

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