Politics makes for strange bed fellows:
In an interview with Postmedia News, leader Thomas Mulcair was reluctant to weigh in on what remains a hypothetical situation. That said, he was adamant that his team stands together on matters of national unity.
“We’ve been extremely clear that we’re a pan-Canadian party. We work with all provinces and we want Quebec to remain part of Canada,” he said.
“We have never had any ambiguity about that and I have no member of my caucus with known ties to the sovereignty movement.”
I so admire politicians their ability to lie with a straight face, or to be precise their ability to brazenly not tell the truth, there being an important distinction. Note that the Dipper Chieftain is using the present tense in that last sentence. It is well known that Nycole Turmel, Mr Mulciar's predecessor as NDP leader, had links with two sovereignty parties. But it's good enough for the soundbite and the casual observer.
As Warren Kinsella, of all people, points out the Quebec NDP is rife with separatists. They infiltrated a generation ago and have been either ignored or tolerated by the Dipper High Command. The NDP are not alone in their flexible positioning on the sovereignty question. Brian Mulroney aggressively courted soft nationalists, who then followed Lucien Bouchard out of the party to form the Bloc. This isn't a Right or Left issue. In Quebec allegiances are contingent in a way difficult to fathom in the ROC. Trying to locate a staunch Francophone Federalist, who is not on the federal payroll, is as arduous a quest as modern Canada provides.
There is, of course, a natural Leftward sympathy between Quebec nationalists and the NDP. Yet these very separatists kept temporary faith in times past with the Tories and even the Liberals. For twenty years the Bloc was considered as much a fixture on Parliament Hill as the Centennial Flame and the stray cats. For those who see the world through ideological glasses this makes no sense. Consider instead the Quebec problem as one of political bargaining. Having given up the pretenses of intellectuality, the electorate in La Belle Province goes right to the heart of modern politics: Show Me The Money.
There is a refreshing frankness here, albeit expressed in the coded tribal language of federalist and separatists in the province. If Stephen Harper had been able to bend his spine enough they might have given him their support. But Leaside spines bend only so far, especially when they recall the last time a Tory leader tried to bribe Quebec into the party fold. This is a lesson our friends in the NDP have not learned.
The Sherbrooke Declaration was the NDPs first great act in appeasing Quebec:
Adopted in 2005, the policy document was part and parcel of the NDP’s mating dance with Quebec. “The NDP would recognize a majority decision (50 per cent + 1) of the Quebec people in the event of a referendum,” it states. “The NDP recognizes as well that the right to self-determination implies that the [Quebec National Assembly] is able to write a referendum question and that the citizens of Quebec are able to answer it freely.”
Which is in direct contravention of the Clarity Act which the NDP once supported. Mere details when you're plotting to destroy the Liberal Party. Yet it poses a long-term strategic threat that most rank and file Dippers have not grasped. Still giddy with last year's victory - Hey, we're important now! - they've not looked too closely at their new friends. Just as the Mulroney Tories split three ways between western decentralists, Ontario Red Tories and Quebec soft nationalists, the NDP is now split between its historic base and its new supporters.
An Ontario Dipper believes government should be interventionist and centralized. They still believe in big national programs run from Ottawa to solve problems great and small. While many Quebec nationalists will side with the interventionist part of the agenda, the bit about being run from Ottawa is far less palatable. They want a big interventionist state run out of Quebec City. What self respecting ethnic nationalists wants to have to run their day care program while having to negotiate the details with Albertans and Ontarians?
Tommy Mulcair is riding two horses. So far they've been galloping in the same direction. That won't always be the case.