Kenney said Tuesday that should the legislation pass in Quebec, the federal Justice Department would study it for any potential violations of the constitutional right to freedom of religion, and mount a legal challenge if necessary.
"We are very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society, and that would affect the practice of their faith," said Kenney.
Usually the minister is less tactful in his responses. Then again we are speaking of Quebec. Holy ground in Canadian politics. Whole regions of the country can be dismissed casually by major political leaders - souvien Marc Lalonde, eh? - but not La Belle Province. While the Canadian Establishment is terrified of two tier health care, they're perfectly fine with two tier federalism.
The Tories historic 2011 victory showed that a majority could be formed without a significant Quebec contingent. That means all the old rules of how you form a national government have changed. Come 2015, when more seats are added to the ROC but none to Quebec, the math will look even more promising. Pissing off Quebec used to be a fatal move. Now it's a modest danger.
Pauline Marois and her razor thin minority government are desperate to bait Ottawa. Since becoming PQ leader Madame Marois has tried to provoke the Feds into a harsh reaction. The proposed charter of values accomplishes several things at once. It shores up support among the pure laine dead enders, it assuages fears of demographic decline among the wider Quebecois electorate and puts the Harper government in an awkward position.
If Minister Kenney was to launch a full attack on this charter, something he would do if it involved any other province, then the Marois government could claim that Quebec values do not match those of the ROC. Proof that more power and money is needed for the provincial government, and that only the PQ can be trusted to defend la patrie with sufficient zeal. If the Harper Tories fail to react it will lose the party credibility among ethnics in the ROC, a key pillar of the new Conservative coalition.
Sitting between a rock and a hardass, the Minister has decided to tread carefully. Because of the inherent quietness of Canadian politics a full attack would be unwise. Referring the matter to the Courts, and letting the legal process take the political heat, is the safer bet. Canadians have a strange reverence for their judicial institutions. Nonsense that they would never accept from an elected official is gratefully tolerated if delivered from the bench. If the new Quebec charter gets struck down by the courts Minister Kenney, or Prime Minister Kenney depending on how long it takes, can both take credit and deflect blame.
Those of us in the ROC still committed to the whole Canadian nation building thing are naturally dismayed. Didn't we just spend the last fifty years, from Dief onward, fighting this sort of petty prejudice? Now it's back and being financed on the equalization dime. The drama still needs to be played out. The demographic clock is ticking in our favour. The bigotry of Madame Marois and her cronies are the death rattle of Quebec ethnic nationalism. It will still take awhile longer, but their day is done.