Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maxime Bernier Burns His Bridges

Last week ex-cabinet minister Maxime Bernier emerged from political banishment and commenced a journey on the road to redemption by giving a bombshell speech about Quebec's addiction to federal largess.

As you remember, Bernier was dropped from the Harper cabinet two years ago after he left some semi-secret documents at the home of his girlfriend, who supposedly had some ties to bikers. The fate of the free world was never really in jeopardy and the the whole affair was stupidly overblown. The puritans in the Harper cabinet were mortified at Bernier's choice of girlfriend, her biker ties and her voluptuous breasts that she flaunted saucily at Mr. Bernier's cabinet investiture at Rideau Hall.
Since his departure from cabinet, Bernier has been patiently doing his penance in the back benches, but is now making a move to return to cabinet.

His speech before a partisan crowd in Mont St-Grégoire, south east of Montreal in the Montérégie region of Quebec, was nothing less than a full-frontal attack on the Quebec model of entitlement and was so brutal and humiliating that it drew almost universal condemnation by Quebec politicians, clear across party lines.

If you are inclined, here is an English translation of the complete speech, which I believe you'll find  quite interesting. "For a proud, responsible and autonomous Quebec"

If you're in a rush I'll give you the executive summary;
On sovereignty- "It’s a legitimate debate, but a debate that’s not going anywhere and will probably not go anywhere for a long time to come."  
Since 1970, Quebec has discussed political independence, but has developed an economic dependence on Canada. 

Quebec has one of the biggest and most interventionist governments in North America, and one of the heaviest fiscal burdens.  
Gilles Duceppe, who is fighting for Quebec independence wants Quebec to get more money from Ottawa, which will make Quebec, even more dependent!  
"..unbridled state interventionism does not lead to prosperity. If that were the case, Quebec would be the richest place in North America instead of being one of the poorest."  
"..the rest of Canada has nothing to do with the fact that we are poorer."  
"Let’s be frank: many people in the rest of the country perceive Quebecers as a bunch of spoilt children who are never satisfied and always ask for more. This perception has some basis in reality."  
Imagine if, instead of pointlessly debating the merits of political independence, we tried instead to live within our means and to get out of our economic dependence. 
There's not many politicians willing to deliver that type of a frank message, not even Prime Minister Harper. Instead of sparking a legitimate debate, Bernier's message was so devastating that both the PQ and Liberal politicians refused to rebut the speech on its merits and were reduced to ad hominem attacks and the hackneyed claim of "Quebec Bashing." Interestingly, Bernier, to my knowledge, is the first Francophone to be accused of this pejorative, hitherto largely reserved for Anglophone politicians from the west who complain about Quebec getting more than it deserves.

Of course, it was to be expected that Gilles Duceppe would rage at the impertinence of a Quebecker criticizing his province, but it was a bit surprising (perhaps not) that Thomas Mulcair, the NDP Anglo Kapo and nationalist apologist from Outremont, would also stoop to attacking the man instead of the argument.

The only person at all who offered some sort of defence was LE DEVOIR's Michel David, who countered weakly that while Quebec got the lion's share of equalization payments, proportionately other provinces got a higher percentage. Bravo!

Mr. Bernier is a rare breed, the antithesis of what politicians from Quebec look like. A fan of Ann Coulter and Ronald Reagan he openly challenged climate change hysteria, the only politician in Quebec unafraid to stare down climate-change gurus.  He remains the only federally elected member of Parliament from Quebec that espouses a true conservative philosophy.
If you're wondering how he manged to get elected in Quebec, it is because he represents La Beauce, a small region which while only about an hour and a half drive south of Quebec city, may as well be  light years away, politically.

The region has always been fiercely independent, proud, entrepreneurial and federalist. The birthplace of small independent factories industries, it was the center of the Quebec garment industry before jobs were shipped overseas. The region rebounded through its entrepreneurial skills and continues to march to a different political drum than the rest of the province.

The general sentiment, even among the media was that Bernier had crossed the line by humiliating Quebec by discussing its dirty little secret in public. The finance minister Raymond Bachand was so angry that he seemed to be frothing at the mouth, offering Bernier the sage advice that the Minister should be defending 'Quebec Values'.

There are some who see Bernier coming back to provincial politics à la Jean Charest, to lead some sort of a Quebec version of a Wild Rose Alliance, it will never happen.
The over-riding sense of betrayal that his speech seems to have engendered precludes that eventuality, there are just not enough Conservatives around.
That being said, he remains wildly popular in his riding and is in no danger of losing his federal seat, regardless of the political fortunes of the Conservatives in Quebec.

One thing that his opponents are saying about him, is true, he is becoming very popular in the rest of the country. His feisty attitude, his conservative views and his good looks are proving to be awfully hard to resist.

He seems ready to assume the same role Stephane Dion fulfilled while a cabinet minister in the Martin government, that is to become the principle foil for Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois. He seems well-suited to the task. He is smart, feisty and fearless. He may well be on his way to becoming the most hated Francophone among nationalists.
Ottawa has been in desperate need of such a personality, a Francophone politician from Quebec who can engage the Bloc and say all the nasty things that need to be said.

He should return to Cabinet as soon as possible.

1 comment:

  1. It is clear that Mr. Bernier's common sense approach is something this country is in dire need of ... check out his blog at ...

    He is the ONLY MP to invite and encourage active debate on his website ... respect for the electorate ... what a concept ...

    I know what my MP is doing ... what's yours doing ?