The Bloc Quebecois themselves admit that Ottawa is not the locale to promote sovereignty and describe their presence in the national Parliament, as an effort to defend Quebec's interests.
Much has been said and written about the appropriateness and the utility of a regional party dedicated to the interests of one particular province acting on the federal scene. But, nobody can deny that the presence of the Bloc in Ottawa irks the rest of Canada to no end and on a certain level, to many Quebeckers, that fact alone is justification for the Bloc's presence in Ottawa.
Appropriate or not, the inescapable truth is that the presence of the Bloc in Parliament remains a powerful symbol of Quebec's dissatisfaction with the political status quo, particularly in regards to the constitutional issue.
In this regard, the Bloc accomplishes its mission just by showing up, and while many complain that it is a waste, the party's presence in the House of Commons is a powerful and painful reminder that Canada remains an unfinished product
Undeniably, the Bloc dérange...
But as successful as the party is, in achieving their primary mission of 'annoying' Canada, the Bloc's alter mission, to protect and advance the interests of Quebec, has been an abject failure that has cost the province dearly.
One of the knocks against the Bloc, is the notion that by sitting in opposition, they can hardly bring 'home the bacon.' It is widely held that real influence can only be achieved by having a large representation in the sitting government of the day, albeit federalist.
But for well nigh twenty years, enough Quebeckers have made the choice not to follow that course and because of the split in the federalist vote, the Bloc has been able to slide in with representation, far exceeding its electorial support, winning about two-thirds of the available Quebec seats with under 40% of the vote.
For the first ten years of it's existence the Bloc faced a Liberal majority government and could hardly effect any change at all. Facing off against their nemesis, Jean Chretien, the party wandered the opposition benches like the lost tribe of Israel roaming the desert, essentially wasting time and political capital. In this respect they were no different than the other opposition parties, especially the NDP, a party not dissimilar to the Bloc, perennial losers doomed to collect splinters on the opposition benches, heckling and moaning, as Shakespeare described- "full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
There was nothing the Bloc could do in the face of a majority government, but with the arrival of successive minority governments, the Bloc was presented with a golden opportunity to produce tangible results.
Instead they sat on their hands and delivered nothing.
Perhaps Mr. Duceppe followed a strategy that dictated that it was wiser to let the Quebec 'situation' deteriorate, in the hope that it would ultimately lead to those chimerical 'winning conditions.' After all, one might argue, if Duceppe managed to wring a host of concessions out of Ottawa, the urgency of sovereignty would certainly dissipate.
If this was his aim, he achieved his goal magnificently, though I don't think that most Quebeckers envisaged nor approved of this type of a strategy.
This current election is proof that the Bloc follows a mindless and bankrupt philosophy that reminds me of a stubbornly spoilt child, who shakes his head vigorously and shouts 'NO!' to anything and everything offered by an appeasing parent.
Mr. Duceppe's unrealistic and very public demand that Harper cough up 5 billion dollars in goodies in order to win Bloc support for the budget was never serious and was in fact an 'in-your-face' call for an election.
Why? To what end?
Instead of going off into a quiet corner to do a hush-hush deal with the Conservatives that would keep the current government in power, in exchange for some tangible goodies for Quebec, the Bloc chose to go to the polls, where the very best that they could hope for was to be back in Ottawa, in the exact same position that they were before, but WITHOUT the goodies!
Does that make sense?
Would Harper do a deal with the Bloc? ......Of course he would.
In exchange for solid support and the promise of a long political life, Mr. Harper would sell his children. That's the nature of our politicians. Look at the Liberals and the Ndp, who were both ready to sign a very public devil's pact with the Bloc. Political whores, the lot of them.
There's a host of issues that the Bloc would be interested in, where they could actually win concessions if they made a commitment not to bring down the government.
As for a shopping list, I can think of these issues, near and dear to the Bloc, where the Conservatives could bend, without even appearing to be pandering to Quebec.
First and foremost, the Bloc could bargain for a commitment to slash Canada's disastrous immigration, a policy which is doing more to destroy the Quebec position in Canada than anything else. Each year Canada allows over 250,000 immigrants to enter Canada, double or triple what other Western democracies allow and with 90% of these immigrants assimilating into the English side of the language equation, the ongoing damage to Quebec's demographic position is irreparable. Interestingly, there would be little opposition to this move in the rest of the country, and the policy could be enacted administratively and thus without the spectre of a political storm.
Secondly, the Bloc could get an unofficial commitment that Quebec would get it's fair share of federal contracts (plus more,) something it always had taken as a given, but as of late has slipped dramatically. Again this commitment would be administrative and not be subject to a vote in Parliament.
Thirdly, a commitment not to arbitrarily change the demographic weight of Quebec's representation in Parliament, something Harper planned to do. In exchange for the Blocs cooperation, Harper could easily drop the project, another easy trade-off.
The Bloc could also win a concession not to cut political subsidies, perhaps the most frightening of all scenarios to a party that is three times more dependent on the public subsidy than its closest competitor. Link
All of this and much more could be achieved with a little quiet cooperation, secret back room dealings and honest to goodness, old fashioned political horse-trading.
All these goodies could be had in exchange for a commitment not to bring down the government, a good deal considering that any new election changes nothing for the Bloc.
Why Mr Duceppe has chosen to tread water instead of doing something constructive for Quebec remains a mystery.
His actions in triggering the latest election is an unpardonable betrayal of all Quebeckers, both federalist and sovereignist.
Instead of taking the steak he went for the sizzle and as Chantal Hebert said in a recent column, Duceppe is a dog that has traded his bite for a louder bark.