Now Harper's fightback strategy is clear: bash the Bloc and rally round the flag. He's portraying himself as standing up for Canada against the separatist hordes, the latter poised, not only to secede, but to take over the Canadian government as well. Leur Québec comprend le Canada.
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon fired one of the first shots yesterday, feeding lines to Conservative TV's Mike Duffy: according to "sources on the Hill," said Cannon, part of the coalition deal was to give six Senate seats to the BQ. This gained no traction in the media, and small wonder: as a smart commenter pointed out, at present only four Senate vacancies for Quebec even exist.
Yet another deliberately planted rumour by Tories on the ropes. But this has proved to be part of an orchestrated strategy: playing the national unity card. There was Harper's flailing assertion that the coalition deal was inked in the absence of Canadian flags, when three were clearly visible. There are the rallies going on, under the theme "Stand Up for Canada"--as though there were anything but Harper's own neck at stake here.
National unity. Hey, if it worked for the Liberals....Just ignore the rank smell of Harper's hypocrisy--he made his own deal with the devil in 2004--and off we go, full tilt boogie, on a patriotism jag.
By now, Harper should have learned the lesson: just as coalition talk had a life of its own, so too does anti-Quebec talk. And there is no doubt--no doubt at all--that the Bloc-bashing campaign on which he is presently embarked will quickly morph into precisely that. It will open the door to every Quebec-hating loony in CPC ranks and the electorate to dust off the "Bilingual today, French tomorrow" nonsense and invoke the spectre of unleashed "Frenchmen" riding roughshod over English Canada.
And the souverainistes, for their own reasons, or perhaps for no reason at all, are busy fanning the flames. "Every gain we're making here is good for Quebec ... for a sovereign Quebec," crowed Gilles Duceppe. Meanwhile, back on the ranch, that disgraced old blowhard Jacques "money and the ethnic vote" Parizeau has excitedly blessed the coalition. Thanks for the kiss, buddy.
National unity? The way the Tory campaign is heading (abetted by bloquistes who can't keep their mouths shut), increased national disunity can be the only result. As Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, puts it, Quebeckers believe that the Bloc "is representing their interests in Ottawa." "To kick the Bloc in the guts is in a way to kick Quebec as well," she said.
Wait and see. Harper has already disgraced himself to the point of no return. Now he has opened a Pandora's box. He hasn't done this innocently: he's willing to risk support in Quebec by inflaming anti-Quebec sentiment elsewhere if it will save his government and himself. And he can count on his rank and file to help him out. Let's call it the Brockville Strategy.
UPDATE: James Laxer has more. And one respected elder statesman has had enough of Stephen Harper's lies.
[H/t The Canadianist]