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Philippe Couillard’s “premptive” damage control positioning and constitutional preps (#334)

The marriage of the “adrenaline-charged Super-Duo”, PKP (Pierre Karl Péladeau, the head of the Parti Québécois) and Julie Snyder (Québec’s best known super-star celebrity), this weekend was a reminder to all that the 2018 Québec election will be squarely about Québec independence.

Premier Philippe Couillard knows that this will be the #1 topic coming from the lips of the PQ for the next few years (a major shift from the past which saw the PQ be just as pre-occupied about subjects of day-to-day governance as the Liberals and CAQ).

The turfing of the Bloc Québécois leader a couple months ago, Mario Beaulieu, by his own party (and presumably by PKP) and the resurrection of Gilles Duceppe has shown to what extent the sovereigntist movement is prepared to go to in order achieve their goal.

Under PKP’s leadership, the entire movement is beginning to resemble more and more an extremely slick, well ran, and super-competitive board-room or corporation (of the likes of Wal-Mart when it tries to run all other competitors out of town), rather than that of a political party.

This is new.  We have never seen something like this before.

Although it continues to be new to the extent th at it has not yet found “solid” traction with the electorate, there have been polls which have shown a slight increase in support for the PQ and sovereignty (hovering around 35% or 40% at its highest.  But the numbers remain quite low considering that the figures group soft sovereigntists — who are less inclined to vote “yes” during a referendum, which would probably bring a “YES” to under the numbers I just provided….  But 35% still isn’t a number to laugh at).

Update 2015-08-20 – A new CROP poll today shows that the PQ’s support has fallen to 29% (35% for Francophones) in the days following the PKP/Snyder marriage.  Pierre Karl Péladeau’s personal popularity took a nose dive to 23%.  Perhaps people are seeing after all that the PKP/Snyder’s Party will only be about one topic, and perhaps people have had enough … for now.  The Liberals are only slightly ahead.

Three years can be an eternity in politics, and 2018 could be enough time for the movement to bounce back if the “corporation’s” PQ’s business political plan is effective.

Since 1995, the most effective method Federalist parties have invoked to avoid mass sovereigntist sentiments from reigniting has been to avoid a Federal-Provincial clash between Ottawa and Québec – especially one involving constitutional matters.

Both the Chrétien/Martin Liberals and the Harper Conservatives were of the opinion that slow and stable civil-service governance, and tackling each issue as it arrives (without opening the constitution) was the best way to prevent a show-down or constitution crisis.  I also have to admit that the fact that Harper has kept a very tight reign on the flow of information has probably, and ironically, helped somewhat too (in the sense that it has likely avoided unintentional slips-of-the-tongue from backbencher MP’s… especially preventing comments which could have inflamed sovereignist politicians and debate).

The Chrétien/Martin Liberals, and the Harper Conservatives firmly took a stand that a large degree of national reform could be achieved “on-the-ground” via small adjustments over time (supported by Common Law at the courts) rather than through re-opening the constitution.   In this sense, the constitution, its interpretations, and its application has been able to keep up with the times — turning it into a “living” document, without ever having to change the document’s wording or provisions.

They were of the view that the constitution could be re-opened at a date in the distant future once enough incremental “administrative” and “legal” reforms had occurred over a number of years (or decades) on the ground.  Thus, when it would come time to re-open the constitution, it would have simply been a matter of “updating it” to reflect “already-existing” realities (rather than having it “create new realities” in and of itself).

So far, this approach from Ottawa seems to have worked (on many levels, independent of one’s political affirmations or party beliefs).  It has been good for governance, good for Canada, and good for Québec.

Just as importantly, it had completely taken the wind out of the sails of the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois.  It had given them nothing to grab on to – and a few times the movement had come to the edge of collapsing.

But lo and behold, something has changed this year.  It appears that both Mulcair’s NDP has expressed its desire to try to re-open the constitution (although Trudeau’s has  not expressed a desire to open the consitution on the campaign trail, he has said in his book that he would support such a move in the right “time and place”).

Trudeau’s book “Common Ground” talks in length about his disappointment in that Québec has not signed the constitution.  He did not necessarily believe in Meech or Charlottetown, but he did say that the constitution will have to be re-opened and signed by Québec eventually (something I also say).  But you get the feeling that his “right time and place” may be sooner than later.  I say this because the book gives you the impression that wants this whole issue to go away as fast as possible, and that he believes his terms will be the right ones.  Thus, if elected PM?  (Oh, Oh – there just might be a new constitutional round, and that could mean trouble).

Mulcair has even gone so far as to campaign on the issue of re-opening the constitution in order to abolish the senate (Oh crap – big trouble!).

Their intentions (Trudeau’s and Mulcair’s) might be good, but the timing could not be worse.

They would be putting Premier Couillard in a very difficult position, and they would be picking a fight with PKP-Snyder, as well as with PKP-Snyder’s grasp on Québec’s media, pop-culture elite, and their board-room games to capture the hearts and minds of Québec.

P.Coui1

Above;  Premier Philippe Couillard… If you’re not familiar with him, take a good look now, because if Mulcair or Trudeau (or both of them together) try to re-open the constitution, it will be this man’s face which you will see plastered all over English Canada’s news for the next several years as he tries to keep Canada together.

Although Premier Couillard is the most Federalist premier Québec has possibly ever had, such actions on the part of Trudeau or Mulcair would thrust Couillard into the political battle of not only his life, but possibly for the survival of Canada.

A new round of constitutional discussions would be messy – very very messy.

It would not be as clear-cut as what Mulcair says (and Trudeau isn’t letting us know what he would throw on the table – but if his book is any indicator, it could quite possibly be everything, since he seems to want to change everything [remember that Mansbridge interview a few years ago when Trudeau said he want to, quote “change the world”?] ).

  • This would result in the PQ crying for everything to be put on the table at a new round of constitutional negotiations (which is impossible to do), otherwise they would shift into war mode to raise emotional tensions to the maximum with which to convince Québécois to vote to leave Canada,
  • BC, AB, and SK would have their own demands (Christie Clark, Rachel Notley, and Brad Wall have all hinted they want bigger roles and controls (code for constitutional changes) for their provinces).
  • Ontario (under Kathleen Wynn) says Ontario want new mechanisms to prevent Ottawa’s “lack of cooperation” on matters of importance to her government (with the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan being a prime example).
  • And then there are the Atlantic Provinces which would likely want their own constitutional provisions to counter the effects of what they believe is the “fight of their lives” to retain political relevance at the national level (as their populations continue to shrink as people move West).

This could not be better news for the PQ and the PKP-Snyder duo.  They must be salivating at the prospect of a possible Mulcair led government (and it would be even better for them if it is a minority government with Mulcair as PM and Trudeau as head of the official opposition – thus paving the way for re-opening the constitution, a demonizing of Canada, and emotions getting the better of everyone – including the public).

Last weekend was the Québec Provincial Young Liberals convention.  Premier Couillard is well aware of the unfolding situation which I just described.

True to his brain-surgeon style, Philippe Couillard is a strategist hors-pair.  At the Liberal convention, he announced that he will “not concede an inch to the sovereignists”.  

For the very first time, we have just seen Couillard shift into high gear anti-sovereigntist mode – that of pre-emptive damage control.

He knows that should the Federal NDP or Liberals come to power in October (as a minority or majority government), they may try to re-open the constitution.

Couillard wants to be ready and have his ducks all in place.

This weekend, he asked Liberal delegates to “quickly” (within hours) give him a short-list of what they would want to see added to the constitution should it be re-opened.  Precisely, he asked them “What is Québec’s role in Canada?”

Do not forget that Couillard is 100% pro-Canada.

His convictions make it so he would do anything to avoid hurting the federation.  He would want any propositions to work for his own electorate and all people in Québec, as well as for everyone else across the country.  In fact, at the Liberal congress, he delivered a fiery speech against sovereignty – one which carried an overtone which would have anyone believe we were already in full referendum mode.  

Thus his question to provincial Liberal delegates should not be viewed as something negative by the rest of Canada.

When he posed the question to delegates, he asked them to bear in mind issues such as:

  • Equalization program,
  • Health payment transfers,
  • Economic development file, such as infrastructure, Northern development, and Maritime strategies.

These are all soft (and safe) issues.  They are issues people across Canada can agree on.

Couillard also asked federal party leaders to make clear their stance on how they view Québec in Canada.  (After all, if he’s going to stick his neck out to confront the PKP-Snyder offensive, and if Mulcair & Trudeau are going to back him into a corner by forcing him to confront PKP-Snyder, he naturally wants Trudeau and Mulcair to also step up to the plate, to put their money where their mouths are, and to take some responsibility for their own words and actions).

The delegates gave Couillard their thoughts, and he sent off a letter to all Federal party leaders with his views on what he believes needs to be reviewed in the constitution:

  • Senate reform
  • Supreme Court judge nominations
  • Limitations on Federal spending in the areas of provincial jurisdiction,
  • A veto vote for any other constitution changes.

When elected in September 2014, Couillard told Harper that he would like to see Québec eventually sign the Canadian Constitution.  Ever since 1982, the fact that Québec has never signed the constitution has been the “raison d’être” and free wind in the sails for the sovereignty movement – precisely the ammo the PQ was always used to argue their point.

Couillard wants to put this to rest once and for all.

But as you can see, re-opening the constitution is a double-edged sword.

So while the rest of the country is talking about things such as whether Toronto should or should not host the 2024 Olympics, whether it should be illegal for regular citizens to transport wine from Halifax to Fredericton in their cars, or whether Alberta should or should not regulate the flavour of chocolate, Philippe Couillard is already beginning to fight the political fight of his life, and that of the future of Canada.

Owing to the fact that others in Canada do not seem to know what is happening, I just hope the rest of Canada does not (innocently and naïvely) act too surprised, offended, or dare I say “angry” when all of this suddenly comes to the fore should a new government in Ottawa try to do something risky such as “prematurely” (or foolishly) reopen the constitution at this point in time — or at the very minimum, before Couillard specifically tells Ottawa, and all the provinces (after back-door discussions) that he’s ready to go forward and safely deal with all of this.

After all, the rest of Canada will have had had someone in Québec who has long since been trying to do his damndest to avert what could have easy been a catastrophe had anyone else been at the helm.

What can I say… The two solitudes (Sigh).


Edit:  An earlier version say that Trudeau was disappointed with the failure of Meech and Charlottetown.  What I meant to say that he was disappointed with the “wording” of Meech and Charlottetown which lead to its failure (meaning his own deal, if he were dealing with the issues, would have proposed quite different matters to entice Québec to sign the constitution… or he would have waited for another time to open the constitution).  I corrected my post.

Conditioning: A few words regarding the death of Jacques Parizeau (#285)

A short word on today’s passing of Jacques Parizeau.

This will be quite an unexpected lesson in conditioning (the subject of the current series of several posts) – one which was not planned and is completely by chance owing to today’s sudden announcement of Mr. Parizeau’s passing.

Although controversial, Jacques Parizeau was a man of incredible vision and one of the most influential people in not only Québec’s modern history, but also Canada’s modern history.

The book “Jacques Parizeau, un bâtisseur”, by Laurence Richard, was the first biography I ever read (in the early 1990s, strangely enough when I was in was about 14 or 15 years old).

During his time as Premier, it was quite apparent to most people that he had one goal. He had the integrity to head straight for that goal as fast as possible — No detours, no hesitation. It was understood that the any pieces and “collateral damage” resulting from that goal could be dealt with after. Regardless if people agreed or not with his approach or end goal, people knew where he stood, and were invited to take it or leave it. In 1995, people left it.

Mr. Parizeau was generally upfront in this sense (as upfront as he could be considering he had to form and maintain coalitions with others who were more hesitant), and he deserves everyone’s respect for having the integrity to let it be known where he stood on issues under such circumstances.

It is a lesson all politicians from all political stripes can learn from.

How this fits into conditioning:

As a builder of government institutions during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, he achieved more in his time as a cabinet minister during René Levesque’s government than what several ministers achieve in the course of a few governments.   He embarked on a wide range of industry nationalizations, the setting up of sovereign investment and pension funds, and other government institutions – many of which have since been copied across Canada – provincially coast to coast, or federally.

I always thought that had Mr. Parizeau been federalist, and had he sought to change the federation, the country in its entirety would have achieved heights never before conceived of.  However, history made it so he assumed a different role.

Yet his role as a builder of Québec’s fundamental institutions, and the values which have ensued from those institutions have undoubtedly had a spill over imbued effect into Canada’s overall collective psyche (one region of the country invariably and eventually affects other parts of the country).

In a strange twist of fate, Parizeau’s role as a “builder of modern Québec” has made him a builder of Québec’s modern psyche and society — and through the spill-over affect, of Canada’s modern psyche and society also (which heavily revolves around our highly province-to-province integrated collective welfare & social systems, economic and political systems, and societal expectations).  Thus, Mr. Parizeau has indirectly (and probably quite unknowingly) played a role in bringing Québec’s and English Canada’s collective psyches and societies closer in line than any time before.

He likely thought that Québec would have achieved independence decades ago before such a phenomenon could have ever occurred.

In this sense, a little bit of Jacques Parizeau will always be with all of us, regardless if you are Anglophone, Francophone, or regardless if you are from Vancouver, Saskatoon, Yarmouth or Hamilton.  We have all be impacted in some way by Parizeau’s society-building efforts.

Yet neither Anglophone patriotic conditioning, nor Francophone nationalist conditioning has him seen in this also equally valid light.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 20th position [post 11 of 11] (#266)

This is the last post in the 11 part series on the 20 most trusted people in Québec (based on an Ipsos Reid poll).

#20  Richard Martineau –

You just read my not-so-nice review on the direction I feel Anne-Marie Dusseault has taken her show, 24/60.   This next (and last person on our list), Richard Martineau, also throws around his opinions and views.

BUT, I am going to be a lot nicer in this post.  I am not going to be overly critical of Richard Martineau for one reason, and one reason alone:

Richard Martineau is an opinion-columnists (as a major celebrity TV, radio, and written press columnist), whereas Anne-Marie Dussault purports to be an objective reporter/interviewer, but I feel she comes across as anything but.

If Anne-Marie Dussault relabelled her program (24/60) as an opinion-maker columnist-formatted program, I would have nothing to gripe about.  Yet, she does not – She and Radio-Canada publicize her show as an objective program.  That is misleading, and can be dangerous when the public forms their views based on what they believe to be “objective” information.

With that now said, in his role as an opinion-columnist, I do not necessarily agree with a number of Richard Martineau’s views.  Many of his economic views I do agree with and I can relate to.  Yet, a good number of his social views sometimes rub me the wrong way.

BUT, like I said above, he is very upfront by saying he is an opinion-maker columnist, and that his goal is to provide a different perspective for the purpose of rounding out everyone’s views (and he even admits that his views change on occasion as others present new perspectives to him).   That honesty and approach is a quality which gets my respect (regardless if I agree with him or not).

The public sees, hears, and reads Richard Martineau everywhere.  He has been front-and-centre in Québec for many many years.

  • He has a major newspaper column in Le Journal de Montréal,
  • He is the host of les Francs-tireurs television program (one of the most watched journalistic-styled opinion-maker television programs in Montréwood). I wrote a previous post on Les Francs-tireurs.  Click the link.
  • He is the regular invited guest on several radio stations across Québec – providing commentaries on a host of issues,
  • Until this week, he was LCN’s main breakfast morning show host (I believe it is the most-watched morning show in Québec). However, Martineau just announced (May 11th, 2015) that he would be stepping down (lots of mystery surrounding this one).

With that said, what are Richard Martineau’s particular views which he brings to the table (to add to the pot of open debate)?

  • He is generally right of centre, both socially and economically.
  • Economically, I believe he is pro-balanced budgets, for reduced debt load, for greater government accountability, for economic development with respect to the resource industry (including Hydro, pipelines, fisheries), and for lower tax burdens,
  • Socially, he has much to say about immigrant integration and reasonable accommodations. He believes that there should be much more emphasis placed on integration (and less on accommodations) than what multiculturalism & interculturalism currently provide (he was for numerous aspects of the PQ’s Charte).
  • Martineau, I believe, is one of the more influential voices in this debate in Québec (I believe he plays a role in forming public opinion).  Yet, despite his stated concerns with current multiculturalism & interculturalism policies, after many years of listening to him, I have yet to hear what specific aspects of multiculturalism & interculturalism he does not like (keeping in mind that both concepts are quite flexible, and both allow for a large degree of leeway to incorporate greater, or lesser degrees of integration… it’s simply a matter of having the political will to tweak them at a policy level both in Ottawa and Québec City).
  • Environmentally, I believe he’s kind of a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. He’s not anti-pipeline, nor anti-oil industry, and he’s generally happy if environmental safeguards are in place.  But it’s all relative… so that can mean a million things at the end of the day.  Nonetheless, I get the feeling people further to the left on environmental issues do not  like him.
  • If I were to make a political comparison… I see aspects of Conservative, CAQ, and “blue Liberal” policy in many of the things he writes and comments about.

Richard Martineau comments most on matters pertaining to provincial economics, social policies and politics.  He is first and foremost a “Québec-oriented” columnist.   But he wanders into Federal territory often enough.

On the topic of Federal matters, Martineau rarely wanders into debate surrounding the sovereignist movement.

  • I have only ever twice seen him overtly discuss his own viewpoints.
  • The first time was in 2006 on Tout le monde en parle, when he said he was very much on the fence (a political “wanderer” if you will). He stated the deal-breaker at that point would be if federal multiculturalism remained incompatible with Québec’s integration needs (he was adamant at the time that the two concepts were incompatible… a point on which I personally do not agree with him – see my previous post Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: Lost in definition… POST 1 of 3 (#180)
  • The second time was on the TV program Bazzo.tv.  On that show, the National Post columnist, Barbara Kay, quite disgracefully and continuously Québec-bashed (on air) with very intolerant views of Québécois as a people. It was shameful (I just about died when I saw the show — with my face buried in my hands).   It provoked a strong, emotional on-air backlash from Martineau (one of the talk-show panel members).  He said that Barbara Kay’s intolerant prejudices made him want to seek sovereignty for Québec because he felt she was speaking for all of Canada.

It was awful to watch something so petty play out on television (and especially on one of the flagship television programs of Télé-Québec).   I’m sure that after Martineau calmed down off air, his views perhaps tempered… but nonetheless, that was the day I lost total and complete respect for anything related to Barbara Kay (who I did not really know until that point).  I wrote about it in a post on Québec’s columnists and opinion makers.  I even provided a translated transcript.  You can read here: Québec’s network of opinion-makers (#111).   (I’m more than certain that the vast majority of English Canada would be outraged against Barbara Kay if they knew about the contemptuous intolerance she was spewing from her mouth).

  • So where does Martineau truly stand when he’s not being provoked on constitutional matters?   I don’t know.  Honestly, I get the feeling he’s open to anything, so long as it can be justified and makes sense in his mind.   The key word in this last sentence is he is “open”.

Why do people list Richard Martineau as one of the people they trust the most?

I believe it relates to his upfront manner in expressing his views, and the fact that he does not attempt to monopolize those views.  He regularly, and wholeheartedly engages in public debate – but every single time, he gives more than enough breathing space to opposing views.  He never pretends that his views are the only views, or the correct views.  He is honest about the fact that his role is that of a columnist, and not an objective journalist.

People respect that… and at the end of the day, people trust him for it.

———————————–

And with that, we have just concluded the list of the 20 most trusted people in Québec.   It has been interesting, hasn’t it?  It probably gives you a little more insight into what people in Québec are talking about, listening to, watching, and value.   Understanding these sorts of topics are key to helping to bring down the Two Solitudes.

There is lots of online information about the people and topics discussed.  I’d encourage you to take in YouTube videos, online written resources (Wikipedia, news articles, etc.) and to form some of your own opinions.  More than that, I’d encourage you to explore a little deeper and do a little additional learning.   Knowledge makes a huge difference in the end – and knowledge can be quite powerful.