Nice word that: “prorogued.” Daresay the number of people in Canada with some idea what it means has tripled since Thursday. Canadians are no slouches when it comes to constitutional law. Indeed, thanks to our own interminable “meeching” processes, we have become a leading exporter of constitutional advisers to emerging democracies everywhere. (I pity the recipients of this foreign aid.)
The number of people who can spell “G-G Jean’s” first name may also have increased, and I have it on the authority of my inbox that the number of Albertans who think she is “hot” has increased by at least two.
We have some other numbers in, via polls by Ekos, Ipsos, Compas, etc. At least two-thirds approve of the prorogation of the present Parliament, or rather, as the question was asked, approve the approval of the Prime Minister’s request by the Governor-General, Michaëlle Jean.
This has helped suck the air out of the parade of opposition politicians and soi-disant constitutional experts (mostly just leftist university professors) through the national media. The time-out is granted until Jan. 26, when the Conservatives will table a proper budget, and then the opposition may shoot it down if they still dare.
It is also worth noting party poll numbers. The Conservatives have shot up sharply, and both the Liberal and NDP parties to the proposed coalition have shot down. The Conservative lead in Ontario is now wider than 20 points, or as Kate McMillan flagged on her popular blog, Small Dead Animals, the East/West fracture has suddenly shifted to the Ottawa River.
That the Bloc Québécois may also have benefited from this quick shift is worrying, for the moment. But the separatists already have possession of two-thirds of the seats for Quebec: they are thus already hoist on their upside. Ignore those seats, and it becomes obvious that Stephen Harper commanded, in the recent election, a solid majority in English Canada, which “if an election were held today” would grow into a landslide in English Canada and a solid majority overall.
It is up to Quebecers—not Jack Layton—to decide when and if they would like to rejoin the governing process in Canada. They may do so at any election of their choosing, by cashing out of the BQ, and buying into one of the “federalist” parties.
The idea that they should have things both ways—insult Canada while elbowing to the national trough—has never been a good one. That they have got used to having it both ways is the result of a real failure of leadership on the part of our federalist political class—across both Liberal and Conservative parties.
Mr Harper has been accused of “endangering national unity” by his recent attacks on the BQ. To an invincibly short-term view, this is true: any Anglo attack on that party tends to solidify its support in Quebec. But as the separatist “politologue” Christian Dufour long since advised us, “Majorities have rights, too.”
English Canada has agreed to be the dog wagged by a succession of French-Canadian prime ministers, to whines of “national unity,” almost continuously for the last 40 years. Messieurs Dion and Duceppe, from their respective insular points of view, may have underestimated how tired English Canada is of that arrangement, as they made their coup arrangements. They and their colleagues should begin to appreciate that a fed-up English Canada, held perpetually to ransom, also endangers national unity.
So let us review. Mr. Harper is the first non-Quebec Prime Minister since Lester Pearson to make it past a first short term. He already has a convincing majority over the combined Liberal and NDP opposition (143 to 114), and against all parties outside Quebec (133 to 100)—where his support is rising. He was right to call attention to the BQ elephant in the room.
The time-out does provide our childish, overheated politicians an opportunity to cool off and grow up, or more likely, shuffle about for face-saving measures. That is for the best, as a great majority of Canadians—even in Quebec—have been shown by the polls to agree. (Ipsos-Reid adds that 60 percent opposed the Dion-Layton-Duceppe “coalition” proposal, and nearly the same proportion trust Mr. Harper’s party best to handle the economic crisis.)
But what is suspended is not ended: the constitutional crisis has not passed. Beyond polling, we need to understand why the “coalition” stunt was so appalling. I shall have more to say on that tomorrow.