Current Affairs Politics

La Belle Province – Lessons From That Other Province?

Having friends amongst the Nationalist movement in Québec I’ve tried to keep an eye on the politics of La Belle Province, from cheated independence to electoral meltdowns, but its never been easy. The complex nature of politics in Québec and Canada sometimes eludes me, so its good to see that I’m not the only one – even the locals seem to have trouble.

There has been the recent revelation that the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament of Canada and head of the NDP party, Nycole Turmel, was a member of the rival and separatist Bloc Québecois (BQ) up to January 2011. The NDP (New Democratic Party) is a Canada-wide movement that turned the politics of the country on its head by drawing huge electoral support inside normally nationalist-voting Québec, causing the virtual demise of the nationalist BQ, and sending dozens of first-time politicians to the Parliament in Ottawa. So it has been something of a shock for many Canadians to find that the suspicions of a few commentators, that some NDP members in Québec may in fact have separatist Québécois tendencies, well and truly confirmed.

This was further compounded by yet another revelation, this time centring on the governing Conservative Party, when Denis Lebel, the minister for transport, proved to have also been a long-standing member of the BQ, this time up to 2001. Which I suppose proves the complex interaction between competing forms of ethnicity and identity in Québec, where such things can be especially fluid. Especially for ambitious young politician. Talking of which, CTV News carries another NDP story:

‘A political aide for the federal NDP will run for a provincial sovereigntist party in an upcoming Quebec byelection, opening the door to further scrutiny of the allegiances of its MPs.

Patricia Chartier, a staffer for Quebec MP Philip Toone, confirmed to The Canadian Press she will be the Quebec solidaire candidate in the provincial riding of Bonaventure.

The Parti Quebecois, Quebec’s biggest sovereigntist party, used Twitter to attack the apparent contradiction in Chartier’s political loyalties.

“Federalist at work and sovereigntist on the campaign?,” Pascal Berube, PQ member of the national assembly, wrote Friday.

Berube questioned in a later post if Toone would openly throw his support to his political attache running for a sovereigntist party.

The NDP and Toone did not return calls placed Friday afternoon.

It won’t be the first time Chartier has run for Quebec solidaire — she finished last under the party’s banner in 2008, more than 10,000 votes behind Liberal Nathalie Normandeau, who announced this week she was leaving politics.

The political allegiances of many NDP MPs from Quebec have come under scrutiny since 59 of them were swept to power in the last federal election.

That scrutiny only amplified after it was revealed the party’s interim leader, Nycole Turmel, had held memberships in both the Bloc Quebecois and Quebec solidaire.

Some media outlets even distributed questionnaires to the NDP’s Quebec MPs in an effort to determine how many have been affiliated with sovereigntist parties in the past.

Quebec solidaire is a bit player on the provincial scene with only one member in the legislature and an estimated 5,000 members.

There is a clear overlap between its priorities — which include fighting poverty and promoting the environment –and those espoused by the NDP.

But Quebec solidaire’s leadership is clear about one thing — its candidates are sovereigntists.

The NDP’s surge in Quebec during the May election reduced the Bloc to a mere four seats in the House of Commons.

Analysts have suggested the NDP was able to draw support from voters who in the past identified with sovereigntist parties.

But progressive politics in Quebec has been so closely entwined with the sovereigntist movement that it can be difficult to differentiate between the two.

One of the province’s leading political analysts warned the rest of Canada that distinguishing a federalist from a sovereigntist may not be as easy at it seems.

“The Quebec mainstream is in large part sovereigntist, it is part of our society, it is not a marginal option,” said Christian Dufour, who teaches politics at Quebec’s public administration school.’

Perhaps Québec shows us one aspect of what politics may be like in a reunited Ireland, with a regional legislature and government in the north-east of the country, and local ethnically-based parties interacting with the larger national body politic? Hmmm. Maybe its time we all started paying attention to An Cúige Álainn and preparing for what lies ahead?

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