Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Harper prend des forces: Conservatives court Québec

The Tories have adopted this as their French-language slogan for the 2008 election.

In an effort to woo votes away from the Bloc in Quebec, Harper is courting Québécois voters. And he's going about it in an extremely effective way. A quick glance at the Conservative press release page is a pretty clear indicator of this. On September 18, while the arts community was still fuming over the cuts to funding, the Tories released a communiqué affirming that they were "committed to French-language TV" and that "Stephen Harper and the Conservative Government greatly value and support Quebec’s unique arts and culture." This was part of an announcement dedicating $25M to Quebec's TV5, including $15M for TV5MONDE, which has all kinds of implications for better branding of Canada as a bilingual nation (an endeavour which is currently sadly neglected). The day before, there was an even better one: "Conservative Government to Ensure CRTC Reflects Canada’s Linguistic Reality". Among the provisions is the resolution that the chairmanship of the CRTC will alternate between anglophones and francophones, and the big one: "Hearings related to French-language or Quebec broadcasters will be heard by a panel consisting of a majority of French-language or Quebec CRTC members." Some degree of self-government? That's just what we've always wanted!! In addition to these arts-related concessions, there are plenty of headlines in the following vein: "[Insert Québécois constituency here] Deserves a Conservative MP" or "Real Leadership in [Constituency]". They even make a token gesture of recognition for Franco-Ontariens!

Another big score for the Tories were their comments about 1837 and "true patriots". Québécois love talking about patriotes. And another of Harper's self-government-promising moves? On la St-Jean(!), he promised to "practise an open federalism, a federalism that respects the autonomy of the provinces and the original principles of the Constitution." Touching a nerve that goes all the way back to Confederation.

Perhaps the most illustrative gesture was the photograph of a smiling Harper in front of his Québécois campaign poster.

Many other Conservative candidates in Quebec have similar photos. But the TV ads are pretty illustrative as well. For example, this one, which, though it contains no Magic Sweater Vest, is just as wholesome -- they're drinking orange juice, and no one seems to stop nodding. There is even a chick in there! Of course, Harper only manages about three sentences, but his accent is definitely impressive for a Calgarian. More of the same are available here. Many of them begin with an "everyday normal" citizen apologizing to M. Duceppe for his incompetence in the face of Conservative leadership, and they all end the same way: "Avec les conservateurs, le Québec prend des forces." ("With the Conservatives, Quebec is getting stronger.") The ads are perfect, but for one small detail: Avec les conservateurs.

Apparently, the Tory PR department was hoping that the Québécois would overlook the fact that they (the Tories) currently only hold 11 of the 75 seats in Quebec. Ce n'est pas le Bloc indeed! If Quebec is prending any forces, it is not because of the Conservatives.

Harper and his gang are, like any party in any region, up and down in the Quebec polls depending on which paper you read and when. On August 29, the National Post declared that a "Quebec poll holds bright prospects for Conservatives". Exactly one month later, the CBC wondered whether Harper's Quebec support was softening. On September 14, CTV said that "the poll suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper's gamble of recognizing Quebec as a nation has paid off," while the Toronto Star announced on September 25 that a "Bloc rebound hurts Tories in Quebec." Polls are awfully fickle like that.

Fickle polls are not enough to quiet my artsy, female, left-wing, social-justice-loving nerves though. All these ads about forces being prended have given me the envie to grab Quebeckers by the fleurs-de-lis and shake them, saying "Qu'est-ce que vous pensez?"

Quebec, despite being a distinct society, has inherited a lot of things from France: language, religion, a vague hostility towards immigrants, and a fairly socialist mindset. After all, the mandated 35-hour workweek, unionmania, cheap beer, and a penchant for protesting didn't come out of nowhere. The Conservatives, however, have not typically been associated very strongly with socialism. Not that any of the other parties who've made it to the house have (with the possible exception of the NDP), but none so weakly as the Tories. Let's compare and contrast a little more, shall we?

Things Quebeckers likeThings Harper has done or wants to do
Arts and culture, a very important component of patrieCut truckloads of arts funding, specifically the type that would help emerging Canadian artists; Bill C-10
Not sending the military where it doesn't belong (See Boer War, Conscription crisis, etc)Increase military spending
Rehabilitation of young offendersYouth Crime bill
The HabsBe a Leafs fan

Seriously, Quebec. Don't get fooled. Remember la grande noirceur? Remember Le ciel est bleu, l'enfer est rouge? Didn't turn out to apply so well to politics, did it? Quebec, you do better under more liberal governments! I wish I could appeal to a sense of communion and federalism, but of course "federalism" means very different things in Quebec than it does in the rest of Canada.

I don't like to advocate the use partisan materials in such a way, but Quebec, maybe you should listen to that Bloc attack ad. Stephen Harper is saying all kinds of pretty things to you now -- but beware of cadeaux vides.

EDIT: This seemed pretty relevant, as well as entertaining.
Culture en Péril/Culture in Danger

1 comment:

Brad said...

Know any good social gatherings for the English debate tonight?

PS- The military comment in the table seems to be worded poorly, so it conveys the opposite of what I assume was your intent.