If you look at the political map of this country, one thing becomes clear: the NDP did not make a national political breakthrough. The NDP made a breakthrough in Quebec. Outside of that province, even in the face of a total collapse by the Liberal Party, the NDP only gained a relative handful of seats. Outside of Quebec, the Conservative Party won 48% of the national vote and nearly 70% of the seats in the House of Commons. In English Canada the Conservatives won more votes than the NDP and the Liberals combined.
In other words, we are now a nation polarized along both ideological and regional lines in a way that we have not been in recent years. The question increasingly becomes English Canada and the free market versus Quebec socialism and that is how it should be portrayed by the new government.
By treating the Quebec caucus of the NDP (who, after all, make up the majority of the opposition) as its primary opponent, the government has the opportunity to defeat its remaining opponents in English Canada and to ensure that the entire opposition is thereby marginalized and un-electable. A Quebec NDP caucus filled with communist karate instructors, waitresses who spent the campaign in Las Vegas, and college students for whom Parliament is an alternative to a summer job as a golf caddy (all real examples) ought to be a source of endless embarrassment to the opposition.
The government has already signaled that it intends to proceed with the elimination of subsidies to political parties. This is an excellent first move – one that should cripple the Liberal Party through at least the 2015 election given that party’s near-bankruptcy and the certainty of a divisive leadership fight there. That means that the main opponent in the next election will be the NDP – a scenario that mirrors the political situation in every other major Westminster democracy where a centre-right party faces off against a union-backed socialist alternative.
Perhaps the most liberating thing about this result is that the government would have a majority without even a single MP from Quebec. This gives the government some genuine political flexibility, especially in view of the dilemma that the NDP now faces. Prime Minister Harper now has a mandate – and a duty – to restore regional fairness in this country. The time has come to end all of the special deals and breaks for Quebec and, furthermore, to end this country’s recent tradition of excessive deference to the paranoid ravings of Quebec politicians, who see conspiracies against their province in every measure, no matter how fair or just, that does not impart some special consideration upon them.
The New Democratic caucus is like an army divided by a river. A thin bridge of socialist idealism connects the English NDP MP’s with their Quebec counterparts. The political goal of the government should, therefore, be to bomb that bridge and then envelop and destroy those on the English side. Those on the Quebec side can be expected to destroy themselves in a torrent of gaffes and scandals and, anyways, will serve as a useful bogeyman for at least one election (and perhaps many to come).
There are two moves that the government can – and should – take early on in order to begin that process.
First, the return of the electoral redistribution bill from the last Parliament – something that has already been signaled – is vital. It is undemocratic and unconscionable that Quebec should have more MP’s per person than Ontario and the Western Provinces. This is an argument that will win over most of the country – and one that will outrage Quebec. It has the potential to do one of two things. First, it may divide the NDP caucus along regional lines. Even if it does not do so publicly, it will either force the Quebec caucus to vote to dilute its own representation in the House of Commons or for the party’s Western and Ontario MP’s to vote to deny their own constituents fair representation in order to please their Quebec masters.
Second, the government should address the likely rise of the Parti Quebecois and a new separatist government in Quebec City through the passage of a Second Clarity Act that sets the terms of any possible attempt by Quebec to seek independence in advance of a Third Referendum. The act should set out specifics on three key points: that an independent Quebec will not be allowed to exist in an economic union with the rest of Canada, that Quebec will be required to assume the portion of the national debt equivalent to the percentage of the population of the new state that were formerly Canadian citizens (and that failure to accept this will result in tariffs on all Quebec products to extract an equivalent amount), and that, in the event of Quebec’s independence, the government of Canada will recognize any region that wishes to counter-secede from Quebec and remain within Canada.
More broadly, the government should just take a hard line against any and all demands for special treatment made by Quebec. The majority of the country is sick of it. It’s time to expose the pipe-dream of Quebec independence for the fraudulent and extortionist charade that it is. Sure, some in Quebec truly dream of independence – but the truth is that an independent Quebec would be a poverty-stricken Third World nation. I hope that we have at least a government brave enough to tell that truth. Let the chunk of Quebec that wants to go leave if it truly wishes so – and force it to accept the consequences of so doing. Faced with such, I expect that they will elect to stay and we might begin a more healthy relationship among all the members of Confederation.