Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quebec -- The Tories' Achilles Heel

All throughout the summer, when Stephen Harper was touring Western Canada and Ontario encouraging Canadians to get to know him, I had this suspicion that he'd forgotten something: that for some reason he'd left Quebec out of the itinerary.

And now it's come back to bite him: Some Quebec Tories are calling for his resignation.

Senior party officials dismissed the move as an insignificant push by only four Quebecers and said their leader will stay on to fight the Liberals. But the authors of a statement calling for Harper's resignation said they're tired of seeing their party competing with the NDP and the Green Party in the province.

"We will never win the next election," said the statement released Tuesday. "Harper will resign afterward, it's certain. But why wait for the elections? Wouldn't it be better for him to leave now?

"We have ample time to find a new leader before the next election."

The statement said Harper was a good transitional leader but showed little interest in Quebec.

The statement was signed by three men who ran for the party in the last federal election: Lucien Richard, Francis-Pierre Remillard and Payam Eslami-Manoucheri. The fourth was party organizer Philippe Giguere.

Granted, it's just four people. But if it weren't for the brouhaha over Brian Mulroney, they could have potentially derailed Harper's campaign to build momentum going into the next Parliamentary session.

The traditional MSM meme has always been that Stephen Harper is well-meaning but destined to lose, because no Westerner (with the freak exception of John Diefenbaker) can successfully lead the nation. (The last two PMs from Western Canada -- Joe Clark and Kim Campbell -- flamed out in a matter of months.) And the Tories have always been weak in Quebec in the post-Mulroney, post-Meech Lake era. No matter how hard the Tories try to marginalize this letter, it feeds directly into and reinforces the MSM meme. It certainly doesn't make Harper's job any easier.

Harper's top Quebec lieutenant said she toured the province with her leader this summer and saw no evidence of an impending mutiny.

Before we continue, let me ask this: how many people can name the Conservative's top Quebec leader?


You can't, can you? It's one of the things Harper has gotten a start on, but really needs to do: showcase the other MPs in his party and let them stand on their own.

Anyway that's her picture on the right: Josée Verner, chair of the Quebec caucus and Conservative candidate for the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, currently held by the BQ's Bernard Cleary.

"Everybody would like to see extraordinary polls. People can express their concern," said Verner. "But only four people signed this letter. It's their opinion and it's not widespread. This isn't what we heard (on the ground.)"

Harper's communications director said Tuesday's statement means 72 of 75 party candidates from Quebec in the last election are satisfied with Harper's leadership.

It can be pretty painful when politicians commit logical fallacies. Just because a majority of the Quebec candidate slate didn't sign the letter doesn't mean they're not happy with Harper.

The Tories currently have no sitting MPs from Quebec in your caucus. And it's pretty much a given that if a party wants to claim a national mandate it needs to be strong in Quebec.

Suggestion to Stephen: boost your Quebec people, especially your candidates. Publicly, on TQS, TVA and the Quebec media. Help them get a high profile before the next election so that Quebeckers will know who they are.

Quebec is the Tories' Achilles heel. It can be fixed, if you pay attention to it.