Crisis Within the Bloc

By Melanee Thomas on Sep 16, 2008

Even with new media reports nearly every day in Quebec of separatist politicians taking a swipe at the Bloc, I was reluctant to believe there was a real problem within the party. Rather, I thought some separatists might be more inclined to sway voters to a different party (odd as that might sound).

I'm beginning to realise, however, that it's both: colleagues of mine much closer to the Bloc suggest there is a "genuine crisis" and it centres around the idea that right-wing viewpoints and ideas are no longer welcome within the party.

Because of this perception that conservative views are no longer welcome within the Bloc, right-wing separatists appear to be coming out of the woodwork, attacking the Bloc effectively by suggesting it is irrelevant because it no longer places the sovereignty question in the centre of its platform. Yesterday, five former Bloc MPs wrote an open letter in Le Devoir to this effect, countered by a letter with the opposing viewpoint (that the Bloc remains relevant) from nine Bloc MPs in La Presse. The Bloc's Montreal coverage (or what I get of it, anyway) is dominated by this question of their relevance instead of their issue positions, candidates, or the campaign. 

These attacks on the Bloc clearly serve the interest of the Conservative Party of Canada. Quebeckers are still very much looking for an "independentist" option, as a friend put it, but are beginning to think the Bloc isn't it. Outside Montreal, where more conservative views dominate (as evidenced by the Conservatives' 10 seats in 2006 and the strength of the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) in the last provincial election), the Conservatives look to pick up a significant number of seats.  

Thomas Mulcair, the only NDP MP in Quebec, echos this idea that the Bloc is in a tailspin (albeit in campus media. I was bored at the registraur's office and was a bit taken aback by his interview). With the Liberals in disorganised disarray and the Bloc fighting for it's own relevance, the NDP likely could do well in Montreal, holding Outremont and potentially picking up Westmount-Ville Marie. 

These attacks on the Bloc's relevance, however, seem so coordinated and are so recent (we didn't hear anything of it in the lead up to the by-elections or the current election), that I can't shake the idea that these attacks are organised by competing political interests. These interests clearly are on the right of the political spectrum, and the obvious beneficiary is the Conservatives. I would not be surprised if this is part of their Quebec strategy. It's too slick just to be a bunch of malcontents, and it's working.

After the election, I wouldn't be surprised if prominent separatists to start working with Harper, provided the Conservatives win, and/or the beginnings of talk of a new separatists party at the federal level in the next few years. 

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