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Robert Silver

Why is Mulcair defending the PQ? Add to ...

From Kady O'Malley's liveblog of Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair's presser Wednesday comes the following nugget:

"One more question - from the moderator, even, and yes, they're allowed to do that: she asks for his response to Lucien Bouchard's somewhat heated musings on the future of the sovereigntist movement; Layton sticks to generalities, noting that he supports assymetric federalism, but Mulcair goes further, and confesses that he was surprised by Bouchard's intervention - he doesn't see any radicalism in the PQ, and despite the fact that they were once his political rivals, he sees the importance of protecting the French language, for instance. The NDP's priority is to make Quebeckers feel at home in Canada, but Bouchard's comments, he says, don't seem to be relevant. 'There are very few zealots and fanatics within the PQ,' he notes."

To put Mulcair's dismissal of Bouchard and defense of the PQ in context (and I am relying on Kady's account as I try to track down a full transcript), let me quote from Chantal Hebert's blog (my translation):

"The problem that this intervention will pose to PQ activists (thinkers?) is that Lucien Bouchard has had a long history of saying out loud what lots and lots of people are quietly thinking."

So Bouchard dismisses the PQ's raison d'etre (the likelihood of Quebec sovereignty) and their current major policy thrust (exploiting the residue of the "reasonable accommodation debate"). Taking Hebert at face value, these are not irrelevant views that Bouchard is expressing. Furthermore, these attacks can be nothing but damaging to Pauline Marois and the current day PQ (which should be good news to all federalist parties in Canada). And yet for some reason the NDP's main spokesperson in Quebec has decided to come to the current PQ's defense. Riddle me that.

Radio Canada also quotes Mulcair as defending the PQ and contradicting Bouchard about the moribund status of the separatist movement. To repeat: the NDP's representative in Quebec has more positive things to say about the PQ than their former leader does. Wonder how this plays with NDP supporters in, oh, pick a random spot, British Columbia?

Good to see Michael Ignatieff agree with Bouchard's comments as he helps put shrapnel in the PQ's collective behind.

As for the transcript, anyone who can decipher Mulcair's line - "because within Canada, they say this distinct nation can't be maintained within Quebec, within Canada" - for me wins a gold star (to be fair, it may be a bad translation - I only got the CPAC translation):

Reporter: I have a question myself Mr. Layton. Yesterday the former Premier of Quebec Lucien Bouchard made fairly severe comments about the Parti Quebecois and in general about the separation of Quebec and that it was a pipe dream and not going to happen any time soon and the radicalism of the Parti Quebecois. I would like to know whether you or Mr. Mulcair have any reaction it is to those.

Jack Layton: Well, at the NDP we're trying to create winning conditions for Canada and Quebec. That is our approach. With a respectful and asymmetrical federalism that can help all of us work together on the issues that are important to Canadians.

Thomas Mulcair: I will say very honestly that I started in the 1970s to work in Quebec City. I was there for the first mandate of Rene Levesque. I was there in the national assembly for close to 50 years. I don't understand the reaction of Mr. Bouchard. I know that he is a very respected person and has a great deal advice to give people. But when - but I don't hear any kind of radicalism in the PQ's message they were my adversaries. But to generalize about a few cases. I think that's very - that concerns me. There are always cases where we see an urgent need to defend the French fact in Canada and the ability to even work in French in Quebec. I mean, even the Buy American clause has a number of worrisome implications with regard to working in French and Quebec. So we think that is good that it is, that there are people who are concerned about this and who work towards it. I could say the same with regard to the fact that importance for declining in Quebec. Yes that's important. We can see that. But the worse error we can make in Canadian-Quebec politics is to herald the death of that, of this vision. Because within Canada, they say this distinct nation can't be maintained within Quebec, within Canada. The NDP believes in this and we're making all the efforts possible to make sure Quebecers feel at home in Canada. That is our priority. But to generalize in the way Bouchard did, the terms he used don't correspond to the reality. I watched question period yesterday. Purely as a coincidence because I wanted to see the debate on the Canada-American agreement. And I can tell you that there were very few zealots or fanatics within the PQ as described by Mr. Bouchard. So that's my viewpoint on it. And I think that, you know, we have to deal with these comments that are made. But luckily we don't have those kinds of people in the NDP. We just have people who support us. So we're lucky.

(Photo: The Canadian Pres)

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