An August 18th Globe and Mail column by John Ibbitson argues that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is likely Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice of instrument in preventing Quebec from reopening a referendum on their place in the Canadian constitution. Despite referendum skeptics, Ibbitson perceives a strong possibility that Pauline Marois and her Parti Quebecois (PQ) will win the next Quebec provincial election, and thereafter, demand Ottawa relinquish control of Quebec’s share of “employment insurance, communications policy (so Quebec would have its own version of the CRTC) and cultural programs.” While Harper is poised to strike down any such requests, as Prime Minister he must interact strategically with the possibility of Quebec reacting negatively to his dismissal of their wants.
Ibbitson argues that if Harper were to dismiss Marois’ requests, Quebec could develop a growing sympathy for sovereignty even despite the now recognized risks of achieving such an end. However, the problem lies not only with the potential for growing sympathies for a separate Quebec, but the lack of counter-operatives Harper has poised in the province. Here enters Thomas Mulcair: a perfect candidate because the NDP has 58 MPs in the province, “Mulcair has deep roots in the province, served in Jean Charest’s cabinet, and loves a good fight.” In addition, Mulcair is neither Justin Trudeau nor a Liberal Party member, an institution the Conservatives remain interested in annihilating to create a two party system.
Ibbitson concludes Mulcair is not an ideal instrument for preventing a referendum, but with the ulterior goal of preventing “the revival of the Liberal Party in Quebec” Harper and his Conservatives have no other operationally viable options.
Although I find this article convincing as far as Thomas Mulcair being the best available option for helping prevent Quebec from separating, it is news to me that the Conservative Party seeks the destruction of Canada’s multi-party system. I find this comment by Ibbitson a digression from his main discussion, one which appeared politically neutral prior to. (article)