Harper accepts Duceppe’s challenge

12.21.05

Gilles Duceppe challenged Paul Martin to a one-on-one debate. Martin declined. So Stephen Harper offered Duceppe take him up on it instead.

Some believe that Harper is going to score points in Quebec thanks to this move:

Aside from the possibility that the Liberals may try to spin this as giving Gilles Duceppe a legitimacy he does not deserve – even though they agreed to let Duceppe take part in the main leaders’ debates, in French and English – I think this is an absolutely brilliant move by Harper. And once again, Martin dropped it right in his lap.

Many Quebec federalists are sick of the Liberals, but feel like they have no other choice if they want to keep the separatists under control. [. . . ] The Conservatives have to change that, and this would be an excellent step forward. We should be using that “stand up for Canada” line as often as we can.

I disagree. Harper has practically zero chance of making gains in Quebec no matter how many times he claims otherwise. He simply doesn’t have his pulse of the political nature of the province. He’s running a campaign marketing his party as the “anti-Liberals”, but we already have the “anti-Liberals” in Quebec in the form of the Bloc.

Even soft nationalists or Quebecois federalists will be willing to vote Bloc if they’re mad at the Liberals, realizing that it’s a far cry from an actual vote for sovereignty. (Hell, 40% of Quebecers think that even a vote for sovereignty still means that they want Quebec to stay in Canada. Our electorate ain’t always the brightest).

So Harper can’t score too many points in the province by saying “the Liberals are corrupt, don’t vote for them”. Because Quebecers will simply counter with “we know the Liberals are corrupt, thanks” and turn around and vote for the Bloc.

However, Harper’s move isn’t all idiocy. He has nowhere to really climb in Quebec, but he probably will pick up support based on this challenge, where it counts: in the rest of Canada. He can use this to make Martin look soft on sovereignty and himself look like the guy willing to stand up for Canada. And with that, he may pick up some support in Ontario, a critical battleground.

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