Saturday, March 31, 2007

We need more Rex Murphy

I know he's not for everyone but I for one can't get enough of Rex Murphy. Since I moved to Vancouver, I can't find CBC Radio One so I can't listen to Cross Country Checkup. So, I'm pretty much left with reading his columns in the Globe. Today's column, on why we should be just as concerned with the success of the Mario Dumont's Action Démocratique. Given the ADQs commitment to essentially creating a separate country it's puzzling why Harper is celebrating their performance. But rather than me blathering on I think I'll let Mr. Murphy (thanks to the the Globe) explain:
Separatism by another name
Rex Murphy, March 31 2006
The Globe and Mail

All the observers agree: The Quebec election was a landmark vote. It changed the dynamics of the province. It broke down the pattern of a generation. It sidelined the great contest between federalists and separatists in that province.

And most of all, they agree that the outstanding result for Mario Dumont and his Action Démocratique du Québec, which catapulted the party to second place and him to Opposition leader, was great news for Stephen Harper and for Canada.

After all, the separatists had their worst result since 1970. The PQ may have been mortally injured. Separatists, and the idea they have championed, have aged. Both are now enfeebled and maybe irrelevant.

Mr. Harper caught this euphoric tone when he noted that "two-thirds of Quebeckers voted against having another referendum." Which is a very exhilarating thing to say, but two-thirds of Quebeckers did no such thing.

It is true that two-thirds voted for parties other than the PQ. But the "not holding a referendum" aspect of the other two parties was but one item on the menu of reasons voters chose when they gave their support to Mr. Dumont or Jean Charest.

Totalling the numbers of people who did not vote for a certain party, and taking that aggregate as the measure of the rejection of a single issue in a multiparty, multi-issue election is dishonest. In our system, it's worth clarifying, we count the votes for parties. Last example: In the most recent federal election, 95 per cent of Canadians did not vote against the Green Party. Five per cent voted for it.

But back to Mr. Dumont. It's true he is not, now, a separatist. He was in 1995, when he voted Yes in that year's referendum. And it is also true he has no interest in promoting or pushing for a referendum on separation from Canada. Mainly, however, I suspect not because he feels a chill at the idea of an independent Quebec, but because a referendum as a tactical instrument for that glorious result is increasingly seen as useless.

Mr. Dumont is not a sovereigntist. He is -- clumsy word ahead -- an autonomist. He wants more autonomy for Quebec. Canada is autonomous. The provinces and territories within it, by definition, are not. And if someone can point the difference between an autonomous Quebec and an independent Quebec, please alert the dictionary-makers.

The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary defines autonomy as "possessed of autonomy, self-governing, independent." Now, self-government or independence has been the explicit goal of the separatists as long as they have been separatists.
Why is the embrace of Quebec's autonomy as a goal more welcome by the forces of Canadian federalism than the embrace of its ideal synonym?

Let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

Furthermore, we have had within the past year the passage in our federal Parliament of a resolution that confirms the nationhood of the Québécois. We have also had the extension to Quebec of the right or competence to attend international gatherings, such as UNESCO.

So Quebeckers are a nation. Quebec qua Quebec may attend international conferences. And on the night of the most historic Quebec election in a generation, the star performer is the leader of a party who wants more autonomy for Quebec.

I suggest the reason Mr. Dumont is so obliging in dismissing a referendum from his political arsenal is that he sees it has become a useless ritual toward the advancement of goals ever so conveniently being achieved without one.

After all, if the federal Parliament declares by resolution that "the Québécois form a nation," if its "powers" are ever more exercised separately from any central mandate, if Quebec has an international presence, and if the goal of the only dynamic party in the province of Quebec right now is to expand the latitudes of its already generously established autonomy -- why chatter about some damn referendum? This boat sails better without that dropped anchor.

Quebec is and has been quietly disengaging itself, with the co-operation in particular of Mr. Harper's government, from its provincial status within the Confederation. It is edging toward an equivalent status with the rest of the country seen as a whole.

As for the ADQ's victory this week marking a breach from the independence project, read these portions of the party's platform. It goes . . . "our first allegiance, our passion and our loyalty are toward Quebec. It refers to Canadians outside Quebec as "privileged partners" not fellow citizens, speaks of relations with Ottawa as "bilateral and equal" and finally proposes the official name for what we now know as a province as the "Autonomist State of Quebec." The rise of the ADQ is not a funeral for separatism. It is a refashioning of the quest, a more beguiling referendum-free path to that fractious future.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

And now back to our regularly scheduled budget.

So now that he hand wringing, gnashing of teeth and wailing over the Quebec election are finished, let's turn our attention for a few moments to the Conservatives celebrated and much maligned second budget.

I've just started reading the budget, and it is a real page turner to be sure, but as I've stated before, most of it seems to be directed at buying more votes especially on the urban fringes where the Conservatives hope to make up real ground.

The environment is now one of the top priorities of Canadians (at least until barbecue season starts, which is pretty soon), and so the Conservatives have also tried to flavour the budget with enough environmental initiatives that, combined with all of the spicy tax credits and rich government transfers, it will make for such a savory dish that the voters won't be able to resist voting Conservative on election day.

But is there real substance to these tasty sounding environmental morsels? There isn't for at least one of them, the $2,000 rebate for fuel-efficient vehicles and the "Green Levy" of up to $4,000 on gas guzzling SUVs and vans. Sounds good -- at least until you get into the fine print and do a bit of research. Vehicles are eligible for a $1,000 rebate up to and including those with performance ratings of 12.9L/100km. Vehicles above 13L/100km are subject to the levy, which starts at $1,000 and tops out at $4,000 for those above 16L/100km. Trucks are excluded from the levy even though they are some of the largest contributors to emissions on the road.

Just for fun (I don't get out much) I checked the ratings of about 35 SUVs and Vans on a Canadian auto review web site. Of those 20 were actually eligible for a rebate. Of the remaining 15 that fell into the Green Levy category, only one (1) fell into the highest levy category and that vehicle was over $60,000. And speaking of price, all but one of the vehicles that were subject to the Levy were over $35,000 dollars (not including taxes, freight etc.). Given the price tags associated with these vehicles does anyone thing a $900 tax ($1,000 less the refund of the $100 excise tax) is going to stop anyone from buying one of these puppies? I don't think so. So there's a least one useless piece of the budget confirmed. Let's see what we can dig up in the coming days.