Commentary | Hyde Park: The Bloc legitimizes Canadian democracy

Ever since the Bloc Québécois’ formal introduction to federal politics in 1991, Canadians have been outraged over Ottawa’s funding of the party. The very idea that we should subsidize a party whose main platform is the dismemberment of Canada seems preposterous to many. In his Fall update, Stephen Harper used this same argument to defend his initial scrapping of political party financing – which currently provides $1.95 per vote to federal parties. Now he’s promising that, come the next election, he will scrap party financing for good. However, it is in the interest of all Canadians that the Bloc remain a viable political option for Quebeckers.

The Bloc represents the greatest and most effective means to promote national unity in Canada and deserves our wholehearted support, if not necessarily our votes. By defending the interests of separatists, the party allows a significant percentage of Quebeckers to espouse their ideas in the Canadian democratic system.

Since its first election in 1997, the Bloc has garnered approximately 40 per cent of the popular vote in every subsequent election in Quebec and represents the largest proportion of Quebeckers today. Through proposing various bills and participating in parliamentary sessions, the Bloc legitimizes the federal political system. Most importantly, the Bloc’s involvement allows for the inclusion of many Quebeckers who might otherwise feel absolutely no attachment to their federal government. Since the Conservatives’s win in 2006, the Bloc has enjoyed an extremely powerful position in Parliament as the balance of power, which allows in turn an even greater participation in the Canadian government.

Some might say that by funding the Bloc Québécois, Canadians are allowing the promotion of separatist ideas. However, the province’s most driven and important politicians flock to the National Assembly in Quebec City, given the greater impact they can have on the province, and because a referendum on Quebec separation would come from the National Assembly. The Bloc has become a party that defends the interests of Quebec as a whole, due to the relative unpopularity of separatism and the irrelevance of a separatist agenda on the federal level. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe’s decision not to discuss Quebec independence during the October federal elections is no coincidence.

The Bloc acts most often as a staunch critic of the government, whether it is Liberal or Conservative. Indeed, the biggest issues of the last three federal elections for the Bloc were cuts to cultural programs and the sponsorship scandal, not separatism.

We should avoid stigmatizing the Bloc, which represents the views of almost 1.4-million Canadians whose voices deserve to be heard. After all, history has proven throughout the world that separatist movements must be integrated into the national political system in order to be overcome, as was the case in Spain and Scotland. Since the Bloc is an example of such integration, it is time to stop antagonizing separatist sympathizers and start treating them like Canadians. This starts with scrapping measures that target the Bloc for their political beliefs.

David Searle is a U1 History student. Send your scraps to david.searle@mail.mcgill.ca.


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