Conservative growth in Quebec

Hank C

Electoral Member
Jan 4, 2006
Calgary, AB
Conservatives look to harvest growing support in rural Quebec

OTTAWA (CP) - When federal Conservatives look at a map of Quebec, they know precisely where to stick in their blue push pins.

They look purposely past the Liberal bastion of Montreal, and cast loving eyes on the idyllic dairy pastures and blossom-filled apple orchards of eastern Quebec, along the US border.

Then they move along the fertile St. Lawrence River valley, carefully circling the area around Quebec city.

This is where future Conservative voters live, party thinkers firmly believe, and an election strategy to harvest support in mostly rural, francophone Quebec is taking shape.

Insiders say the campaign assault will centre on one central concept: exponentially increasing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's appearances in the province.

"Whether it be on the organizational side, the communications side, or the tour side, it's going to be about spending more time in Quebec," said Philippe Gervais, a party adviser in the province.

He points out that the Tories went into the last election believing they would win about four ridings, and they came away with 10. Hence the mantra from many Quebec Conservatives: "If only we had had two more weeks..."

"If we would have seen a shift in Quebec a little earlier, we would have redeployed our resources earlier and we might have won more seats," Gervais said.

Conservatives can hardly contain their excitement these days about Quebec, which is universally seen as the key that can unlock the door to a majority government. Polls show the party is running neck and neck with the Bloc Quebecois.

"It will be difficult for the Liberals to make a dramatic resurgence, so the fight will be between the Bloc and Conservatives," said Peter White, an adviser to Brian Mulroney when he was prime minister.

"I think what's happening is Mr. Harper is delivering the very effective message to Quebecers that by voting Conservative they can actually get things done, whereas by voting Bloc they get nothing done."

Policy-wise, most of the carrots the party is using in the province are fairly obvious.

There's the recent commitment to give Quebec a voice at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the bigger promise to address the long-standing complaint of a fiscal imbalance with Ottawa.

And strategists believe an emphasis on tax relief for working families will play well in the areas they are targeting. A fall roll-out of new environmental protection measures, including a Clean Air Act, will also be well advertised in the province.

More subtle is the overall message to Quebecers that Harper is not the scary social conservative portrayed by the Liberals, but rather an adept manager who does what he promises to do.

"Now the fact that he's actually doing what he says he will, and that he's coming to the province as prime minister, not just on the campaign trail, it's responding well," said Conservative Senator David Angus, who's been involved in Quebec politics since the 1950s.

So where does Harper, an Ontario-born Albertan, get his Quebec advice?

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has the ear of the prime minister, as does Public Works Minister Michael Fortier, who was co-chair of the last national campaign. Conservative insiders say the two don't always see eye to eye on strategy, but both are heavily involved.

Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is less of a voice, but his chief of staff, Michel Lalonde, has a long history in Quebec politics as a former confrere of Action Democratique Leader Mario Dumont back in the day when they were both young Liberals.

Outside the cabinet room, Gervais is a trusted adviser on the province, as is Harper's press secretary Dimitri Soudas and Robert Dyotte, a strategic planner also in the Prime Minister's Office.

©The Canadian Press, 2006


New Member
Apr 30, 2006
Paradise - Vancouver Island
Hank, I found this article interesting, which is related to Harper's agenda to buy Quebec votes:

How ironic: Alberta may pay for Quebec votes
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

EDMONTON -- The Ontario government has been firing shots across the bows of the Harper government. The issue is clear -- the possible rectifying of the "fiscal imbalance" to benefit the poorer provinces at the expense of Ontario taxpayers.

If, as now appears likely, this "fiscal imbalance" is partly solved by increasing equalization payments, the biggest losers will not be taxpayers of Ontario but rather those of Alberta.

Alberta, the country's richest province, sends $29-billion a year to Ottawa and gets about $17-billion back in federal spending. If Ottawa drives up its spending on equalization for the six recipient provinces, the money comes from the federal treasury, and that treasury gets its money disproportionately from taxpayers in the wealthiest provinces, notably Alberta.

The demand for solving the "fiscal imbalance" comes from all the provinces where per capita incomes are below the national average. But the specific campaign to wrest more funds from Ottawa is centred in Quebec, where the "fiscal imbalance" has become a myth, accepted by the elites and taken as a given by the general population.

Like all myths, the "fiscal imbalance" remains impervious to rational analysis. As such, it has become a largely political issue, the resolution of which is central to the political objectives of the Charest government in Quebec City and the Harper government in Ottawa.

These governments have developed a marriage of mutual convenience. The Charest government is desperately unpopular. Nothing it seems to do alleviates that unpopularity. So, its best card before the next election has become how much it can extract from the federal government whose overarching political objective is to capture a majority government by increasing its Quebec support.

This "fiscal imbalance" business began in 2002 when the Quebec government demanded $2-billion more in the short term and $3-billion more in the medium term (as part of an increase of $8-billion for the provinces) to solve the "fiscal imbalance." Since then, Ottawa has increased transfers by $10-billion, more than Quebec originally demanded. Still, the cry is up to resolve what has been resolved, by Quebec's own accounting.

The other less prosperous provinces, of course, jumped on this bandwagon clamouring, as they always do, for more money from Ottawa. Not content with Ottawa's additional $41-billion for health care (indexed at 6 per cent) and $30-billion for equalization (indexed by slightly more than inflation) for 10 years, the poorer provinces demanded more.

The previous Martin government, having agreed to this spending, said problem solved. But the Conservatives insisted that a "fiscal imbalance" still existed. And now, with wooing Quebec voters foremost in its mind and determined to make the marriage of convenience work with the Charest government, the Harper government intends for political reasons to solve a problem that no longer exists -- if indeed, it ever did.

Quebec is quite specific about how to solve this non-problem. It doesn't want additional tax points to all provinces, since a tax point in Quebec produces less revenue per capita than in wealthier provinces such as Ontario or Alberta. It will take straight-up cash transfers, of course, but these can be changed at a moment's notice.

No, it prefers statutory equalization increases for itself and the other equalization-receiving provinces, so that Quebec doesn't have to raise taxes that are already among the highest in Canada.

Equalization doesn't work the way some Canadians believe. It does not require wealthier provincial governments to send a cheque to Ottawa, which in turn redistributes the money.

Instead, equalization in effect takes federal money raised through federal taxation and redistributes that money to provinces according to a complicated formula based on each province's capacity to raise its own revenue.

What happens, therefore, is that money gets taken from taxpayers in wealthy provinces, or more precisely from wealthy taxpayers everywhere, and is then redistributed. By definition, that means Alberta, where per capita incomes are highest, pays the most.

The province will pay a lot more if, as Quebec and other provinces want, the province's oil and natural gas revenues are lumped into the formula. These have been excluded because of their volatility, but now the cry is up for them to be included. If so, the income gap between Alberta and the others will rise, meaning that the equalization formula will be enriched for the recipient provinces.

How ironic, then, for those with a sense of Canadian political history that a prime minister from Alberta is preparing to fund Quebec's political needs and his own from Alberta's taxpayers. Isn't that what used to get Albertans somewhat peeved?
The article is getting a lot of play across online and print media. Perhaps the only hope of stopping Harper's juggernaut - we must give him credit for a very clever political strategy - is to get Albertans to wake up to what's going on. Alas, the province is rich enough and perhaps willing enough, to view buying Quebec votes as an investment for future prosperity. :(

Hank C

Electoral Member
Jan 4, 2006
Calgary, AB
your right, I have said many times before, if you think of it like an investment, why would you take money from a strong investment and pour it into provinces that will just become more dependent on welfare.

You look at Ontario with their deficit, the amount they are paying for equalization and the amount they receive back in federal spending is unfair.... not to mention the annual increases in equalization. Im not even going to get into Alberta. If Quebec and their precious unions, social experiments and uncompetetive tax methods dont come back to bite them it will be because we are bailing them out.


Council Member
Jan 17, 2006
Don t worry guys, conservators will drop in quebec very very soon.