The small matter of the separatists in our House


The Bloc Quebecois has existed in some form or another since 1990—formed from a breakaway group of MPs from the Liberal and Conservative sides. In six federal elections, they have received an average of 1.5-million votes and claimed an average of 48 seats. Their popular vote has never represented less than 10% of the popular vote in Canada and 38% of the popular vote in Quebec.

Between 1993 and 1997, they sat in the House of Commons as Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. They participate in Parliamentary committees, the legislative process and Question Period. They have offices on the Hill. Their leaders have had a place in election debates. Their votes have toppled and propped-up Canadian governments.

The Bloc’s founding leader, Lucien Bouchard, is a member of the Queen’s Privy Council and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal. Their current leader, Gilles Duceppe, has won election seven times in his riding, dating back to Aug. 1990.

So, all things considered, what is the quibble with their support for a Liberal-NDP coalition?

By no means—if you believe in a Canada that includes Quebec—is there a defence for the Bloc’s stated goal of separation. But if they are free to participate in the democratic process, free to work within Parliament—and indeed have been doing so for 15 years—why should they not be permitted to participate, indirectly, in a coalition government? How would their support for a Liberal-NDP government be any different than their support for a Conservative government?

If the argument is that they shouldn’t exist at all within the framework of Parliament, then there should be a push for the Conservative government, if it survives, to both never again co-operate with the Bloc and, indeed, move to pass legislation that explicitly denies a separatist from participating fully in Parliament.

Would that be undemocratic and a profound infringement on the rights of all Canadians? Perhaps. But I’m not sure how we can have it both ways. Either they are allowed to participate fully in the business of Parliament, or they’re not.

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