Thomas Mulcair

Politicians in Cowboy Hats 2015: Lassoing Votes, Stampeding to the Polls, and Other Puns

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Politicians in Cowboy Hats | Leave a comment

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014 round-ups – or “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

All eyes were on Calgary this weekend, as Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair kicked off the pre-election BBQ circuit. Despite the extra media attention, this year’s fashion round-up is a rather tame affair. When you get the truly horrible photo ops is during leadership races when Bay Street Liberals and Annex Socialists venture west for the first time. For the three men vying to win this fall’s election, this isn’t their first rodeo.

In what could very well be his final Stampede as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper leaves the leather vest at home.

In what could very well be his final Stampede as Prime Minister, it’s worth reflecting on Stephen Harper’s time in office. He may not have grown as a leader, but the man has certainly come a long way from the leather vest days.

I can see the attack ads now. "Just Trudeau flips pancakes 5 feet in the air. Do you want someone this  reckless in charge of the Canadian economy? In an uncertain economy, we need Stephen Harper's steady hand."

I can see the attack ads now. “Just Trudeau flips pancakes 5 feet in the air. Do you want someone this reckless in charge of the Canadian economy? In an uncertain economy, we need Stephen Harper’s steady hand.”

Props to Tom Mulcair for bringing the entire family, even if he got the Calgary hashtag wrong.

Since he brought his entire family, I’ll give Mulcair a pass for getting Calgary’s hashtag wrong.

And, of course, everyone had to get their picture with Calgary’s most photographed landmark, Naheed Nenshi.

nenshi with everyone

I assume this wasn’t Rachel Notley’s first Stampede, but this marks the first Stampede where anyone recognized Rachel Notley. That placed a lot of pressure on her, especially since Ed Stelmach called it the “Alberta Stampede” and looked completely out of place during his first Stampede as Premier.

Notley…well she rode a friggin’ horse. Anyone who rides a horse is deemed to have won at Stampeding. It’s that simple.

notley

As for what’s left of the Alberta PCs? The good news is their entire Calgary caucus could carpool together in the parade this year.

Alberta PC caucus could share a car on the parade

Finally, we end this post on a sad note. After losing two nominations and being told “thanks but no thanks” in his bid to run for the most right wing party in Canada, this will mark Rob Anders’ final Stampede as an elected member of Parliament in Calgary. Luckily, Rob took it in stride and was still smiling.

anders

SUPER IMPORTANT VERY URGENT UPDATE:

No sooner had I posted this round-up, than Rachel Notley did the unthinkable, and was caught wearing her cowboy hat backwards.

harper notley3.jpg

As discussed above, a Premier’s first Stampede is a dangerous place.

Still, Notley gets credit for riding a horse and not grimacing like she was trapped in some kind of hillbilly horror show. As for her slip-up, the Post’s Jen Gerson put it best:

Mocking Notley for her imperfect grasp of the white Smithbilt during Stampede is a little like picking on a cosplay actor who misplaced the buttons on the breathing apparatus of a Darth Vader costume at ComiCon.

Almost Blue

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election, Federal Politics | 18 Comments

Harper, Mulcair

These days, it must feel good to be Thomas Mulcair. The polls show he has a chance to become Canada’s first NDP Prime Minister, and the entire country has been engulfed in an orange afterglow since the Alberta election. But as Uncle Ben once said, with great polling comes great scrutiny.

Indeed, one of the downsides of surging four months before election day is that leaves a lot of time for journalists and voters to put everything you’ve ever said or done under the microscope, and study it at the atomic level.

So when you make the type of verbal slip-up we all make from time to time, people are a lot more likely to notice.

And when you’re one day re-affirming your opposition to the Clarity Act, and the next promising a round of constitutional negotiations, people notice.

And now this:

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was in discussions in 2007 to join the Conservative party as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, discussions that several sources, including former senior Harper staffers, say was the first step in securing Mulcair to run as a Conservative candidate in 2008.

The negotiations between the Conservative government and the man who is today leader of the left-leaning official Opposition allegedly broke down over money: Mulcair wanted nearly double what Harper’s office offered, two sources tell Maclean’s.

Contacted today for comment, Mulcair says conversations about an advisory role with the government did occur, but talks broke down, not over money, but over the Conservatives’ environmental policies.

This has been talked about for some time, so it’s not a bombshell. It’s also not overly surprising if you think about it.

For most politicians, their greatest strength can be turned into a weakness. Stephen Harper is strong, but many call him authoritarian. Justin Trudeau is fresh, but the flip side of the coin is inexperience. Mulcair likes to portray himself as a politician with experience who knows how the game is played – but that also means he knows how the game is played. It’s only natural that a political pro like Mulcair would try to squeeze taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes, or would consider his options before jumping to federal politics.

Many will dismiss theses as allegations from the Conservative side of the negotiations, but the problem for Mulcair is that even his own side of the story will seem rather unseemly to many New Democrats. It’s all very good to say talks broke down over the environment, but I suspect most NDP voters have more than one stumbling block with the Harper government. Mulcair says he talked to at least three separate individuals about joining Harper’s team between 2006 and 2007. Most New Democrats, if asked to become an adviser to Stephen Harper, would laugh rather than set up a series of meetings to discuss terms.

The whole ordeal reminds me of the old joke:

Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… “
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Whether the talks broke off due to money or a single issue is mostly irrelevant in this case. The fact that Mulcair was negotiating establishes what kind of man he is.

Politicians in Cowboy Hats

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | 2 Comments

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013 round-ups – or “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

This week’s pilgrimage of politicians to the Stampede was met with less fanfare than some years gone by. This wasn’t the first rodeo for any of the party leaders, and ever since the leather vest incident, wardrobes are vetted by dozens of staffers and stylists. So there were few surprises and few opportunities to ridicule.

And, let’s be honest, everyone was there for the Shat.

Shatner montage

Which kind of makes me sad Jack Layton isn’t around anymore. Mulcair? He’s supposed to be in town this weekend (if Harper lets him), but I see him as more of a Picard than a Kirk fan. Or maybe Riker – post beard.

Layton trekkie

That left the spotlight squarely on Justin Trudeau, flanked by local Liberal candidates who are trying to go where no Calgary Liberals have gone before (at least in the last 40 years) – to Ottawa.

Trudeau with Calgary Skyview candidate Darshan Kang and Calgary Confederation candidate Matt Grant

Trudeau with Calgary Skyview candidate Darshan Kang and Calgary Confederation candidate Matt Grant

Fresh off a victory of sorts in Fort McMurray – the heart of the oilsands – there are high hopes for a Calgary breakthrough. Ironically, it may be a Trudeau who finally puts the ghost of the NEP to bed in Alberta.

In the gold old days, Calgary children were raised that a Trudeau was to be kicked in the shins, not high fived. Times have changed.

In the good old days, Calgary children were raised that a Trudeau was to be kicked in the shins, not high fived. Times have changed.

In a rare show of civility, Harper shakes Xavier Trudeau's hand, before turning to crowd and reminding them Trudeau is trying to push pot on their children.

In a rare show of civility, Harper shakes Xavier Trudeau’s hand, before turning to the crowd and reminding them Xavier’s dad is trying to push pot on their children.

Harper interviews candidates to fill the senate vacancies.

Harper interviews candidates to fill senate vacancies.

With what now seems like a yearly tradition – an Alberta PC leadership race – in full swing, I’ve taken the opportunity to rank the would-be-Premiers by their Stampede wardrobes. After all, the PC constitution forbids them from talking about policy, so what else are Albertans going to base their decision on?

Finishing third, and the winner of “worst dressed” this year, is Tom Lukaszuk. I recognize he spends 30 minutes on his hair every morning, but surely he could have donned a cowboy hat just this once? All I’m asking for is the bare minimum effort.

luzakuk

In second, Ric McIver gives it the bare minimum effort, wearing jeans and at least carrying a hat around.

mciver

Like the leadership race itself, there was never any doubt about who would win this fashion round-up. Jim Prentice has been a Stampede All-Star over the years – he rides a horse, throws a breakfast, and makes a wide range of outfits work.

Prentice

And, finally, there is Naheed Nenshi, who this week passed the Calgary Tower as the city’s most photographed landmark.

nenshi

2013: Year in Review

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Humour | 1 Comment

January: SunTV applies for corporate welfare, arguing that they cannot survive unless the government forces people to watch them.

Later this year, they would give Rob and Doug Ford their own show…before cancelling it faster than Lucky 7.

Whoever could have guessed this fine young man would find himself at the centre of so much controversy

Whoever could have guessed this fine young man would find himself at the centre of so much controversy?

February: Patrick Brazeau is knocked out of the Tory caucus. While the Senate has yet to change rules around travel expenses, they were quick to pass a “no pictures of senators in thongs” bill.

March: In what was really the only victory for Toronto’s Mayor this year, he rallies council together…to get a burger joint built near City Hall.

Trudeau: Too sexy for his shirt? Too sexy for Canada?

Trudeau: Too sexy for his shirt? Too sexy for Canada?

April: After David Bertschi drops out, Justin Trudeau is crowned Liberal Leader.

Building on the success of “Not a leader” and “Just Visiting“, the Tories set out to define Justin as…too sexy?

May: The Liberals retrieve Labrador, winning Peter Penashue’s old riding by 16 points. Always the optimists, the Tory war room sends out a press release claiming this shows Justin Trudeau is “in over his head”.

super nenshi

June: When Calgary is hit with a once-in-a-century flood, Mayor Nenshi earns praise for his leadership, that includes 43 consecutive hours without sleep. Not to be outdone, when Toronto is hit with a flash flood a few weeks later, Rob Ford vows to go 43 hours without crack.

July: Stephen Harper shuffles his Cabinet, promoting his most talented MPs, and Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre winds up in charge of democratic reform, a clever move to show that Stephen Harper actually does have a sense of humour.

August: The PQ announces plans for a controversial “Values Charter”. Justin Trudeau immediately denounces it, while Tom Mulcair announces he will wait and see if it’s “very intolerant” or “extremely intolerant” before deciding where the NDP stands.

duffy wrecking ball

September: The Senate sandal explodes, with accusations that members of Stephen Harper’s staff conspired to repay Mike Duffy’s expenses. The good news for Harper is that it’s perfectly plausible he was in the dark, given his reputation as a “hands off” type of leader.

October: Michael Ignatieff releases a book subtitled “Success (and Failure) in Politics”. Suffice to say, the section about the latter is significantly longer than the section about the former.

In a coincidence, Stephen Harper’s hockey book is also released this month. In it, Harper describes how Wilfrid Laurier’s “tax on everything” nearly killed the infant NHL.

ford macleans cover

November: Toronto’s desire to be the centre of the universe is actualized, as the city dominates the international news and US talk shows. Toronto parents are forced to explain to their children what “crack” is. Me? I have to explain to my cat that, no, the Mayor of Toronto is not coming to eat him.

December: Conservative MP Brian Jean sends out a 50-question crossword puzzle in his taxpayer funded newsletter…about Brian Jean!

Quick. What’s a 9-letter word for obsessive preoccupation with ones self? 8th letter is “a”.

(answer: We will accept either “BrianJean” or “Egomaniac”)

The Year in Photos

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 6 Comments
You know what they say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

You know what they say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

Those left-wing media elites at the Toronto Sun have always had it in for Ford.

Those left-wing media elites at the Toronto Sun have always had it in for Ford.

Tim Hortons provides the ultimate pick-me-up for a normally subdued Rob Ford

Tim Hortons provides the ultimate pick-me-up for a normally subdued Rob Ford

Harper deals with the Senate scandal.

Harper deals with the Senate scandal.

Even at 79, he still looks better than Stockwell Day in a wetsuit

Even at 79, he still looks better than Stockwell Day in a wetsuit

$20 says they're telling Paul Martin jokes

$20 says they’re telling Paul Martin jokes

Mulcair's "pro-lettuce" stance is the kind of populist policy sure to excite voters

Mulcair’s “pro-lettuce” stance is the kind of populist policy sure to excite voters

While Harper's help with flood relief was appreciated, I can't help but think the owners of this flood damaged house would have preferred a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright.

While Harper’s help with flood relief was appreciated, I can’t help but think the owners of this flood damaged house would have preferred a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright.

Not only did the media attack Tom Flanagan. over his ill-advised child pornography comments...so did this animal.

Not only did the media attack Tom Flanagan. over his ill-advised child pornography comments…so did this animal.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children's entertainer.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children’s entertainer.

Naheed Nenshi - Canada's most huggable politician

Naheed Nenshi – Canada’s most huggable politician

...and...sexiest?

…and…sexiest?

We get it already. You're hip. You're cool. We're not. No need to rub it in.

We get it already. You’re hip. You’re cool. We’re not. No need to rub it in.

Liberal fundraising numbers were up this summer, but mainly because Justin Trudeau took out a part time job with Student Painters

The Liberals’ fundraising efforts were helped by Justin Trudeau taking a summer job with Student Painters

Trudeau was so confident in the wake of the Forum poll, that he started waving "Vote PC" signs on the campaign trail in Brandon-Souris.

Trudeau was so confident in the wake of the Forum poll, that he started waving “Vote PC” signs on the campaign trail in Brandon-Souris.

Also banned - Maple Leafs jerseys.

Also banned – Maple Leafs jerseys.

Quotes of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 7 Comments

Scroll to the bottom to vote on your favourite quote…

ford plenty to eat

“I am Conservative. I am a traditionalist. I wish I left Cabinet in the traditional way – with a sex scandal!”
Stephen Fletcher, after being removed from Cabinet

“When I stand back and look at the cast of candidates, even I would pick me. I have to be plain about that.”
Sandra Pupatello

“You know, there’s a level of of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say ‘we need to go green fastest.”
-Justin Trudeau

“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
Rob Ford

“I don’t even remember. Probably in one of my drunken stupors.”
Rob Ford, on his cocaine use

“You’ve just attacked Kuwait.”
Rob Ford

“I’m happily married, I have more than enough to eat at home.”
Rob Ford on, uhh…umm….

“It was kind of like what they did to Jesus.”
Doug Ford, on council’s treatment of his brother

“Then there is this evil Liberal name that haunts us still and wants to hand out drugs to our kids. This ghost of the NDP wants to acquire heroin with taxpayer money and inject it into the veins of Canada’s children.”
Rob Anders

“Canada will never be a safe haven for zombies!”
John Baird

“So the question is, is the money just in the wrong filing cabinet, is it hidden in the minister’s gazebo, is the money in the banana stand?”
Tom Mulcair

“I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology.”
Stephen Harper

“Realizing I may have made a major mistake in my openness and transparency: vicious attacks coming because I don’t drink coffee.”
Justin Trudeau

“I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but I’m going to say it. The river is closed. You cannot boat on the river. I have a large number of nouns that I can use to describe the people I saw in a canoe on the Bow river today. I am not allowed to use any of them. I can tell you, however, that I have been told that despite the state of local emergency, I’m not allowed to invoke the Darwin law.”
Naheed Nenshi

“Happy holidays to all you infidel atheists out there”
Brian Pallister

“There was a time not long ago that most of us in this leadership race would not have been deemed suitable. A Portuguese Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, an Italian Canadian, female, gay, Catholic. We would not have been able to stand on this stage. But this province has changed. Our party has changed. I do not believe the people of Ontario judge their leader on the basis of race, sexual orientation, colour or religion. I don’t believe it. They judge us on our merit, on our expertise, on our ideas, because that’s how everyone deserves to be judged.”
Kathleen Wynne

How I spent my summer vacation

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 2 Comments

Summer vacation lasted a bit longer for MPs than for the rest of us. If you’re just tuning back in now as our parliamentarians head back to the House tomorrow, here’s what you may have missed.

JustinGardner

For Justin, this was very much the summer of love. He ditched the suit for a pair of cargo shorts, got his wife pregnant, went on tour, and spent a lot of time talking about pot.

Even though Liberal Party members voted to legalize marijuana at their last convention, I don’t think anyone expected much more than a decriminalization promise any time soon. After all, it was just two years ago that Michael Ignatieff urged youth to dig ditches instead of smoking “marijuana cigarettes”.

In a very good article, Paul Wells admonishes Trudeau for deviating from the economy, but I think there’s a case to be made for burning off the pot issue long before the writ drops.

By itself, I suspect legalization will have a minimal impact in the 2015 election – the stoned slacker vote is notoriously hard to mobilize, and even older Canadians recognize the need to reform marijuana laws. So don’t expect 2015 to go down in the history books as the Gonja Election.

At the same time, this policy will play a key role in helping Canadians form their opinions of Trudeau. The Liberal frame will no doubt be that Justin is “a man of the times”, not afraid to speak his mind and take bold positions. The Tories will counter that Justin isn’t serious and lacks the gravitas to the PM.

Those competing frames will have a larger impact on how Canadians vote in two years than whatever they think about marijuana.

harper gun
It should be no surprise that while the other kids were off having fun and talking about drugs, Stephen spent the summer with his head stuck in a book.

Of course, he also found time to wear a flight suit, fire a gun, and go camping in the north as part of what seemed like a perpetual attempt to change the chanel away from the senate expense scandal. Now Harper knows how the rest of us felt all those years when we lunged for the remote control every time Mike Duffy’s face appeared on TV.

With the Cabinet shuffled, all 14 new Ministers of Immigration in place, and a throne speech on the way tomorrow, Harper will very much be trying to reboot his government. But it’s likely going to take more than photo ops with pandas and cheaper cell phone bills to head off the inevitable “time for a change” sentiment. It may not be there yet, but I suspect it will be by 2015. After all, it’s been over a Century since a Prime Minister won four consecutive mandates.

mulcair mcquaig

Four of Tom‘s MPs were married this summer, so he spent a lot of time browsing the Bay gift registry and mastering the chicken dance. I’m not sure how those weddings went, but you can bet that if the projector broke down before the slide show, Mulcair would have been quick to blame Stephen Harper. And Jean Chretien.

I hope Mulcair had a good time at the weddings, because the rest of the summer was a bit of a drag. He got pulled over by the RCMP and then, without trying to be ironic, uttered the words “do you know who I am?”.

Sadly for Mulcair, polls suggest many Canadians would answer that question with a “no”.

That will change during the 2015 election. The “good” news for the NDP is they’re learning a lot about what not to do during campaigns. The bad news is they’re not only up against a rejuvenated Liberal Party, but a Conservative Party now dishing out consumer-friendly treats directly from the NDP cookbook. Mulcair isn’t going to win on his sparkling personality, so he’s going to have to find some empty turf to paint orange soon.

Politicians in Cowboy Hats: Come Hell or High Water

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | 7 Comments

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 round-ups – or last year’s “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

Flood waters cannot stop the Stampede and flood waters cannot stop politicians from the annual ritual of self humiliation known as the cowboy hat photo-op. Indeed, if there’s one photo op even more irresistible than the Stampede, it’s a post-disaster zone tour.



The Flood Aftermath

Stephen Harper was the first on the scene, playing dress-up in a Canadian Forces flight jacket, complete with pilot wings. Harper defended his wardrobe choice by saying he was honouring the military – I tend to think a better way to honour them would have been allowing Afghanistan troops to keep their danger pay.

Stephen Harper, Naheed Nenshi, Alison Reford

Next up would be Thomas Mulcair, sporting the official Stampede “hell or high water” t-shirt – four words that in southern Alberta usually follow “I’m never voting NDP come…”.

Mulcair stampede

Justin Trudeau put on his coveralls, got his hands dirty, and made history becoming the first aspiring Prime Minister to ever sport a backwards baseball cap:

trudeau work

While I have no doubts the Tory war room was dreaming up attack ads to use this picture in, at least Justin didn’t ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans:

harper relief 2 - wish he'd worn coveralls



Stampede Round-Up

But we were told come hell or high water the show must go on, so it was time for the politicians to pick up a cowboy hat and flip some pancakes. Alberta Premier Alison Redford proved to be a bit over eager on this front, sending her pancake into orbit, in what I can only assume was an attempt to out-flip Danielle Smith.

redford flips pancake

Although Chris Hadfield was the Stampede grand marshal this year, it appears that Justin Trudeau once again managed to overshadow an astronaut. Because everywhere you looked this weekend, there was Justin. At one point yesterday the Calgary Herald had three separate Trudeau stories on their website – this likely isn’t the first time that’s ever happened, but I suspect it’s the first time none of the stories involved effigies.

trudeau stampede headlines

Mercifully, Justin decided to forego cargo shorts in favour of jeans and belt buckle. It remains to be seen if he’s a big thinker, but the “XL” tag on his hat at least shows he’s got a big head.

trudeau stampede

And here’s Justin – again – with Calgary’s mayor and international Twitter superstar Naheed Nenshi. I’m not sure I agree with the FastForward survey which named Nenshi the “sexiest Calgarian“, but he’s certainly the most huggable.

trudeau nenshi hug



Also Pictured

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the photo)

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the tip on this one)

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children's entertainer.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children’s entertainer.

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for "Best Dressed" this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I've seen pull off a "Stampede skirt".

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for “Best Dressed” this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I’ve seen pull off a “Stampede skirt”.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the "Worst Dressed" honours - it's a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the “Worst Dressed” honours – it’s a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | Leave a comment
Stephen Harper has made a huge mistake.

Stephen Harper has made a huge mistake.

I’m not sure if Tom Mulcair has what it takes to be PM, but he’d make a fine Mr. Manager:

NDP leader Tom Mulcair was wondering where $3.1 billion in unaccounted anti-terrorism spending went when he uttered this gem:

“So the question is, is the money just in the wrong filing cabinet, is it hidden in the minister’s gazebo, is the money in the banana stand?”


Beau Risque

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Quebec Politics | 6 Comments
Couillard will try to make history by becoming Quebec's first bearded Premier in over 100 years.

Couillard will try to make history by becoming Quebec’s first bearded Premier in over 100 years.

The Quebec Liberal leadership race drew few headlines outside the province, but everyone is paying attention to newly elected leader Philippe Couillard now:

Quebec Liberal leader Couillard sets sights on Constitution signing

After a convincing victory on Sunday as new Quebec Liberal party leader, Philippe Couillard has his sights set on becoming premier and steer the province into signing the Canadian Constitution.

By the time Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, Mr. Couillard believes he can persuade the rest of Canada to embark on a new round of constitutional talks that would accept Quebec’s “distinct” or “specific” character within Canada.

I’m not sure this is the battle cry I’d be sounding if I was just elected opposition leader in a province which is literally falling apart, but Couillard’s words bear attention. After all, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll be sitting in the Premier’s chair come 2015, in which case this will likely be an election issue. If he’s not Premier, then there’s a pretty good chance a referendum will be looming, in which case this will definitely be an election issue.

The real question is whether Couillard can find a federal dance partner for his constitutional tango.

Justin Trudeau has been categorically opposed to re-opening the constitution, getting into a heated argument with Jean Lapierre on this topic in December (It’s amazing how many substantive positions one winds up taking even while being accused of running a “photo op” campaign). Although some Quebec Liberals will be uncomfortable at the prospect of a Couillard-Trudeau sparing match, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the federal and Quebec Liberal leaders in anything resembling an electoral alliance so this wouldn’t be a new dynamic.

The real question is whether Harper or Mulcair line up with Couillard. An all-beard alliance between former Cabinet colleagues Mulcair and Couillard makes a certain amount of sense. On the 30th anniversary of the Charter last year, Mulcair promised “to work to ensure that one day [the charter] becomes part of a Constitution that includes us all“. The one stumbling block may be Mulcair’s plans to start a provincial NDP in Quebec, but that was always a bit of a hair brained idea, and I’m sure it’s one he would gladly let die if he can count on the PLQ’s machinery next campaign.

Harper has been less eager to re-open the constitution, but if his support sags in Ontario, he will need to win new seats in Quebec to preserve his majority – and he may see this beau risque as a means to that end. Moreover, 2015 could be his last election, and Harper is still a Prime Minister without a legacy. It’s not like they name airports after you for cutting the GST 2 points. It would only be natural for him to want to accomplish what Trudeau and Mulroney could not, knowing he can always exit stage right if he fails. Moreover, a new round of constitutional talks would allow Harper to follow through on his long-stated desire for an elected senate and a more decentralized federation. If he truly wants to reshape the country, what better way to do so than a new constitution?

That said, the man hasn’t exactly been inviting the Premiers over to 24 Sussex for homemade lasagna on a regular basis, so it seems unlikely he’d want to subject himself to weeks or months of debate and negotiation. Harper has always been a cautious politician, and a new round of constitutional talks borders on foolhardy. Although success would become his legacy, so would failure, and that’s the far more probable outcome. Exiting politics as the man who put the country through another round of constitutional strife and re-ignited the separatist movement would likely not help the hockey book sales in retirement.

So when Couillard is looking for dance partners in 2015, he’d be best to extend his hand to Mulcair.

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