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August 16, 2005
Martin Named Secessionist To Governor-General Post

Canadian PM Paul Martin faces a daunting polling gap in Quebec, where the popular Giles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois not only control a majority of seats but also align themselves with Martin's nemesis, Conservative Stephen Harper. In an attempt to split Quebeckers, Martin named Michalle Jean to the mostly ceremonial role of Governor-General last month, despite questions about her dual citizenship with France. The move proved popular in Quebec and saw an improvement in the Liberal position. However, whispers that Jean not only has split loyalty but has endorsed the breakup of Canada will soon have Martin tapdancing across the rest of the provinces:

Hard-line separatists in Quebec have unearthed quotations by Ms. Jean and Mr. Lafond from a book he wrote in 1993. His statements make clear his unequivocal support for a sovereign Quebec.

Ms. Jean's statements are more ambiguous but suggest that she, too, favours the province's independence.

"Independence isn't given away, it's taken," she said to a group of high-profile Quebec nationalists, including former leader of the Front de libration du Qubec Pierre Vallires, former PQ cabinet minister Grald Godin, and Yves Prfontaine, a founder of the Rassemblement pour l'independance nationale, a separatist group that was the forerunner to both the FLQ and the Parti Qubcois. ...

The quotations were gleaned from Mr. Lafond's book, La manire ngre. It is a companion piece to his 1991 documentary of the same name, which examines independence struggles in Quebec and various Caribbean nations such as Martinique and Haiti.

In the book, Ms. Jean is also featured joining in a toast to "independence." She says, "C'est fini, les petis peuples!" (Which translates roughly as, "No more, dominated people!") She also notes that there are "three choices for independence." She says that in Haiti, the country of her birth, the choice was "painful." In Martinque, it is that of "compromise" and in Quebec it is "on hold."

Says Mr. Lafond: "So, a sovereign Quebec? An independent Quebec? Yes, and I applaud with both hands and I promise to be at all St. Jean [Baptiste] parades."

Perhaps the PM has a different view of filling government appointments, but I suspect most Canadians would prefer to see those positions filled by candidates with more enthusiasm for the nation which they propose to serve. These quotes go back fourteen years, so Jean and Lafond can claim that their positions have evolved -- and that may prove correct. Still, the notion that the Liberals think the best person for a position which represents its national interests and sovereignty is someone who once offered toasts to its dissolution sounds delusional at best.

This may develop into a major embarrassment for Martin and the Liberals, a rare misstep during a period when even one faux pas would have meant losing power entirely. When Parliament reconvenes, expect the Tories and BQ to hammer Martin on his commitment to a unified Canada. The Liberals had no problem dragging out the loyalty argument against them last spring, and now they will undoubtedly experience a rare moment of self-inflicted karma.

Martin may have singlehandedly coughed up one of the primary "hidden agenda" darts which his party has successfully landed on Harper's skin this year -- and one of the reasons why the Gomery Inquiry has failed to do lasting damage to their electoral chances. If so, it will provide irony after irony. Adscam showed the Liberals robbing the programs designed to mollify separatists, and Martin ducked the damage by painting Harper as soft on separatism. If Martin falls because he and his staff couldn't research Michalle Jean thoroughly, the separatists will have given him the self-inflicted defeat that Harper and Gomery could not.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 16, 2005 7:34 AM

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