The Globe and Mail's Jane Taber reports today that Paul Martin will try to scare voters into believing that forcing an election over Adscam will bring about the breakup of Canada:
"Canadians will vote for unity given a choice between the separatists and federalists," he said, according to a source. "We [Liberals] will expose the unholy alliance between the Bloc and the Conservatives."
Another MP said the Prime Minister used the words "winning conditions" in describing what Liberals believe is the Bloc's plan to eventually hold a referendum, after taking advantage of weakening Liberal support in Quebec and forcing an election. There are dire predictions among Liberals that they could lose more than half a dozen of their 21 seats to the Bloc.
How the sponsorship program was supposed to win the hearts, minds and loyalty of Quebecois back to Canada has never been adequately explained; a few flags here, a maple leaf logo there, and somehow 250 years of grievances against les maudits anglais were supposed to be overcome.
What is clear, however, is that Quebec is rightly insulted by the patronizing notion that it could be bought with a few cheap baubles.
Adscam has caused irreparable damage to the federalist cause within Quebec and to Quebec's image within the rest of Canada. Both are now associated with corruption, sharp practice and extortion. National unity will not sell with that image, at that price.
There has been an increasing indifference to threats of secession from Quebec; an attitude of "let them go if they want" has become the default response by the man in the street. Countless economic and political concessions from Canada have not been reciprocated by Quebec. Eventually, people get tired of being threatened.
However, no major political party outside Quebec wants to embrace this attitude as a matter of policy, lest they be tarred as anti-French, anti-Quebec, treasonous bigots. As long as there has not been a referendum vote in favour of secession, all political parties must maintain at least the appearance of staunch support for the continued unity of Canada's two founding nations.
No one wants to be seen as giving up on Canada. Nor will they, until they see that Canada has given up on itself.