Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Pettigrew Files

If Pierre Pettigrew is shuffled out of cabinet, he almost certainly will announce that he's not running again in order to spend more time with his chauffeur in Paris his family.

But in case he isn't, he'll be facing his own token Haitian problem:

The riding of Papineau, in the ethnic heart of Montreal, will be the scene of one of the most interesting battles in the next election as Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew faces off against a leader of the women's rights movement in Quebec.

The twist is that Mr. Pettigrew made headlines by attacking the Bloc Québécois as distrustful of immigrants, and the Bloc has responded by nominating Haitian-born activist and teacher Vivian Barbot as his opponent.

The battle will go beyond the individual riding as both parties try to win the support of the province's ethnic communities in the struggle between federalism and separatism.

The Bloc hopes Ms. Barbot will become the first MP from Quebec's Haitian community, matching the Liberals, who this summer appointed the first Haitian-born governor-general, Michaëlle Jean.


In 2000, Mr. Pettigrew won his seat by 12,176 votes. After the sponsorship scandal and an effort by the Bloc to win support among immigrants, his margin of victory melted to 468 votes in 2004.

Ironically, Pettigrew might be saved by the very xenophobia that he's denounced the Bloc for. For every Haitian vote he loses, the Bloc might lose more from pure laine nationalists who still don't see blacks as real Quebecois, the election of Maka Kotto notwithstanding.

But if anger about Adscam remains stronger than Quebecois' natural distrust of ethnics, they'll overlook Mme. Barbot's origins and give Pettigrew more free time to look after his hairdo.

Source: Globe and Mail

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