Hélène Chalifour-Scherrer, Liberal leader Paul Martin's former principal secretary and now candidate in the Quebec City riding of Louis Hébert, said this afternoon that contrary to popular belief, the province of Quebec "was a very poor province."
"People still have the impression that the province of Quebec is the milking cow for all of Canada. That is not the case. The province of Quebec needs equalization payments and money from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, otherwise it couldn't make ends meet," Ms. Chalifour-Scherrer said.
The comments provoked an outcry of indignation from the Bloc Québécois that the remarks were a sign of Liberal contempt towards Quebec.
"I cannot accept that we treated as beggars. And I find shameful that some would be proud to be beggars," he (Gilles Duceppe) said.
When Stephen Harper remarked that dependence on EI and government-sponsored development programs had created a "culture of defeat" in Atlantic Canada, he became the most hated man out East for a time, because he told the truth that people back home know in their hearts to be true but are ashamed to admit publicly.
Thus also with Mme. Chalifour-Scherrer's remarks. The Liberals have purchased the loyalty of federalists in Quebec with what Robert Bourassa cynically called fédéralisme rentable (profitable federalism): equalization grants, procurement contracts, development programs, industry subsidies (especially to dairy farmers and Bombardier, and, of course, the sponsorship program.
The Liberals exploit the fear that all this wealth will disappear upon secession, and people flock to them for the money.
It is an uncomfortable truth both sides in the exchange know but won't admit publicly: the loyalty of federalist Quebecois depends entirely on what they can get of it.
If the federal well should ever run dry, or Quebec finds a way to make itself a have province, support for federalism will disappear because the need for Ottawa's cash will have gone away. Federalists' heads will finally listen to their nationalist hearts.
It's in the Liberals' interest to keep Quebec as dependent on their control of the money tree as it is to keep Atlantic Canada on the dole.
National unity through bribery and dependence: that's the Liberal way!