The art of division

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Kathleen Wynne has taken aim at Ottawa in the first hours of the Ontario general election campaign.
When Harper government ministers are blasting her government’s most recent budget as putting Ontario back in the dark ages, it’s hard not to. But seeking to start a fight with the federal government may not turn out in her favor, and certainly won’t win any favours for the people of Ontario. When our politicians conquer and divide, it’s a rare case where there are any winners.

Pitting one group of Canadians against another is political tool too often employed by the Canadian politicians and isn’t exclusive to one province or another. But fanning the flame of an ember that should never become a roaring fire is not fair to the electorate, as great a tool “wedge issues” are for garnering votes. The question is how much do we really gain when our politicians seek to divide and conquer?

Our province is no stranger to these tactics and political cheap shots.  

The war with Ottawa: ever lingering, and ever smoldering, it goes without saying that whichever party or premier has the keys to the ninth floor will pick a fight at one point or another with the federal government.

When Danny Williams declared battle against Stephen Harper over equalization payments and the province receiving the full benefit from offshore oil negotiated through the Atlantic Accord, he continued a war that has lasted almost 10 years.

King Danny hurdled holier-than-thou lightning bolts at Ottawa and those who reigned there.

He swore that the capital was continuing to disenfranchise our province, that Harper was robbing us of an opportunity to be an equal partner of industry in Canada, and Newfoundlanders were too strong willed and too hardy of a people to be abused in this heinous way.

Danny asked us to stand firm against Ottawa and vote ABC — Anything But Conservative in 2008 (and) delivered to the Harper government exactly what he had promised. There were no Conservative members from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland had won against Ottawa.

In this war there were no casualties, only bruised egos and an icy wind of isolation blowing in either direction between our province and 22 Sussex Drive.  

However, looking at the recent implosion of the Parti Québecois and the Concrete Lady, former premier Pauline Marois, it’s clear playing division politics is not always a winning game, as shown when she and her party put forward the proposed Secular Charter that would prevent public sector workers from wearing conspicuous religious garments, having the biggest impact on Muslim women.

The charter exposed an uglier side of the Quebec population. Muslim women and businesses with Islamic owners were targets of violence and vandalism, and pitted native Quebecers against its immigrant population. Marois tore communities apart that had had healthy relationships with immigrant populations and equally happy relations with the Islamic religious communities. And it showed in the election results.

Marois and the PQ were humiliatingly removed from office in a glorified blaze that returned the Liberals to office with an overwhelming majority mandate. Marois left disgraced from the party’s leadership, and the communities with Muslim populations now must work to mend relationships. There were no winners in this political squabble and sought to create an issue were there was none.

Wynne is staking all of her and her party’s political futures, hoping that Ontarians will see her and the Liberals as a champion in the fight against the Harper government.

She drew a clear line in the sand for all to see by declaring that “We don’t have a federal partner.” This will only draw more ire from the federal tories and garner accusations from her provincial political rivals of doing exactly what she is doing – effectively creating an issue where none exists.

“In the same way that the federal government invests in the oilsands in Alberta, you might expect they would want to make an investment and work in partnership with Ontario in the Ring of Fire.”

Not only does this comment further poke the bear in a cage that is the federal government, but it also throws a jab at Alberta, effectively creating a third battlefront for her to contend with and further the already strained relationship with the West.

As divide and conquer strategies go, the potentially soon to be former premier of Ontario is going about it all wrong. Her party and her own necks are on the line, and she is willing to risk the involvement of the federal government in future cooperative endeavors to the detriment of all Ontarians. In this fight there will be only losers, and no one will Wynne.

Noah Davis-Power

St. John’s

Organizations: Parti Québecois

Geographic location: Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Alberta Quebec Ontario

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