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Would the PM please shut up: Senior Conservative cabinet minister was BQ member for 7-plus years

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Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel

This just in! Senior federal Conservative cabinet minister was member of Bloc Quebecois for seven-plus years!

Well, it's not April 1, and it's in the Globe and Mail just now, so presumably the fact Prime Minister Stephen Harper's transport minister, Denis Lebel, was a member of the theoretically separatist Bloc Quebecois for more than seven years during the 1990s means the federal Conservatives are either breathtaking hypocrites or they’re incompetent buffoons who didn't do their due diligence.

By the sound of the Globe's report, there wasn't much secret about Lebel's long sovereignist involvement, or his generous personal donations to Quebec's separatist movement. But that was before Prime Minister Harper came along with his great economic plans for Canada, and Lebel saw the light, or so his spokesperson told the Globe yesterday.

Guaranteed, this story wouldn't have rated two inches on page B97 but for the fact the Conservatives have been raging for days about Acting Opposition Leader Nycole Turmel having once been a member of the BQ … just like the prime minister's esteemed cabinet colleague.

Turmel, of course, was appointed to her current position so that NDP Leader Jack Layton could take some time to recover from the obviously serious cancer that has beset him.

The federal Liberals, desperately facing extinction, opportunistically piled on. One can hardly blame them after their historic rout in the May 2 federal election. But if there are no federal Liberal MPs from Quebec with a PQ/BQ taint, rest assured it is only because there are only seven Liberal MPs left in that province.

As was written in this space last Friday, one can understand and sympathize with Turmel's association with the Bloc -- she is, after all, a social democrat and until Layton's Orange Wave crashed through Quebec before the federal election, the Bloc and the Parti Quebecois were the only social democratic shows in the French-speaking part of town.

But Lebel is a neo-Con whose spokesperson says he's an admirer of the PM's economic wisdom. So what's his excuse?

What this really shows is that both the BQ and PQ were mainstream parties in Quebec for a very long time, and many people with political ambitions no doubt joined them because that was the only way to have a realistic hope of political success.

This may seem opportunistic, but how is it different from the large numbers of otherwise reasonable people who are lifelong Conservatives in Alberta? The Conservatives have been the only show in this particular one-horse town for more than 40 years, so what do you expect people who want to build a better world to do if there's no other way to attain office?

Harper could on the morrow surprise us and prove he really means what he says by firing Lebel from cabinet. If he does, he'd better dump Minister of State for Small Business Maxime Bernier too, seeing as that Tory grandee also served as an aide to separatist Quebec premier Bernard Landry.

The trouble with that kind of thing, of course, is that it could easily turn into a witchhunt. It would surely do the Conservatives no long-term good in Quebec -- which, for all their bravado about needing only Ontario and the West may be necessary for them to stay in power in the future.

Probably a better outcome for the future of the country is that the prime minister just grow up and shut up about this particular issue, lest he be revealed as the unprincipled hypocrite many of us suspect him of being.

If he does, I expect most of us who don't like him or his politics will be willing to forgo our sense of schadenfreude at the deliciously ironic sight of him trying to wiggle off the hook and explain Lebel's political history.

Then we can all get back to what we should be doing -- to wit, surfing the Orange Wave!

NOTE: After this post, and this time the author really means it, Alberta Diary will be closed for vacation for two weeks. David Climenhaga's commentaries will return to Alberta Diary and rabble on Monday, Aug. 22.

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