I cannot support the Harper-Duceppe motion currently before the House.
The Prime Minister's responsibility is to protect the constitution and the unity of the country. This motion does neither. It is wrong for Canada.
The motion creates an unmistakable expectation by giving official legitimacy to the "idea" of nation, without defining it. This is an irresponsible step, as there has never been greater need for honest dialogue between Quebecers and the rest of Canadians. Rather than improving national unity, the motion will exacerbate divisions and generate misunderstanding in Quebec and across Canada. It is for this reason that throughout this campaign I have consistently opposed the "officialization" of the notion of Quebec as a nation.
Canada is a united country that must be constantly defined by our common values and a shared purpose. The introduction of this resolution contradicts this need and instead sows division over uncertain symbols.
I respect the sense of identity shared by many Quebecers, reflecting a common culture, language, history and accomplishment and I will continue to promote that identity, rather than playing divisive political games with it. Further, this motion does nothing to recognize, and potentially takes away from, aboriginals, Acadians and other official minority groups with a distinct culture and heritage within Canada.
I deplore that anyone would use this as a wedge issue for political gain. As Liberals, we have to understand that there is no easy way to rebuild the party in Quebec but we must stay resolute in our vision for the entire country. I want Quebecers to know that as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada I will forge a common understanding of the best way for Quebecers and all Canadians to work together on our real challenges: globalization benefiting all families not just a few; an aging population and the growing divide between rural and urban regions.
Out of respect for the interim leader Bill Graham, I am not requesting that any caucus member supporting my candidacy change their vote to reflect my position.
Canadians will know that I do not feel bound by this vote or this process.
Before people say this is reflective of a candidate without a lot of support in Quebec who does not understand Quebec. This motion is opposed by both Justin Trudeau and Alexandre Trudeau and by Senator Serge Joyal, a Quebec minister in Trudeau's government and constitutional expert who has said it is a "dangerous, big mistake" which will create "more stress, more tension, more blackmail and less trust" and "open the door for additional claims for any other province to get something from the federal government".
Also, Maclean's has a perpetually updating thread on this that is worth checking out.
I hope you agree that Kennedy has done the right thing here and think that Liberals will view the same. If so, please go to CTV's site and vote on their question "How will Kennedy's opposition to the Quebec motion impact his chances at the Liberal convention?".
UPDATE: Apparently Michael Chong has resigned from the cabinet over the nation motion? He was one of my favourite ministers and also the guy in charge of provincial relations. If this is true, it is a very significant blow to those supporting the motion. Perhaps he'll cross the floor if Kennedy wins the leadership?
UPDATE 2: Ken Dryden has also come out against the motion... will he now endorse Gerard after the second ballot?