Friday, August 05, 2005

It's not about aptitude, it's the way you're viewed

And, lo, it came to pass that I was again castigated for cynicism over the GG pick, on the grounds that Paul Martin couldn't possibly be so coldly calculating as to choose someone likely to improve any particular group or constituency's perception of the Liberal Party: I found the first points you were making to be an extremely cynical stance that brought partisan politics into play over a non-partisan position. Voters do not think of the Governor-General and who appointed her when going into the ballot box, and not even I think that Paul Martin is that callous to put that into a pick - particularly when everyone was caught off guard with this choice. Yet, interestingly, prominent pollster Jean-Marc Leger is parsing the likely effects in precisely the same way. Funny, huh? OTTAWA -- The appointment of Michaëlle Jean as governor-general is a political "home run" for the Liberals that could ease the anger of ethnic Quebeckers over the sponsorship scandal, predicts Jean-Marc Léger, a leading Montreal-based pollster. Naming a Haitian-born, black Quebec woman as the governor-general will be of particular significance in the northern Montreal ridings that have a large percentage of ethnic voters who could switch to the Bloc Québécois in the next election, he said, citing Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew's riding as an example. "Strategically, it's really a good move. I think it's a home run for the federal Liberals in Quebec," he said. Mr. Léger said that the percentage of ethnic voters who say they support sovereignty has grown significantly since the 1995 referendum and stands at about 24 per cent, but that number could be a short-term reaction to the sponsorship scandal. "It's not solid. It's like Jell-O," he said. As for the Haitian population, Mr. Léger said, polling has shown the community to consist of strong Liberal supporters, but voter turnout is on the decline. The appointment of Ms. Jean could inspire more ethnic Liberal supporters to vote rather than stay home in protest over the scandal. According to the 2001 census, most of Canada's 82,405 Haitians live in Quebec, particularly in Montreal. The community is largest in the riding of Bourrassa, which Liberal MP Denis Coderre won by 5,133 votes in 2004, followed by Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, the Liberal stronghold of Massimo Pacetti. The riding with the third-largest Haitian community is Honoré-Mercier, which Grit MP Pablo Rodriguez won by a slim 2,762 votes. With support for sovereignty on the rise, Quebec's ethnic voters have become a key battleground between federalists and separatists. [...] While they still overwhelmingly vote Liberal, Haitians, along with Latinos, are considered among the groups that have traditionally been more friendly to Quebec sovereigntists. So Ms. Jean's appointment could also address a potential problem for the Liberals, said Jean Dorion, head of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. "It could be a way to prevent a shrinkage in the ethnic electorate. It's not a marked one, but the Liberals are skilled at spotting trends far ahead of time," he said. Memo to Liberals (and liberals): When I criticize the government, it's not just because I feel the need to "moan" or "whinge" - it's because, quite often, their actions are worthy of criticism, such as when blatantly using a supposedly nonpolitical appointment to shore up support in marginal ridings.

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