Forcing the government to fall on the Afghanistan issue makes perfect political sense. Let's think about this critically and from Duceppe's point of view. As recently as three weeks ago the Bloc won a major victory when it was able to push the House to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. And despite all the confusion surrounding the resulting motion it had two positive outcomes for the Bloc;
- It exposed the divisions in the Liberals and the Conservatives over the Quebecois' status.
- It gave some re-affirmation to the Bloc's relevance in Quebec politics.
However, the Bloc has also recently faced somewhat of a setback at home. This came when Stephane Dion was named leader of the Liberals. The speculation about Dion was that he would be a non-player in Quebec when it came to a federal election. Being that he had been considered soft and a bit of traitor from being the prime architect of the Clarity Act, most guessed he would be a liability for the Liberals. The only problem for Duceppe (and Harper) was that all the speculation seems to have been wrong. Not only is Dion showing more favourably at home, but the Liberals' numbers in general are also up (and not just in Quebec). And the numbers seem to be climbing. This means that some of Duceppe's momentum from the Quebecois Nation motion has been lost and he needs to do something, fast.
This can't be the only concern on Duceppe's mind either. Sometime in the new year the Conservatives are set to release a budget. While we don't know what the specifics of the budget will be there is some speculation as to what it might contain. One part of this will probably be new money or at least a better deal for Quebec. Add to this the rumours that Harper is planning to table a motion to hand greater power to the provinces, Duceppe ultimately finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Greater fiscal resources and greater provincial autonomy for Quebec are two major parts of the Bloc's agenda and if another party can deliver all those things, then the Bloc won't be so relevant. All they really would have left is their stance on separation and even that doesn't seem to have the same legs it once did.
Bringing down the house at this point makes complete sense, politically. Especially over the issue of Afghanistan. With the Bloc's issues being co-opted by the Conservatives, for their own political gain, and with the Liberals re-electing a well-known Quebecois for leader who is also taking on issues that are extremely important to Quebec (i.e. environment), Duceppe needs to do something to - essentially - stop the number of Quebeckers from looking at other parties. Using Afghanistan will help with that to some degree because it is a divisive issue as far as the Liberals are concerned and to a lesser extent the Conservatives as well. Using Afghanistan may give Duceppe back some of the momentum he had with the Nation issue and again expose party divisions that may make them look out of touch with the views of Quebec. However, there is some risk to move because the Liberals, in general, could side with the Bloc. It will definitely help if all the Liberal Quebec MPs side with the Bloc while the at-large Liberal MPs generally support the fall as well. And there's the problem that the Liberals may gain for not being the initiators of the fall in the first place. It's definitely a fine line Duceppe is walking.
For this to work, it will definitely have to come prior to the Conservatives budget being released and any motion that will move bulks of power from the federal level to the provincial level. It will also need to come sooner than later because the longer it's delayed the more time the Liberals will have to be prepared for an election and be able to develop some real policies on some of the more important issues for Quebeckers, such as the environment, the fiscal imbalance and health care. The next couple of months will be interesting, to say the least, because not only is the Bloc looking to bring down the house but so are the Liberals and the NDP. At the moment, the Conservatives, it seems, can't do anything right in the eyes of the public and the opposition parties are definitely looking to take advantage of it before the Conservatives find a way to turn the tide.