Harper aims to recharge in Quebec with Conservative rally

With Parliament adjourned until September and MPs home for the summer break, federal leaders will begin the BBQ circuit in Quebec for St. Jean Baptiste Day celebrations on Sunday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend a St. Jean Baptiste Day celebration this year, after upsetting many Quebec MPs last year by not adjourning Parliament for the province's holiday. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

With Parliament adjourned until September and MPs home for the summer break, federal leaders will begin the BBQ circuit in Quebec for St. Jean Baptiste Day celebrations on Sunday. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend a family-style BBQ event on a farm in St. Narcisse de Beaurivage, a small municipality, population of 1,091, located in the riding of Conservative MP Jacques Gourde, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister James Moore.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will take part in the Fête Nationale parade in Montreal on Sunday, while interim Liberal leader Bob Rae will join in the celebrations with Quebec MP Justin Trudeau and other Liberal members of Parliament.

Harper will use the gathering to hit the reset button as he is expected to meet with his Quebec caucus and a handful of other cabinet ministers, one week after taking the unusual step of seeking advice from former prime minister Brian Mulroney and current Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

In a telephone interview Saturday, Steven Blaney, the Conservative MP for Lévis–Bellechasse and minister of veterans affairs, said Harper "always seeks advice from prominent Canadians."

"I think to seek advice from a prominent Quebecer is wise. It's great to get good advice, and then we can move on and see how we can make it fit in the current reality," Blaney said.

'Deep roots'

Harper has five elected MPs in Quebec, the NDP has 58 seats in the province, the Liberals have nine and the Bloc Québécois has four.

Despite his party's recent misfortunes in the province, Blaney maintained that "Harper has proven to be a great ally for Quebec," pointing to the prime minister's decision to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada, and more recently an agreement on sales tax harmonization, as well as federal funds for a new Montreal bridge across the St. Lawrence River.

Blaney maintains history will show Conservatives are capable of weathering the storm because they have "deep roots" in la belle province.

"Sometimes there are some storms, but that makes us stronger," Blaney said.

Last year, NDP and Bloc MPs accused Harper of not showing respect for Quebec because he did not adjourn Parliament for Quebec's national holiday, which fell on a Friday.

At the time of the comments, the MPs in question were planning to filibuster the government’s Canada Post back-to-work legislation but also hoping to make it to their ridings in time for the festivities.

In the end, many MPs missed out on the Quebec holiday to make a point about the government's policies.