This morning, I heard the Conservative radio ads trying to discredit the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition government.
It was the usual negative stuff from the Conservatives: the voice of Stephane Dion with his heavy French accent and the implication that he went back on a promise not to form a coalition with the NDP.
I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that the Conservatives are again pandering to western private-radio talk-show listeners' prejudices by playing up Dion’s accent at every opportunity.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by hammering away at the deal with the “separatists”, is sending a not-so-subtle message in the House of Commons that Quebec is taking over the country.
The message seems to be working. Last night on one newscast, I saw an Alberta resident complain that Harper is being pushed out of office because he's not a Quebecker. I'm guessing that this is a regular refrain on the Alberta call-in shows.
This week, Canwest reinforced anti-Quebec attitudes by suggesting on the front-page of the Province newspaper in Vancouver that Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe is a devil.
I suspect that these tactics will lead to a backlash within Quebec, where there is a high sensitivity to anything that smacks of racism against francophones.
Harper has tried to suggest that he’s the voice of national unity, going so far as to claim that Dion didn't want the flag behind him while he sat beside the leader of the Bloc.
The Conservative spin doctors are framing this as a "Stand Up for Canada" kind of story. But I fear Harper's party’s approach will have the opposite effect, creating greater divisions within the country.
Some commentators have suggested that the Liberals are playing with fire by making a deal with the Bloc and the NDP. But what’s equally likely is that the Conservatives are playing with fire by pandering to western prejudices against Quebec.
That could have troubling ramifications for the Conservatives’ federal electoral prospects for years to come.