Canada's opposition Liberal party says it will support Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motion recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada, adding more political weight to a motion that has escalated tension surrounding the long-divisive issue.
The support expressed on Thursday came a day after Harper, pre-empting the separatist Bloc Quebecois party, stunned parliament with the motion that calls Quebec a "nation within a united Canada."
The support of the majority of Liberals means that the Conservative motion will likely pass next week. The two parties control almost three-quarters of the seats in the House of Commons.
"We are going to vote for a Quebec that forms a part of a united Canada," interim Liberal leader Bill Graham said. "This is a matter on which the Liberal Party of Canada, which has had a great role in building this country, will be voting in favor of. .... We will not be voting for a concept dictated by the Bloc Quebecois."
Harper's motion left some supporters cheering it as a bold political step while critics slammed it as a political smoke screen and a recipe for tearing apart the country.
The Bloc Quebecois introduced their own motion on Thursday, just after the Liberals had voiced support for Harper's initiative. Their's, however, does not refer to a united Canada, but says Quebec is a nation "currently within Canada."
Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe on Thursday said that Harper's motion was a clumsy attempt to "pull the wool over the public's eyes."
"When he attaches that condition, we can see through it that it's just a partisan tactic," Duceppe said. "I hope that the prime minister will recognize the Quebec nation, period."
The flap has reignited passions over whether the French-speaking province should be given independence. Quebecers have twice voted down referendums seeking independence from Canada; the last one was narrowly defeated in 1995.
"Do Quebecers form a nation within a united Canada? The answer is yes," Harper told a cheering House of Commons on Wednesday to numerous standing ovations. "Do Quebecers form an independent nation? The answer is no -- and it will always be no."
Harper said the Bloc Quebecois motion was an "unusual request" that could lead to another referendum for Quebec independence.
While most Liberals agreed to support the Conservative government's motion, some from the opposition party emerged unhappy with the decision.
Liberal Jim Karygiannis said he would vote against Harper's counter-declaration, stressing he was worried that other groups in Canada would seek nation status.
Liberal Senator Serge Joyal agreed with Karygiannis.
"When you introduce the concept of nation in Canada then you the open door to the Acadian nation, the [indigenous] First Nation, to all the other groups," Joyal said.