Friday, November 04, 2005

Ten years after the referendum - some tidbits

As part of a cunning plan to make my teaching relevant, my Contemporary Canadian Issues class is currently working on a unit on Quebec Nationalism and Separatism. Yesterday we were discussing the 1995 Quebec Referendum. Ten years later, I've been pondering the state of Quebec within Canada, and what the prospects are for the future. Here are some tidbits to get started on. (My apologies if this is not as well fleshed-out as it could be. I've been pouring most of my energies into the classroom of late, but I don't want to fall completely off the blogging wagon).

1. In Wednesday's Globe and Mail, Alain-G. Gagnon and Raffaele Iacovino made a very important point about why Gomery has injected new blood into the sovereignty movement. They argue that it was not so much the sponsorship program's incompetence or lining the pockets of Liberal organizers that upsets Quebeckers, but the implied insult that the sponsorship program was considered a suitable response to Quebec's grievances. As they point out, this was a laughable response to the nationalists' demands. The combination of the Supreme Court Reference and Clarity Act - while they may make a future referendum result clearer - address issues of process, not of the substance of what was sought by "yes", and many "no" voters. While other Canadians are concerned about the money and the scandal, it is the program itself that is a concern in Quebec.

2. This points to another fundamental problem - a seemingly complete lack of quality political leadership in Canada, particularly where the Quebec dossier is concerned. Neither of the two English-speaking opposition leaders has anything constructive to say on Quebec (unless the options of "who cares about Quebec?" or "let's cave into all of Quebec's demands and abolish the Clarity Act" strike you as constructive). Paul Martin doesn't have any sort of vision on any issue, and his Quebec lieutenant is an ex-Bloquiste and political opportunist. When Gilles Duceppe is looking like a highly articulate, seasoned debator, you should know that he is winning by default.

3. From my current perspective, the only real hope that Canadians have of avoiding a successful Quebec referendum in the near future is the fact that the PQ leadership hopefuls don't seem to have much of a vision themselves. Andre Boisclair, while telegenic, doesn't seem all that committed to an independent Quebec. Pauline Marois, who is, is trailing in the polls, and is probably not well-liked enough by the general Quebec electorate to win a mandate to become leader of an independent Quebec. In short, both the federalist and sovereigntist camps are trotting out tired old arguments, and without much passion

4. I'm slow to mention this, but I'm really quite excited by the manifesto published by Bouchard et al. late last month. Pour un Quebec lucide takes aim at the sacred cows of Post-1960 Quebec politics and society. It acknowledges, among other points, the need for Quebec students to have a firm grasp of the English language, the need to rethink the state's involvement in the economy and its relationship with unions, and points out that sovereignty would not be a panacaea for Quebec's ills - the same problems would still exist the day after a "yes" vote. Bouchard and his colleagues, both federalist and sovereigntist, are aware that when the clerical nationalism of the Duplessis era was swept away by the Quiet Revolution, it was replaced by a new orthodoxy. The Quiet Revolution's etatiste approach to governance is almost fetishized in Quebec, and it is refreshing to see some new ideas being aired. It may take quite some time for them to gain any acceptance (and I don't agree with all of their points), but it will take someone of Lucien Bouchard's stature to enunciate them.

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At 5:28 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

// Earnest Canuck here.// Good point on the fundamentally *insulting* nature of the sponsorship program; I can see why proud'n'touchy Quebecois might get a little stirred up about it... I do think the Gomery bump is probably just that, though, a temporary bump for the PQ. If they're really gonna gear up for another referendum (to be lost, I think; and thereafter ever known as the "oh-for-Christ's-sake" plebiscite) questions of mere symbolism will be replaced pretty quickly by more substantial debate (as really did happen in '95, though the Chretienite mob was too dim to realize it).// At heart, both English and French Canadians are pragmatists shading into cynics, and no one seriously doubts that a little grease will always be needed to keep Quebec in Confederation at a reasonable level of discontent. I think the country is such a good idea that I'm actually OK with this ; I don't mind buying a couple key separatists (Hallo, Mme Jean!)or even a few thousand. The question is, are you buying the right ones at the right price, and how do you ensure they stay bought...?

At 6:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voyons donc! Se peut-il que de telle naiveté existe toujours au Canada!? Ce qui est étonnant, c'est que vous puissiez attacher aux Québécois l'étiquette de "touchy" sans imaginer votre propre réaction si, par exemple, le gouvernement du Québec avait alloué des $millions pour "acheter" le soutien de le diaspora francophone dans le reste du Canada. Ne seriez-vous pas juste un 'ti-peu "touchy" à découvrir que le Bloc avait payé la déménagement de milliers de personnes pour assurer un vote "OUI"? L'idée même vous rendrait apoplectique d'indignation vertueuse (surtout quelqu'un d'aussi arrogant que vous, M. Canuck)!

Vous m'inspirez d'une grande pitié. Si je considérais mes prochains, mes concitoyens, comme des biens à "acheter", je serais certain d'avoir perdu les dernières traces de mon humanité.

S'il reste des Québécois ambivalents devant la question de la souveraineté, qu'ils lisent simplement le commentaire de M. Canuck.

- Long live a Canada united in equality and respect, not shackled together in exploitation and arrogance.


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