Friday, May 12, 2006

Quebec - Is it Manifesto season again?

Golly, it seems like yesterday that the last big manifesto came out of Quebec. But, so soon after Michel Tremblay and Robert Lepage expressed their doubts about the future of the sovereignty project, there is another one making headlines in Le Devoir. This one, Manifeste pour une approche réaliste de la souveraineté - Pour en finir avec certains sophismes is the work of a number of high-profile sovereignist academics, including political scientist Guy Lachappelle, sociologist Jacques Beauchemin and politico-types like Jean-Roch Boivin, former advisor to René Lévesque et Lucien Bouchard.

It seems like Andre Boisclair can't catch a break from his merry band of separatists, despite flying high in the polls. The artists aren't convinced of the future of the project. The left-wingers want their own party. A majority of voters would turn on him if the charismatic Lucien Bouchard (co-author of the first manifesto cited above) returned to head the right-wing ADQ. And now he has a group of moderates slamming the idea of a UDI, or a referendum-election. Frequent readers of this blog know that I'm not a fan of the separatist agenda, but there is some clear-headed thinking in this manifesto (only available in French, from what I can see so far). Among other points, it recognizes that the era of playing games with referendum wording, soft support for separatism, etc. is over, and that short of a clear majority on a clear question, Canada will not negotiate, and more to the point, other nations will be leery of extending international recognition. As Paul Wells was telling us a few months ago, all eyes in Quebec were watching the Montenegro referendum on secession, where the international community essentially said "50%+1 won't cut it." I cite below a brief extract from the conclusions:

Bref, le Québec deviendra indépendant lorsque telle sera la volonté clairement exprimée d’une majorité suffisante de Québécois. Et les indépendantistes feraient mieux de s’employer à construire cette majorité, d’abord en inspirant la nécessaire confiance à leurs concitoyens, plutôt que de s’évertuer à passer outre par quelque voie détournée et de se chamailler pour savoir qui a trouvé la meilleure astuce. Que d’énergie ne perdons-nous pas en chimères, folles illusions, fausses pistes et fantasmagoriques échéanciers !

I still intend to get my post up on Andr
é Pratte's book, which demolishes many of the separatist myths - that will be up soon as well. But permit me a quick reflection. Where are the teams of scholars working together with politicians and cultural leaders to produce counter-manifestos on where they want Canada to head in the future? And why isn't this the stuff of front page news? Are Canadians content to simply sit back and let Stephen Harper (who does know what he wants to do) to remove the federal government from an active role in shaping social policy? Is there a counter-vision anymore?

Perhaps this is related to a fundamental difference between ideologies in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec nationalists, accustomed to the discourse of collective rights, seem to like writing as collectives, while Canadians, inscribed in a Charter-nationalism discourse of individual rights, wait for a crusading white knight (Trudeau's heir, one supposes) to propose a grand new vision, rather than working together to develop one drawing on each of their areas of special expertise.

Just a little food for thought for your Friday morning.

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