Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quebec election - Word Games

Words matter. That is why, in case you had any doubt, the Parti Québécois platform doesn't use the word referendum. Recent polls indicate that most Quebeckers - a whopping 67% of them, according to a recent CROP poll - don't want to have a referendum within the next government's mandate. And so this is why M. Boisclair speaks of public consultations on sovereignty, and is mealy-mouthed on why his platform dodges the "R" word, even as PQ campaign signs throughout the city highlight the word "Oui".

There is an excellent column by André Pratte today about the use of language by the sovereignist/separatist/independentist movement in Quebec. I've run into this minefield of terminology myself when writing about Quebec history. How do you describe an author who supports Quebec independence? Do you use the term "sovereignist", if that is their preferred designation? Or do you use the term separatist, since that is ultimately the political objective that they support? Different terms have wildly different meanings for people, which is why politicians are (usually) so careful in how they deploy them.

The federalist in me is very pleased by this development, as I consider M. Boisclair's reluctance to speak of referendums a sign that he's nervous about what this issue might do for his party's electoral chances. But the cynic in me wonders whether, once again, soft-pedalling the real significance of what the PQ is fighting for might fool enough of the electorate to bring them to power.

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