Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Nycole Turmel can of worms. Can you ever go soft on separatism in Quebec?

Some more thoughts about the fate of the NDP and the wiles of Quebec politics.
by Tom Thorne
In the Globe and Mail letters to the editor this morning several writers felt that we should exercise caution when dealing with the aspirations of Quebec and the subtle connections that lurk between a kind of cultural nationalism and separatist aspirations.
They are quick to forgive Nycole Turmel for not making the distinction between nationalism and separatism. This is all very nice but when there is no differentiation made between a cultural nationalism and those who profess a separate Quebec it becomes very problematic. When that happens I have to speak up.
Turmel has been caught in a wishy washy Bloc Quebecois world that tried for a long time to sell the unsaleable. The Bloc for years has soft peddled the separatism part of their agenda. Many nationalistic Quebeckers voted for the Bloc to provide a counterpoint to the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP.
Their intention was to make the aspirations of Quebec known in the federal parliament but the separatism part of their agenda was always hung like a sword of Damocles over their nationalistic notions.  Gilles Duceppe their defeated leader, always said that they were in Ottawa to ensure that Quebec's interests were always front and centre in any pan-Canadian discussions. His hardcore separatist supporters waited for an opportunity to have another referendum.
The last federal election
In the last federal election the Quebec electorate decided to dump the Bloc except for four seats. They replaced it with the NDP holding 59 seats, the Liberals with 12 seats and the Conservatives got six seats. 
The reason that Quebeckers changed horses was the fact that the Bloc Quebecois is a tired old war horse. Many  thinking Quebeckers knew that the Bloc's separatist agenda was an idea that had petered out.  Separatism was not a viable option for Quebec living in a North American context.  The best way for francophone Quebeckers to maintain their cultural identity is to remain in Canada. It is and remains a no brainer.
And why is that?  Well it is very straight forward if you know your history. The 18th Century settlement between France and Great Britain signed in 1763 spelled out a Quebec with its own civil law, the preservation of its language, and although they don't care anymore, the preservation of their Catholic faith.
All of that was wrapped up in the British North America Act of 1867 creating Canada and again when the Constitution was repatriated by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau from the British parliament.  The fact that Quebec has yet to sign this document remains a sore point but Trudeau felt that at some point Quebec will see their way to do so. That day may be near.
Quebec in Canada 
Quebeckers really need to rejoin the Canadian mainstream. Their language and culture are protected by federal legislation, they are certainly part of the Canadian fact economically, and they have all kinds of  special  arrangements on topics like immigration and their own versions of Canadian social programs. 
The giant vote for the NDP in the last federal election was to dump a tired idea that has spent its political capital. It was a distaff vote to punish the Liberals for their expectation that they are Canada's and Quebec's natural governing party.  It was  a purgatory after the Liberal scandals. The Liberals are in a Quebec political limbo for a while. They virtually shut out the Conservatives because they are in opposition to the Harper Conservative right wing agenda. 
Quebeckers are a real opposition to the Harper government. They showed in the last election that they don't agree with national parties that are right wing or in the case of the Liberals, believe they have a right to govern. They are telegraphing that they must never be taken for granted. Quebeckers also held Harper to a majority government produced by only 38 percent of the Canadian popular vote. 
I like the idea of Quebec in Canada because they offer a distaff view to the Canadian mainstream. The fact that Jack Layton is ill, and Nycole Turmel has dropped the ball makes the current situation dicey. Even in this touchy political moment one thing has never to be compromised. There can be no quarter given to separatism because that option leads nowhere.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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