Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois pretends that separatism is still an option for Quebec. Separatism is a bankrupt idea when you examine history.

Trudeau's rigorous presentation against Separatism 
made separatist arguments look small and petty.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois blames the monarchy for Quebec ills. The Marois grasp of the historic  place of Quebec in the formation of the Canadian federation is clearly lacking. Her separatist rhetoric glosses over 250 years of combined history.

Even in death former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau makes the hearts of Quebec separatists skip a beat. Pierre Trudeau of course thought that Quebec separatists were bankrupt of any positive ideas but as a Canadian constitutional expert he held this view in a historical context.

Certainly the role of the British monarchy in the formation of Canada was a seminal change for Quebeckers. In 1763 the British Monarchy was part of the package that came with the Treaty of Utrecht. That treaty set the Canadian state in motion, first as a British colony and later as provinces operated by responsible elected governments.

The British Crown was at the core of all these changes and since Canada to this day remains a constitutional monarchy, the Quebec National Assembly is an integral part of this development. They have a Lieutenant Governor, who represents the Queen and who opens parliament like any other Canadian province.

The Treaty of Utrecht ended the war between England and France and one of the side events of that treaty was created by the outcome of the war waged in the St. Lawrence river valley that gave Britain Quebec after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The 1763 treaty however provided  the following assurances to Quebeckers.

First they were guaranteed their language and culture. Second they got to keep their system of civil law rather than having to adopt the British Common Law, and lastly they were guaranteed their freedom to be Roman Catholics, which given the British internal wrangles on this front in 17th and 18th Centuries, was a very reasonable concession.

Pierre Trudeau always reminded Quebeckers of their connections to the Treaty of Utrecht that they have always been seen as a special case within the British system. In addition, all these rights were folded into the British North America Act (BNA) in 1867 the act of the British Parliament that created Canada.

When Trudeau brought the BNA home by asking the British Parliament to release it into Canada's parliamentary care, Quebec refused to sign for its repatriation. Trudeau felt that over time Quebec would see the virtue of bringing the BNA home. 

However, the BNA was brought to Canada and that includes all the history that goes back to the Treaty of Utrecht. So the question is how distinct can a Canadian province can be from the rest of Canada and be in the Federation? Quebec is clearly the model. 

When politicians at the federal and provincial level wanted to toy with the provisions of the BNA with wishy washy provisions such as the Meech Lake Accord, Pierre Trudeau, naturally was opposed. All that makes Quebec unique is contained in the BNA which of course is the Canadian Constitution.

Pauline Marois must know that Quebeckers retain their separate civil law, they maintain their language and culture which is enhanced by Canadian bilingualism at the federal level. The fact that they have turned away in droves from the Catholic Church is a choice they have made, and they of course, have the right to make that choice.

So when a separatist attacks the monarchy as a way to generate contempt for the Canadian federation, they should do so realizing that their parliamentary system and their democracy is guarded by the monarchy and that has been the case since they experienced British traditions and compromise that preserved their language, law and if they want it Roman Catholicism. 

Pauline Marois, the current Parti Quebecois leader, of course denies anything that makes her bankrupt notions of separatism look flimsy and without value. She and her separatists resort to Quebec Nationalism which is well known for its flag waving but lack of logic and historical sense about Quebec's association with the British Crown and its parliamentary institutions.

Separatism at its core is an idea without merit. It tends to use emotional appeals and senseless arguments to make its points. It always forgets the provisions of the BNA.  Separatists always rely on the propaganda that Quebec has been held down by the rest of Canada. 

That doesn't mean that in the past there have been problems but now we have grown up in Canada and no one of any consequence can support a separate Quebec because all issues can be dealt with by the democratic institutions we have all developed as Canadians. 

© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Jean Charest is right to go to the ballot box. It is put up or shut up time for Quebec protests.

Will this protest translate into Parti Quebecois votes?

Jean Charest: His summer election call has some risk but is largely a ho-hum while Quebec separatism has an opportunity to self-destruct.

by Tom Thorne

Jean Charest, the current premier of Quebec is a guy you either like or you hate at the moment. He really irritates Quebeckers who profess separatism from Canada and he holds the line on the student protests which are allegedly over post secondary tuition hikes. More likely  these street protests mask more trendy separatist political agendas at least for the Parti Quebecois. Lastly Charest calls elections at a moment when everyone would rather be on vacation.
This summer election gambit will probably pay off for Jean Charest.  Think about it. No sensible Quebecker wants separatism from Canada. Tax paying adults think the tuition protests have gone on too long and are over the top while post secondary education is starved for cash.  Quebeckers know that separatists cannot be satisfied by any government even their own Parti Quebecois when it is in power. 

Separatism masquerading as sovereignty is a very fragmented and vacillated concept especially when it is so poorly articulated by the Parti Quebecois leaders. As usual separatism lives off unrest and at this time that unrest is the form without substance student protests.
So Jean Charest has called this election knowing that he will likely get a fourth term, but if he gets a minority government or if the separatists take power as punishment for his alleged construction industry pork barreling that is now wallowing in a series of public hearings  fortunately in summer recess. After the election, the Parti Quebecois wins, they will also have to make Quebec work which will probably include raising post secondary tuition fees at some point. 
Quebec politics is a lot of posturing about unrealistic ideas such as mystical referendums and separatist agendas that most Quebeckers and other Canadians find a useless tiresome exercise. There is no way that in the Canadian federation anyone can really claim that the Francophone culture is under any stress or on the brink of dissolution if Quebec doesn't realize a state in North America. This idea blew its bolt years ago. It is a political echo of times past.
If Pauline Marois, the current Parti Quebecois (PQ) leader says she wants a referendum on separatism she has all but guaranteed a return of the Charest Liberals warts and all for a fourth term. She is already vacillating: referendum maybe if the time is right and the separatists can win. She also attacks the federal government with a lot of anti-Harper rhetoric.

Marois sides with the student protesters because Charest does not. She has no original ideas.  Charest has picked this election fight knowing the mood of the electorate which is largely something like, "hold your nose and vote Liberal to maintain some sense of order in Quebec" or "better the devil you know than suffer the bankrupt waffling of the Parti Quebecois".
For all these reasons I am climbing out on a limb and calling for a fourth Charest win in September. The fuzzy alternatives to his government are defined only by their abstractness. The amorphous student protests have a single issue focus that a democratically elected parliament has ruled on. Tuition fees will rise and will remain the lowest tuitions in all of Canada into the bargain.
The  Quebec student movement is more social media induced form without substance protest. It has no focus except the protests themselves and until its leaders decide to really test their public appeal by running for the Parti Quebecois, it is a non democratic force that no government can give into. Even the Parti Quebecois in power could not afford to give in to  the rule of the streets.
When student protest  leader Leo Bureau-Blouin declared as a candidate for the Parti Quebecois he got my respect as someone who offers himself to the democratic process to advance his views rather than protest in the streets. If he wins his riding that will speak for democracy, if he looses then his ideas will have been rejected. Of course, since he has joined himself to a separatist party he may be defeated on that issue alone.
On the other hand, Gabriel Nadeau Dubois of the Coalition large de l'association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, popularly known as CLASSE, has decided to stay out of any endorsement of any political party. He is still turning protesters out into the streets after the election call. I have a feeling that he is hoping that the Parti Quebecois forms the next government, but he hasn't the political integrity to say that or to run for public office. And as I said before the PQ will then have to govern if they are elected, so CLASSE will not gain much from a Pauline Marois Parti Quebecois government.
Nadeau Dubois may find that when the PQ gets into government they will be as intransigent over tuition fees as Jean Charest has been. There is always a sobering of political rhetoric once the financial books have been seen by an incoming PQ government.
Two nights ago Quebec streets were again filled with protestors. Well they need to get out and vote for the Parti Quebecois that says they will hold the line on tuition. They will hold the line on tuition and other demands of the protestors because they want their votes for the real agenda which is Quebec separatism. It is all so bankrupt and transparent.
All these young people may think its cool to use social media to gather in the streets but are they all so sure they want to give their votes to a separatist party to get at the Charest Liberals?  Make sure protestors that you are on the voter's list so you can help make your points through the democratic process.
If Jean Charest wins the election and does so with a majority the Quebec people will have spoken and the protests should fade away if the protesters are democrats. If the protests continue with a majority then a lot of protestors failed to learn any lesson about the democratic process. Let's see how it all shakes out this September.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.