Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Will Premier Pauline Marois tell us how a separate Quebec will work on the world stage?

Is Premier Pauline Marois striking a presidential pose?

Pauline Marois doesn't seem to realize that a separate Quebec is not in her mandate from the voters. So why the jabs against Canada starting with the swearing in ceremony of her cabinet?

by Tom Thorne

As I predicted, newly minted Quebec premier Pauline Marois is already spreading the ever vague doctrine of Quebec separatism. For Madame Marois it is like being in a separatist candy store now she has the top Quebec political job.  Lots of promising sweets to try or so she thinks.

Well I hate to deflate Pauline Marois' separatism sweet tooth.  The candy store contains lots of sour candy too. Most of the sour candy is the economy, health care and underfunded education at all levels and in particular in higher education where she is duty bound to maintain Quebec’s low tuition rates after she pandered to student protesters in the recent election. 

Her first action at the National Assembly was to remove the Canadian Flag from the swearing in ceremony of herself and her cabinet ministers. Yes, only the Quebec flag was present as a tangible symbol that things have changed. It is an act that is more  gauche than a statement for separatism. It demonstrates the mean spirit of separatists.

Despite this silly Canada snub, things have not changed. Quebec remains in Canada and to swear in her cabinet she had to involve the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec who  is a institution not only of Canada and Quebec as a Canadian province but for Pauline Marois a reminder perhaps of how she despises the Monarchy as a symbol of alleged oppression.

Next she will want to remove the Crown from the Royal arms in the National Assembly. We all know too well that Madame Marois is against the Monarchy. However, she has to swallow the Monarchy pill to become premier. The Crown is a strong enough institution to bear and even swear in separatists who are its avowed enemies.

So not including the Canadian Flag at this event does little to change anything except to show clearly the separatist lack of decorum and connection with the full history of Canada and Quebec's institutions. Her action should have been refused by the Lieutenant Governor. We'll see at the upcoming opening of parliament in the National Assembly whether both flags are present during the speech from the throne.

Pauline Marois' brand of separatism seems to rely on the cut here, a jab there, or a mindless comment off the cuff to promote separatism. Eventually, she hopes, we all expire from a thousand insults and her rounds of gaucheness. Actually her actions are seen  as a ho hum moment in Quebec history and a shabby farce for many thoughtful Quebeckers.

If she is so keen a separatist let her lay out her plans for a separate Quebec in detail. Are we to have the Republic of Quebec?  And who will be the head of state to replace the Lieutenant Governor in this brave new separatist world? Will it be some aging Parti Quebecois hack or a distinguished Quebecker whose political credentials will not matter because he or she will have the respect of Quebeckers? Will the new separatist state have a President who is head of state but also elected? Will there be a Prime Minister doing Pauline Marois' current job?

Why not come clean and layout what will replace the Queen's representative since Madame Marois dislikes the current office so much. The truth is if the separatists show how they would organize a separate Quebec into a republic they would have to really show Quebeckers and the rest of Canadians how they would do it. I challenge them to do this so we all know where they propose to take Quebec if they ever win a referendum for separation.

Of course they won't ever lay out this aspect of a truly separated Quebec state because the reality of "separatism" is really a sad political ploy to keep Ottawa off side and to be a province with special powers, not only the powers contained in the unsigned federal Canadian Constitution but the extra stuff they want if we are to keep them in Canada. 

The provincial  Parti Quebecois threatens separatism as a way to get more from Ottawa. It's federal political manifestation, the Bloc Québécois was crushed in the last federal election by the New Democratic Party (NDP) and it had much the same aim as the Parti Quebecois. When asked what they want they always answer vaguely, "whatever is good for Quebec". Quebec voters have been telling them the answer for years. Canada is good for Quebec.

The best electoral response the separatists can muster is about a 30 percent of Quebeckers. Many of these people are Quebec nationalists who in a pinch will not vote for separating Quebec from Canada. So the real hard core separatists amount to very few people in Quebec and if you are  Parti Quebecois premier you pander to them so at party conventions your leadership is not challenged. 

Also among hard core separatists there is very little agreement. Some are moderates that are really Quebec Nationalists. Some are single issue people. Some are simply like former premier Jacque Parizeau sad old men with no hope of seeing a separated Quebec in their lifetime. Lucien Bouchard bounced from federal Conservative politics into the Parti Quebecois premiership seemingly having finally got his separatist mojo in order.  He also fizzled.

My point is all these separatists have yet to make a good argument for Quebeckers to make the break with Canada. They never spell out what the Republic of Quebec will be like and how it will relate to Canada, the USA and the rest of the world. In short there is no plan, no real agenda that is not soft when it comes to the details of separating from the rest of Canada.  In a word separatists are tiresome.

© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois can have a fantasy about separatism for a few days.

The Parti Quebecois' worst nightmare.

Quebec election aftermath. Pauline Marois is the new premier of Quebec and independence and separatism becomes a card to play again in hard bargaining with Ottawa.

by Tom Thorne

It was predictable. The Parti Quebecois (PQ) received a minority government mainly because the electorate was tired of the Jean Charest Liberals after three mandates and almost ten years at the helm. The pending scandal hearings may also have played a role, but the numbers of Liberals returned (50) indicates that may be a smaller issue.

The electors, however, wisely tethered out a short rope to Pauline Marois and the PQ at 55 seats in the National Assembly. Any notions of separatism can only now be put on hold with a popular vote is 32.1 percent. PQ members with with  separatist pangs will be frustrated. Hard nosed separatists will be irritated that “mon pays” must remain a dream, yet again. However it won’t stop a Parti Quebecois propaganda war with Ottawa.

Pauline Marois’ new government will have to focus on the economy, education and health care. The PQ will now be faced with the tuition problem and the previous Charest legislation and I predict that despite what Madame Marois said during the election tuitions for post secondary education will rise under her administration if her government lasts long enough. Also she has no mandate to rescind the Charest legislation.

And how tough can she really be with the Federal Government? Marois will, of course, use Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a lightening rod for her pronouncements of getting what Quebec needs, wants or desires. Harper’s stoney angloness will be compared to her latin passion for a lost cause.  Harper, by the way, is equally stoney faced to all Canadian provinces.

What new demands can she make that Quebec provincial governments don’t already have? Quebec governments already have versions of many federal programs and a stronger say in immigration policies than any other Canadian province. The only real appeal separatist have is a nationalistic notion of a French identity in North America and as I keep saying that is well established and protected by the Canadian Constitution. Quebec has yet to sign the Constitution and that signing is overdue.

There is no threat to anyone’s identity. It is really time to settle down as a integral part of Canada and realize that we all have a shared history, shared institutions and our provincial identities within the Canadian federation make us all better.

French speaking Quebeckers, once they get out of Quebec into the rest of Canada realize that this country is much more than a regional nationalism. The same is true for English Canadians visiting Quebec. When Quebeckers accurately examine their history and their considerable contribution to the Canadian fact, they gain a new identity that although still Quebecois is also Canadien. 

Conceive of a Canada without Quebec. I can’t do it. It is an idea that is so unthinkable that it denies our common origins. It is truly time to grow up and recognize Canada as  our first orientation positively seasoned by our regional cultures. 

If Quebec did separate and become a nation state what would be the outcome? Clearly its economic associations with the rest of Canada would remain intact.  Quebec would probably use the Canadian dollar because floating a new currency would be foolhardy. How much independence would they get if they took on the American dollar or worst yet joined the Eurozone.

I really don’t know what is inside the heads of Quebec separatists. They want “sovereignty association” with the rest of Canada. That means getting the benefits with independence. They want a separate state in North America with all the costs associated with that. They are already members of the Francophonie the organization of French speaking countries with special considerations from the Federal Canadian Government that they can be there.

Their Francophonie membership is akin to the Canadian Federal Government allowing English speaking Canadian provinces to be separate members of the British Commonwealth. How much more independence do you need?  A separate Quebec would have to establish and maintain embassies abroad. How different would their stance be on the world stage from Canada’s?

How would the Americans treat an independent Quebec?  How would this affect NAFTA and other free trade provisions Canada has with the United Staes and Mexico? Quebec independence could open up renegotiations on a lot of international agreements.  Quebec separatism is simply a bad idea. 

© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A minority government for Quebec. Charest Liberals are the best alternative.

The Quebec election is a mish mash of separatist hopes and dreams contrasted with the social realities of making the province actually work each day.

Although Quebec voters are tired of the Jean Charest government after three terms they are smart enough to know that they can't let anything silly happen on 5 September. That's why they will reward Charest with a minority and if they want more risk they will allow Pauline Marois to form a minority government.

It will be a surprise if there is a majority government  of any stripe especially for Marois' Parti Quebecois. The spoiler is Francois Legault who is the leader of the newly minted and untried Coalition Avenir Quebec party.  Legault of course has Parti Quebecois experience as the ministers of education and health when they were last in power. 

Apples rarely fall too far from their tree, but Francois Legault says he has lost his orientation to Quebec sovereignty and especially separation from Canada. He campaigns on a scandal free Quebec which asks Quebeckers to dump Jean Charest's Liberals for clean government. He is using the White Knight gambit in this election.

The only true federalist party in Quebec is the Liberal Party which means that voters are faced with a fourth term for Jean Charest if they clearly want that option. That may be the problem. Charest has tired out the Quebec electorate by being in power too long and now with scandals lurking waiting to surface it’s hard to trust another round with the Liberals. That's too bad for federalists because it means an opportunity for separatism  ( I never use vague terms like sovereignty) to surface.

Pauline Marois has already stated that she will make life hard for the Government of Canada and particularly her nemesis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper if she becomes the next Premier of Quebec. It's easy to use Stephen Harper as a foil because his government is seen as a negative force for Quebec's separatist ambitions.  That sounds very good to Quebec nationalists and those of a separatist bent but it does little to improve the day to day lives of Quebeckers.

Here is what you get with separatists in power at Quebec City. Certainly more propaganda problems with the Federal Government to make points about the alleged "special needs of Quebec". The only problems is the "needs" are rarely clearly defined and are mostly designed to lead to the ultimate goal which is to separate from the Canadian Federation.

If Pauline Marois brings her seething Parti Quebecois to power, even in a minority, inside the party lurk separatists waiting for a power opportunity . The pressures on Pauline Marois will be immense to advance the separatist cause. She will have to keep the lid on these people. If Marois waffles about separatism, and the separatists don't get their way, the Parti Quebecois will begin its usual internal fragmentation exercise as the moderates fight it out with the hard nosed separatist elements. That is usually a good thing for federalism.

Of course Parti Quebecois infighting always interferes with the real daily needs of the Quebec people. We've seen this scenario before. The moderate versus the hard nosed separatist elements of the Parti Quebecois fighting among themselves. Francois Legault is a result of this infighting. As a former harder nosed separatist, Legault surprises many of his former separatists by his current stance for the his new Coalition Avenir Quebec party. Former Parti Quebecois premier, Bernard Landry recently commented about Legault's turn around from separatism with some surprise.

So where do we stand for the election on 5 September?  A  minority Parti Quebecois government will work with the Coaltion Avenir Quebec members who are elected to perhaps manipulate a "nationalist" coalition into a majority government. We know that a Jean Charest minority will not work with separatists, and since no one will want another election right away separatist ambitions will be somewhat cooled for perhaps two years. 

The Quebec electorate will be the final judge. They will award a minority because they want and need good solid government that will work for their needs such as the economy, education and health care. There is little interest in a separate Quebec state in North America, not now or in the future by the people of Quebec.  

© Copyright, Tom Thorne 2012, All Rights Reserved.