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.

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