Saturday, 22 March 2014

Premier Pauline Marois allowed the separatist agenda to surface in the Quebec election. With all the parties running she is now guaranteed a minority government on 7 April.

Where the rubber hits the road on 7 April.

Premier Pauline Marois fades star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau into the background. She knows that she cannot sell separatism that blatantly on the campaign trail.

by Tom Thorne

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois in her bid for a majority government has inadvertently  opened the separatism can of worms by mismanaging her star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau. That can of worms can sink her hopes of getting a majority in the National Assembly.  

A few days after the Pierre Karl Péladeau announcement as a Parti Quebecois candidate, Madame Marois’ pushy body language was in evidence to keep Péladeau away from microphones. She literally pulled him out of the way at one campaign stop for fear that he would declare for “mon pays” again.

How to go from star candidate with a separatist stance to a guy with too big a mouth even for Pauline Marois. He has a lot to learn about politics especially in Quebec where separatism is coded and guarded like a sacred cause by its dropping numbers of adherents.  

Later on CBC’s coverage of the Quebec leadership debate Madame Marois sidestepped a referendum for separatism question by saying “only when it is right”. And what does that mean? Separatism is always cryptic and nuanced mainly because it is the idea that rarely can speak its name without losing votes.

Well I think we know that if Madame Marois gets a majority government she will find a way to “make it right”. She is bent on separatism and to be the politician to take Quebec out of Canada is guaranteed to be too much of a temptation to be resisted if she does get a majority on 7 April. 

In other pieces still available on this blog I have shown that Quebec separatism is a flawed concept in the Canadian context. In a federal state with provincial governments they are set up to enable parts of the country to celebrate their differences from other Canadians while at the same time always celebrating Canada as a whole. For example, who could deny that Newfoundland is a “distinct society”?  They are as distinct as Quebec by any standard.

While there are differences across the country there is also much that welds the federation together. Quebeckers inherently know that and the small group of zealots who make up the separatist hard core denies this aspect of Canada as the only way to make their argument. That is the basic political flaw in separatism and its rhetoric.

To hear a separatist talk one would think that pride in being a Quebecker is denied by the rest of Canada. This is pure nonsense. The notion of “mon pays” is often connected negatively with an old Quebec where admittedly French Canadians had equity difficulties with English community in the Province. That time is gone. The wound is healed. Separatism thinking today is a Band-aid on a healed wound.

The Quiet Revolution took hold. The Catholic Church’s grip on Quebec wained to the point now that Madame Marois is determined to put the last secular nail in its coffin along with all other faiths. The Parti Quebecois secular charter sits in the legislative slip only awaiting a majority to make it law.

This secular charter can also be connected to forging “mon pays”. It goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and national multicultural policies.  It focuses Quebec as different and distinct and forms part of the separatist ethos along the lines of an iceberg where most of its reasons for its existence lie below the separatist waterline.

The Parti Quebecois claims that it has a lot of support for its secular charter ideas. the voters will speak on this soon enough. This charter if passed, is anti-Canadian and bordering on the xenophobic. Quebeckers are much bigger than this sort of small thinking and on April 7 their election will reflect a more inclusive Quebec.

Marois Government has only been in power for 18 months or so. In that time they have managed to submerge major economic, energy, education, environmental, health, and aging population issues by emphasizing secular state legislation. Their re-election certainly as a majority is in doubt now because they slipped on the separatist issue and they have little to offer as provincial revenues continue to drop. 


© Copyright Tom Thorne 2014, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Quebec businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau runs for the Parti Quebecois. Now the left hand knows what the right hand is doing for the separatist agenda in Quebec.

Pierre Karl Péladeau: Premier Pauline Marois needs to watch out for
her job with this Parti Quebecois candidate on her team.

Premier Pauline Marois snags a big fish for April 7 election. Is Pierre Karl Péladeau the key to Pandora’s Separation Box? It is time to stand up a third time for Canada.

by Tom Thorne

Premier Pauline Marois just got a present. Days after announcing her election call over her divisive policies to secularize Quebec society, she found a way to really take the heat off these silly ideas. Pierre Karl Péladeau has decided to enter politics declaring as he does that he supports the separatist agenda to take Quebec out of Canada. 

Péladeau of course is a well known and connected businessman with vast communications holdings (Quebecor) not only in Quebec but across the rest of Canada. If you have found yourself in the separatist camp, then the only Quebec party with separatist ambitions is the one you join. Given Péladeau’s orientation to the right of centre along with his union busting credentials, I suspect that he is holding his nose as he supports the Party Quebecois known for its leanings to the left of the political spectrum.

It is now even more essential than ever for Quebeckers to deny Madame Marois a majority government on April 7. It all comes at a bad time for federalists at the national and provincial levels. The lacklustre grey government of Stephen Harper has no clout in Quebec holding only five seats and very little credibility.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) is a Quebec federal presence in Ottawa but it also relies on soft Quebec nationalism-sovereigntist sentiments to keep that presence intact. Prime Minister Harper had a recent con-flab with NDP federal leader Thomas Mulcair to explore what can be done to stem the rising separatist tide in Quebec since the federal Conservatives have little influence. That meeting just signals desperation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper who is as popular as the plague in Quebec. 

The federal Liberals have yet to be tested under Justin Trudeau in Quebec so even with his family and the Liberal Party’s traditions for federalism, he will also be treading softly. Where will the energy come from to promote Quebec remaining in Canada? I suspect that it will be the likes of former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien. However as vice chair of Péladeau’s Quebecor empire Brian Mulroney is compromised and will have to take on the fact that Canada has been dealt a body blow by this peculiar Péladeau-Marois alliance. Mulroney has personal and political decisions to make that may not be easy.

This entry of a major Quebec businessman as a declared separatist can only serve to bring real federalists out into the open. There can be no soft pedalling when war is declared like this by Madame Marois. I have predicted this situation arising in this space before. However, I must confess the Péladeau entry into the fray escaped me. I would have thought that he would find the Parti Quebecois too left wing for his taste. 

The fact is Péladeau is more inclined to think like Stephen Harper. It surprises me that he would even consider the Parti Quebecois as his political home unless he is leading his life now with his heart rather than his head. That could be his undoing as a neophyte politician. He has now declared for separatism.It will be hard to back off from that stance in the future. It also means that his federalist friends and business associates will have to distance themselves or be compromised.

Remember Lucien Bouchard? He was another disappointment for Brian Mulroney who had him in his federal cabinet when he was Prime Minister. Bouchard also went towards the separatist option and that decision took us all to the brink in 1995.

I can only reflect that underneath a lot of Quebeckers lies a nationalist sentiment that given the right time in the life or political cycle surfaces and threatens to manifest itself as separatism. Usually it is frustration with Ottawa that makes this happen and Stephen Harper has certainly found little support for his right wing agenda in Quebec. That may be what has occurred in the case of Pierre Karl Péladeau. This flirtation with separatism may be part of the Quebec soul that rises from from time to time to catch Stephen Harper asleep at the Quebec switch. This new situation can alter Harper's plans for the 2015 federal general election.

On a more practical and mundane point does Madame Marois understand who she is offering her job to when she recruits Péladeau? I don’t think that he will want to be simply a cabinet minister. He wants to be premier and if you can really believe his separatism. His real goal must be to become President of the new Quebec state. At 52 that is possible in his lifetime.

Of course Péladeau has to win a seat in the National Assembly in order for his political aspirations to bud or even begin to flower. It should be the job of the federalist opposition to do everything they can to deny him election. And since Madame Marois has really now thrown down the separatist gauntlet, the hypocrisy of her government is now easier to see and to counter. Péladeau whatever his personal motives, focuses the real agenda of Marois and the Parti Quebecois on separatism. It clears the air of vacillation on this topic.

What her proposed legislation says about the secularization of Quebec at the expense of minorities, along with her election call means that the bill is still not passed yet by the National Assembly. If she gets a majority this legislation will be toughened along with new laws to strengthen the French Language. Look for Bill 101 Redux.  Combine that with her Péladeau gambit it becomes clear that we are into a round of political gamesmanship where the focus is on separatism and not the economy or pressing issues such as youth under employment, the implications of an aging population and the environment.

In short this is a ruse to take the heat off her government. Péladeau is window dressing at the moment but his entry into politics is key to his sentimental side not his business side. He is like a Janus. One head is all business. One head is all heart as a loyal Quebec separatist. His media holdings in Quebecor are still in his hands. As a new politician that is also a concern. How independent are his newsrooms even if he places his Quebecor shares in escrow? And how does he balance his Sun Media part of his empire when they were specifically set up to cover news from a right wing perspective? It is all very schizophrenic.

A Péladeau failure at the polls would send him back to the business world with a bad taste in his mouth and a reputation as a separatist which might not go down so well in the financial community. I have a feeling that his attitude would be business as usual. If he wins a seat and Madame Marois gets a majority government, then the gloves are off and we are into a third referendum for separation for certain. If the separatists lose this time then three strikes and you are out can only be the result.

There is a mood in the rest of Canada to let Quebec go this time if that is what they want. Canadians are tired of the separatist rhetoric and faulty view of our mutual history and constitutional law over the past 255 years. The Canadian federation takes hard work to keep operating for the benefit of all Canadians. 

It doesn’t help to experience jingoistic separatist rhetoric that is pointless when separatism really means keeping economic and currency union with the rest of Canada anyway. Then we get the “sovereignty” option which the Canadian Constitution already recognizes with language, civil law and dare we say it in light to the Parti Quebecois ideas about a secular state, enshrined religious rights guaranteeing Catholicism dating back to the 1763 Treaty of Utrecht and rolled into the British North America Act 1867 and the new Canadian Consitution.

Quebec separatism notions are based on complex cultural origins and in many cases  angst. They deny our common positive history as Canadians and stress our differences and slights rather than our best historical moments together. In a federation we must always look for what binds us rather than what pulls us apart.  Separatists deny our connections and they make us all smaller and more petty in North America and across the world. Canadians and Canadiens are much better than that. On April 7 Quebeckers need to consider how serious this election really is for Canada and their province.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.