Canada and coalitions

by John Quiggin on March 26, 2011

So, the conservative government in Canada has been defeated in a vote of no-confidence. But how, in a Parliament where (what look like to me to be) left-of-centre parties have had a majority since the last election can this have taken it so long? And how can there be a prospect that this situation will be reproduced after the next election?

The answer apparently is a Canadian aversion to coalition governments. In a system where there have long been more than two parties, this makes no sense to me, but my knowledge of the political background is virtually non-existent. Can anyone explain this, or point to some useful resources?

{ 306 comments }

1

Vasi 03.26.11 at 11:00 am

What mainly drives the distaste for coalitions is that, in any recent parliament, such a majority coalition would have to include the separatist Bloc Québecois party. Coalitions involving Vlaams Belang in Belgium, or Sinn Fein in the UK, would probably be similarly unpopular. A secondary concern is that, when talk of a coalition was rampant in 2008, the leading party of said coalition had just had its worst election result in twenty years. The idea that the incumbent Tories, who had just improved their standing, would be replaced by the Liberals, who had just done very poorly, made many uneasy.

Should the Liberals and NDP make gains, and be capable of forming a majority without the Bloc Québecois, I don’t think opposition to a coalition would be very strong. Unfortunately, such a result seems very unlikely in this election.

2

yt 03.26.11 at 11:07 am

Here’s a shot at a thumbnail:
On one hand, it’s ingrained in the constitution: “peace, order and good goverment” is (arguably) the founding myth. As such, people generally don’t want to waste time and money on elections, and a minority parliament is viewed (or have taken it as incumbent upon themselves) as having a mandate to do what they can, and make concessions in budgets (and other confidence motions) to avoid elections.

The other major factor is that one of the leftist parties (the most left, in fact) is the Bloq Quebequois. They’re a nationalist-separatist party. So, any dealings with them by the other major 3 parties are generally viewed negatively by non-Bloq supporters.

There are other things going on at the moment including the personality cults surrounding the leaders, and factors that lead many (including – I think interestingly – those rank and filers in the (former) labour aristocracy) to buy into the neoliberal plan, and view the tories as the best fit for managing ‘the economy’.

I hope that is some help despite its being a very very rough sketch. I’m having trouble booting up my brain to point towards anyone’s work that might be of interest to you, though…sorry!

3

Jacob T. Levy 03.26.11 at 11:24 am

I live under it and still don’t understand it.

The BQ has so far said that it would not join a government of Canada (they take their seats, unlike Sinn Fein, but they won’t sit in a Cabinet), and it’s not clear that the anglophone supporters of the two left parties could stomach it anyways. That means that a left majority government is unlikely.

But the BQ often permits minority governments to stay in power, and in 08 was on the verge of a deal that would have swung their support to a left minority government.

There’s a view that it would somehow be embarrassing to have to rely of the Bloc’s tacit support to stay in power; but the Conservative minority government has had to rely on it, to no apparent embarrassment.

So I remain puzzled. There’s a genuine belief that plurality government has more democratic legitimacy than coalitions that rely on post-election deals; and pre-election coalition agreements seem to be anathema because the Libs and NDP don’t like each other very much and want to carry out their competition for seats. All of this is hand-waving in lieu of an explanation, though. At some point you’d expect the Libs and NDP to defy custom for the sake of gaining power.

4

Bill Gardner 03.26.11 at 11:40 am

So, perhaps someone can explain the intentions of the left in bringing down the government? The polls are showing a surge for the Conservatives. So what do the Liberals, BQ, and NDP gain from this?

5

Jacob T. Levy 03.26.11 at 11:56 am

I’ve heard it sincerely said that this is just Ignatieff being impatient; he’s going to give it his one try, and if it doesn’t work, he might as well get on with his life.

My own hunch is something more like: there are still enough Liberals who believe in their hearts that they are the natural party of (majority) government and that any other outcome is an aberration, and in particular that Harper is a kind of un-Canadian alien force that the country’s immune system is surely going to reject eventually, that the party’s just willing to roll the dice an extra time , polls be damned. (And this belief is related to their allergy to coalitions, as well.) And Ignatieff is so sure of himself as a debater and charismatic leader that he’s sure he’ll crush Harper in debates.

And I think the official answer is: the voters haven’t had time to absorb a recent round of ethics problems, but a campaign that focuses attention on them while they’re fresh has a better chance of knocking Harper off than trying to remind voters two years hence of something they didn’t really care about at the time.

In any case, the answer’s far from obvious, and has a lot of my Canadian left-leaning friends shaking their heads in puzzlement.

6

John G 03.26.11 at 12:00 pm

I wouldn’t describe the Liberals as “left of centre”. They are basically opportunists who like to be in power and tend to follow rather than lead public opinion. They haven’t brought the government down up until now because they didn’t fancy their chances in an election. They think they have a chance now so they are going for it.

7

Odm 03.26.11 at 12:19 pm

Jacob @2: the impression I was left with after talking to friends of mine who are left-of-centre but opposed the coalition was that a) a coalition would be less stable than a Conservative minority and b) that Stéphane Dion would not make a good Prime Minister. It could be that unfamiliarity with coalitions is why they believe (a), while having lived in Europe I know that coalition governments are quite common. The second point seems entirely justified, especially as Dion was replaced shortly after the proposal for a coalition.

Bill @3: What Jacob said seems reasonable and echoes what I read in The Globe and Mail. For the other parties, the NDP might lose core supporters if it’s seen to be propping up a Conservative government, and the Bloc have solid support and don’t gain anything from supporting the government.

8

Odm 03.26.11 at 12:24 pm

What I wrote about the people’s distaste for one specific hypothetical coalition doesn’t really explain why the parties in question won’t form a coalition. Maybe the Liberals are convinced they just have to wait for the Conservatives’ popularity to die down.

9

Alex Earl 03.26.11 at 12:25 pm

I wouldn’t call the Liberal party of Canada left leaning. While they tend to be sociall progressive, and they do still believe in a strong welfare state, economically they do fall in quite squarely with European Liberal parties. They are decidely centre in a very Canadian way.

The primary problem with the coalition is indeed the Bloc Quebecois. The funny thing is is that the arch federalism of the Liberals is about as dead as the seperatism of the Bloc Quebecois. Both parties are aware of the new, extremely regional, political reality of Canada, but neither is willing to admit it.

As far as recent polls are concerned though, I would take it with a grain of salt. Indeed the Conservatives have made some grounds, but it’s been on the basis of a attack ads. The opposition simply can’t afford to aggressively pre campaign. I would wait until the election really gets rolling before paying attention the the polls. The most interesting statistic of seen recently is something along the lines of, where Harper would garner 35% of the popular vote, only 20-25% respond positively to the question of whether they would want a Harper majority.

Harper has succeeded so far largely by completely controlling the narrative of the political situation. With the recent run of quite severe controversies, the opposition believes they may finally have enough ammunition to get people to see through it – and I think they might be right.

Unfortunately, doing this correctly would require competence from the opposition, which is not something I would rely on.

10

Bill Gardner 03.26.11 at 12:43 pm

Jacob @4: Many thanks. Ignatieff is so implausible as an American politician, that it is difficult for one of us to judge his prospects.

And who is next for the Liberals if Ignatieff gets on with his life? Just as a fan, it would be cool to have Ken Dryden as a candidate. (For Americans: imagine Joe Montana went to Yale Law after retiring, and entered politics. The Democrats would kill for a candidate like that.)

11

Jacob T. Levy 03.26.11 at 1:35 pm

Well, so much for that: Ignatieff rules out coalition with NDP, Bloc

And he formally commits himself to a plurality rule: “Whoever leads the party that wins the most seats on election day should be called on to form the government”

12

Bill Gardner 03.26.11 at 1:37 pm

Ignatieff’s tweet:

“A Liberal government will not enter into a coalition with other federalist parties http://lpc.ca/bue #cdnpoli #elxn41 #lpc Sat 26 Mar 09:12″

13

Bill Gardner 03.26.11 at 1:47 pm

And here is an attack ad from the Conservatives, stating that Ignatieff will be form a coalition with the BQ.

14

Joe Heath 03.26.11 at 2:55 pm

A couple small points worth mentioning:

1. Canadians are really used to majority governments — it’s only with the rise of the Bloc Quebecois post-1995 that it became difficult in principle to form a majority. This was obscured for another decade, however, because there were two conservative parties splitting the right-wing vote, which made it possible to form majority governments. So it’s only in the past 6 years that real deadlock has emerged — not enough time for the political culture to change. Also note that provincial politics is usually a two-party, sometimes three-party affair, where minority governments are quite uncommon.

2. The Liberals and the NDP combined do not form a viable coalition, and bringing the BQ in is not an option, for the reasons Jacob outlined.

3. The electoral calculus is complicated by the presence of the Green Party, which siphons off a large number of votes that never turn into seats (with first-past-the-post). So the left is currently splitting its votes four ways, which means that the election is very likely to return substantially the same result (as did the previous). The most natural coalition partner for the Greens is actually the Liberals (and their failure to form a coalition in the last election was a huge missed opportunity). The NDP, however, has adopted a number of strongly anti-environmental positions (such as demanding tax subsidies for home heating oil, opposing carbon taxes) that is making rapprochement with the Greens more and more difficult.

4. The comments you can see above, suggesting that the Liberal Party is not left wing, or not centre-left, illustrate the sort of leftist purism that is one of the major obstacles to Liberal-NDP rapprochement. A lot of Canadian NDP-left types really believe the NDP’s electoral rhetoric about the Liberals being neoliberal opportunists, no different from the conservatives, etc. etc.

5. The outgoing government has really been behaving outrageously, showing genuine contempt for both parliament and the principle of ministerial accountability. This forced the hand of the opposition parties, none of whom seemed keen for an election. The government had clearly lost the confidence of parliament.

6. As an aside: popular enthusiasm for the idea of proportional representation, combined with visceral distaste for coalition governments, is one of the most ridiculous features of Canadian political culture.

15

H.P. Loveshack 03.26.11 at 3:08 pm

As it has already been pointed out, one of the reasons why there hasn’t been a coalition is that it would require support from the Bloc Quebecois, which, in spite of the fact that they’re pretty much on the left, are constantly demonised outside Quebec as some kind of evil racist party of traitors.

I’m a Bloc supporter, by the way.

In 1995, I voted no (for the USians: in 95 there was a referendum on Quebec independence, I voted against independence). When the results came in (the pro independence vote got 49%) I thought: man, that was close! Something must be done! Some of Quebec’s grievances must be acknowledged, there must be a way of bringing Quebec back into the fold, make Quebec sign the Canadian constitution, Quebec’s particularities must be recognized… Nearly 16 years later, nothing has happened. Everything is as it was. Considering the constant Quebec bashing I hear from other Canadians, maybe even worse. My increased sympathy for independence comes from that.

There’s also an increased feeling of alienation from the rest of Canada: as demonstrated by the repeated election of the Conservatives, in recent years, the economic and political power of western Canada has been on the rise, and, without excessive generalization, I can say that their values are much more to the right than those of eastern Canada, Quebec included.

A few days ago, I read a comment from an Albertan where he referred to Quebec as a third-world nation… This is typical of the Quebec-bashing comments that constantly appear in English-Canadian mass media. Anyway, coming from someone living in a province that is virtually a one-party “state” (the conservatives have been in power there for the last 50 years) which has oil extraction as its main (and almost sole) industry, I thought that was pretty rich.

16

Stephen 03.26.11 at 4:04 pm

English-Canadian discomfort with the Bloc Québecois is one of the reasons that the general electorate has trouble accepting the idea of a coalition, but the more important one is that they do not understand Canadian political institutions. Many Canadians develop their sense of political legitimacy by watching television shows produced in the United States, where there are no coalitions and the President is directly elected and head of state. As a result, it is common for Canadian voters to wrongly believe that they directly vote on who will be Prime Minister, who they think is the head of state, and the prospect of a coalition is so foreign to their political sensibilities that many thought the attempt to form one after the election in 2008 was illegal.

17

johnston 03.26.11 at 5:43 pm

Small comment on Joe Heath’s #4 there:

“The comments you can see above, suggesting that the Liberal Party is not left wing, or not centre-left, illustrate the sort of leftist purism that is one of the major obstacles to Liberal-NDP rapprochement. A lot of Canadian NDP-left types really believe the NDP’s electoral rhetoric about the Liberals being neoliberal opportunists, no different from the conservatives, etc. etc.”

But the Liberals really are neoliberals – it’s not that we believe ‘rhetoric,’ it’s that we remember Chrétien and Martin, who were neoliberals. We’re aware that they’re different from the Conservative party, though.

Also, no Liberal-NDP rapprochement is possible because there was no initial approcher to re, if you follow me. The Canadian left grew up all on its own, it didn’t split from the Liberal party. Such an alliance, formal or informal, would actually be unprecedented. I almost brought myself to vote for an NDP candidate in the… what, 2003 election, in admiration of Jack Layton’s pushing Paul Martin’s minority government around on a few issues in the budget. But then I remembered that I don’t vote.

18

Mrs Tilton 03.26.11 at 6:17 pm

Vasi @1,

Coalitions involving … Sinn Fein in the UK, would probably be similarly unpopular.

Sinn Féin are in a coalition (of sorts) in the UK.

You’re right, though, that a lot of people would dislike seeing them in coalition in the Rialtas. British parties should stay in Britain.

19

Scott 03.26.11 at 6:24 pm

I must underline once again that the Liberal Party of Canada is in no way a left-of-centre party. Despite what Joe Heath says.

If the Liberal Party of Canada was in any way a progressive or left party, why, then, does it at the British Columbia level exist in formal coalition with the Conservatives with the avowed aim of keeping the progressive NDP in power? And anyone in BC can assure you that the BC Liberal Party is a hard right party economically.

The Canadian left IS fragmented; the division between the Greens and the NDP are enough to keep the NDP a bit-player and I suspect get Conservative candidates over the line in more then a few ridings.

20

Myles 03.26.11 at 6:54 pm

It’s this: it’s not a left-wing country, it’s a broadly liberal country, inspired mostly by classical liberalism and pragmatically tempered by reform liberalism. This is also the belief of the Liberals programmatically speaking. The social democratic left in Canada isn’t very popular; even among NDP voters the vote for the party is very often for localistic reasons (good local MP, attention to constituency needs, speaking up for local industries, focus on local employment etc., generally attributes more common in NDP MP’s than in other ones). The sort of “core vote” for left parties doesn’t exist in Canada outside unionized public-sector employees (this isn’t a slime against them, there’s nothing wrong with this, merely descriptive), and even the better-paid public-sector workers often desert the left parties when times are opportune.

The Tories get to govern because the voters, as much as they loathe to actually vote for the Tories, do tolerate them. Stephen Harper has been reasonably competent (compared to the expectation of right-wing governance in the Canadian imagination, a la George Bush), he’s not particularly right-wing in any rabid way, he’s trained as an economist so he’s not ignorant on that patch. A lot of Liberal voters (myself included, although I haven’t voted) would more readily countenance a Stephen Harper government than one that has to include the NDP.

21

TGGP 03.26.11 at 7:12 pm

From an ignorant American, what would be so bad about Quebec seceding? If that’s what the Quebecois want (and maybe it isn’t), why can’t they have it? Is it expected they’d behave horribly if they left? Do other Canadians really value possession of Quebec very highly?

If there are other similarly ignorant Americans here, they might find Jamal Greene’s Selling Originalism interesting in its comparison of American, Canadian & Australian constitutional thought. The part about Canadian jurists personally knowing Charter authors well enough to have a low opinion of them is worth a chuckle.

22

Myles 03.26.11 at 7:14 pm

An economic note: the Tories and Liberals nowadays mostly agree on globalized (as opposed to just continental or pan-American) free trade (1). The NDP does not subscribe the same belief; it tends toward protectionism. Popular support for protectionist policies, however, has steadily declined, because the practical consequence of protectionist economics has been Canada morphing into a branch-plant economy of the U.S. (protectionism deters other countries much more strongly than it does the U.S., so it actually worsens rather than improves Canadian economic independence). Thus the odd spectacle of the Tories pushing a free-trade treaty with the European Union, the Liberals acquiescing to it, and only the NDP making noises opposed.

If the Liberal Party of Canada was in any way a progressive or left party, why, then, does it at the British Columbia level exist in formal coalition with the Conservatives with the avowed aim of keeping the progressive NDP in power?

The BC Liberal party has long ago formally disassociated itself from the federal Liberal Party of Canada. They are completely separate parties.

fn1: given the relatively small size of the Canadian economy, as well as its somewhat specialized nature, it benefits from free trade much more than say, the United States would. A lot of NDP’s economics is based more on North American parochialism than principles-based objections to free trade; they do garner some of the parochial vote. I’m not so sure if most of NDP’s MPs even understand the causal relationship between Canadian protectionism and American dominance of its economy.

23

TGGP 03.26.11 at 7:25 pm

Wikipedia has other examples of taboo coalitions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordon_sanitaire

24

Vasi 03.26.11 at 8:13 pm

Scott: In Canada, the provincial parties are generally not affiliated with the federal parties of the same name. So the small-c conservative provincial parties remained “Progressive Conservatives”, and the Parti Libéral du Québec is mildly autonomist even while the Liberal Party of Canada is staunchly centralist. The exception is the NDP, which alone has some level of integration between the federal and provincial parties, including shared member lists.

In other words, I wouldn’t judge the LPC based on the BC Liberals any more than I’d judge them based on the Danish Liberal Party.

25

Scott 03.26.11 at 8:19 pm

Vasi- The BC Liberals just had a leadership ballot, where the winning candidate, Christy Clark, was often described as being from the ‘Liberal’ side of the coalition, vs Kevin Falcon, the ‘Conservative’ candidate.

The organisations aren’t formally linked, and party identity in Canada isn’t as solid as it is in other countries, but watching on the ground here, I’d say there’s enough of a link to draw conclusions.

For what it is worth, there is a BC Conservative Party, but it is tiny (no members in the legislature and no prospects of that happening either). I strongly suspect that the same people who vote Conservative federally vote Liberal at the provincial level.

26

boomer 03.26.11 at 11:01 pm

Vasi and Myles quite correct, there isn’t a vertical federal-provincial identity of political parties in Canada (except for the NDP), and there’s really very little of a conclusion to be drawn from comparing the BC Liberals to the federal ones. So the BC Liberal party is, in effect, quite conservative (it used to be a relatively minor party during the Social Credit era). BY way of another example, the Quebec Liberal Party is at least nominally (within Quebec politics) federalist, but by comparison to the federal Liberals it’s almost souverainiste, and of course their current leader was, federally, a Conservative (and most likely has designs on that party in the future as well).

I think basically the commenters here have hashed out the main reasons why coalitions appear to be so toxic in Canada, and they all contribute to some degree (though I remain unconvinced that Liberals and NDP cannot work together – we saw this same movie already during the Alliance/PC merger). My view is that the first attempt at forming one federally was so badly botched, and had the great misfortune of being led by Stephane Dion, a decent man who doesn’t have the capacity to lead a sewing circle, let alone a major party, that it simply created a kind of aversion to the concept in a healthy chunk of the electorate. The Conservatives are naturally pressing their advantage on this because failing to do so could lose them the election. And of course the “separatist coalition” line of attack is the most available and the most natural. I’d do it to if I were Harper.

27

JBL 03.26.11 at 11:05 pm

Scott: your elaboration appears to further support the position of Myles and Vasi that the BC Liberal Party has little in common with the national Liberal Party, making your argument that the latter should be judged by the former seem specious.

28

Scott 03.26.11 at 11:32 pm

http://threehundredeight.blogspot.com/

This site looks like it might be useful for following the ins and outs of Canadian polling. It suggests that the Conservatives will fall a feather short of a majority.

29

tomslee 03.26.11 at 11:32 pm

Can I just say that H.P.Loveshack is the best pseudonym ever? (#15)

30

Christopher 03.26.11 at 11:50 pm

@Loveshack: Well, my guess is that’s probably because the country had been debating constitutional issues for 30-40 years and political will to discuss them further was exhausted. There was the Calgary Declaration, but that come to naught. Then in 2003 the Quebec Liberals were elected and the whole issue dropped away. Constitutional politics in this country have been frozen ever since.

Now, I do wonder if it will remain so for the rest of the decade. The Quebec Liberals are probably going to lose the next election (to put in terms John Quiggin might appreciate, they are Canada’s NSW Labor Party). So PQ will probably try to bring the issue back.

31

Myles 03.27.11 at 12:05 am

Everything is as it was. Considering the constant Quebec bashing I hear from other Canadians, maybe even worse.

Perhaps Anglo-Canadians wouldn’t bash Quebec so much if it actually had a functioning economy and didn’t depend so much on transfer payments. Which it did until it thought it really sweet to encourage all the Anglos to get out of Montreal, so Quebeckers can be maîtres chez (des plus pauvres) nous.

32

Chresmologue 03.27.11 at 12:11 am

Perhaps some of our American friends aren’t clear on the distinction between “coalition government” and “minority government”. No shame to them: most Canadian voters don’t appear to understand it either, though it’s of considerable importance in Canadian politics.
When no one party has a majority in the Commons after an election, two parties may cooperate to form a coalition government, in which each gets to name a certain number of Cabinet ministers, make a certain number of patronage appointments, etc. That is the form of government now in effect in Britain, but Canadians have never liked it, largely because they see it as an attempt by the political parties to manipulate the outcome of an election after the fact.
Alternatively, the party with the most seats in the Commons may choose to govern on its own, just as if it had a majority. That is a minority government, and it can continue in office as long as it can get enough support from other parties to pass its major legislation and to ward off any non-confidence votes by the opposition. We have had many minority governments in Canadian history, and there are many who feel that they have given us some of our best government. The fact that Canadian voters are quick to punish any party seen as provoking an unnecessary election gives Canadian minority governments a stability they might not otherwise have.
So this, I think, is a large part of the answer to John Quiggin’s question: it’s only coalition governments, and not minority governments, that Canadians have an aversion to.
There is actually a third possibility, difficult to bring off, but fully within the rules; and there’s a possibility we might see it happen if the May 2 election produces a Parliament very similar in party representation to the present one. If the party with the most seats tries to form a minority government, but it is defeated before it has passed a budget, the Governor-General must decide whether to call a new election, or to ask the leader of the second-largest party in the Commons to form a government. In the present circumstances, where the putative government would need both NDP and Bloc support to survive, I don’t know what he would do: probably the minor parties wouldn’t let it come to that anyway. But with enough of a shift in party representation that the Liberals and NDP together constituted a Parliamentary majority, it’s very likely that this scenario could bring about a Liberal minority government even though the Conservatives held the largest number of seats.

33

Joe Heath 03.27.11 at 12:26 am

On the “I won’t form a coalition” talk from Ignatieff, it is worth keeping in mind that he is pretty much obliged to say this. Come election time, the Liberals always appeal to NDP voters saying “don’t waste your vote on the NDP, we’re the only ones with a chance of getting the Conservatives out of power.” If he announces in advance that he’s open to collaboration with the NDP, then it deprives them of a major argument for voting Liberal. Note that he only “categorically” precludes a coalition with the BQ.

As to whether the (federal) Liberals are a centre-left party, I’m sure we can agree that on almost any policy question they are to the left of the U.K. Labour party. (To take one isolated but significant example, they are quite hostile to purchaser-provider splits in health care). That should be enough to give non-Canadians their bearings.

34

Jane Flemming 03.27.11 at 12:43 am

I really must disagree with Myles. The Conservatives began life as the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties, which were most assuredly rabidly right wing. They were called populist parties but were heavily financed by big oil in Alberta from their inception. They essentially took over the old Progressive Conservative party of my parents (much like your Eisenhower era Republicans) complete with all the disgusting think tanks, like the Fraser Institute. If they get a majority, you’ll see just how rabidly right wing they are. Stephen Harper is not an economist. He has a masters degree in economics, and until he was Prime Minister had never been outside the country. And yes, we can only hope that the country’s immune system is healthy enough to throw them off. If they’re in power much longer I fear we will be too weak to fight.

35

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 12:48 am

At Myles (#15),

Ah yes, the equalisation payment horseshit, indubitably my favourite double anti-Quebec double-standard…

For those who don’t know: in Canada, the federal government makes payments to less wealthy Canadian provinces to equalize the provinces’ “fiscal capacity”—their ability to generate tax revenues. Quebec gets the biggest amount. But Quebec is the second most populous province, so per capita Quebecers receive much less than, say, Manitobans or people for Prince Edward Island, a point Quebec bashers usually ignore. Another point they like to ignore is the fact that some of the present “have” provinces, like Alberta and Newfoundland, received these payments for decades… Then oil was found within their territories, and in typical nouveau-riche fashion, they started forgetting their cash-strapped past.

36

Bill Gardner 03.27.11 at 1:13 am

Clueless n00b question: does the fall of the federal government trigger provincial elections as well?

37

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 1:22 am

Bill Gardner,

No, it doesn’t. Provinces elect their own territorial governments.

38

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 1:37 am

@ Christopher (#28):

Yes indeed, there hasn’t been any political will to talk about these issues for the last 15 years. But not talking about them doesn’t make them go away.

Not only do I hope a PQ election will force back the issue into everyone’s minds, but I hope it will do so in a way that will show that the issue ca not be resolved within the present federal framework. To me, it has become obvious that there’s no place for the Quebecois nation within Canada.

I want my kids, and their kids, to be French-speaking Quebecers, and I believe that the best way to guarantee that is Quebec independence.

39

Myles 03.27.11 at 1:41 am

Quebec gets the biggest amount. But Quebec is the second most populous province, so per capita Quebecers receive much less than, say, Manitobans or people for Prince Edward Island, a point Quebec bashers usually ignore.

Yeah, I know about this. Of course the PEI government gets more, because there are fixed costs of running any kind of a provincial government, no matter how small, so on a per capita basis PEI transfer payments are very high. The problem with Quebec is that it’s really not a marginal province by any stretch of the imagination: it is the second-biggest province, and close to one-quarter the population of Canada. That it’s currently an enormous economic laggard is much more problematic for the country than the case for say, Nova Scotia, because whereas the latter is genuinely a marginal province with marginal industries the same can’t be said of Quebec, which has the lowest GDP per capita outside the Maritimes.

I don’t think anybody minds paying equalization payments as long as they are leading to a healthier eventual result, or if it’s to compensate for a inherently disadvantaged position, but the Quebec economy is neither of these things. There’s no inherent reason why Ontario should be booming while Quebec is not.

40

Myles 03.27.11 at 2:03 am

By the way, my problem with sovereignty is that the PQ wants it both ways: it wants both fully sovereign nationhood and also “sovereignty-association”. Which is fine, except that it would be a giant administrative headache for the part of Canada that remains after Quebec has left, sticking everybody with a mini-EU in a relatively small country. Either a divorce, or seek marriage counselling. None of this sovereignty-association stuff, which after all is basically delusional, as why would English Canada accommodate itself to an independent Quebec. This “me, me, me, my precious Québéçois identity” narcissism is just irritating. And this is coming from a Francophile, who makes pretty good efforts at French and occasionally tries to read Le Monde.

41

Myles 03.27.11 at 2:05 am

Sorry, wrong cedilla c.

42

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 2:08 am

Myles,

Yes, but you know, we French-canadians are primitive people, lazy and a bit slow. Unlike you english canadians, we are unable to run an efficient modern economy. It’s the way we are, don’t blame us. Just fork over the money, or we will separate. [/sarcasm]

By the way, Ontario isn’t booming. They received nearly a billion dollars in equalisation payments last year. Provinces with large manufacturing sectors have been suffering for years and years, it is a consequence of deindustrialization and globalisation.

Personally, I would rather get rid of the equalisation payments… By getting rid of the federal government. Problem solved.

43

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 2:17 am

Countries with less territory, less population and less natural resources than Quebec are doing quite fine, thank you. I have little doubt that Quebecers, after a period of adjustment, would be able to build a nice little comfortable nation for themselves.

44

Jack Strocchi 03.27.11 at 2:37 am

At a guess, based only on the firm bed-rock of ignorance, I would say that the answer lies in one word: Quebec.

45

TGGP 03.27.11 at 2:37 am

Why is it that Quebec is a relative laggard? They speak a different language from most of their neighbors? Antagonism from majority culture, or resulting counter-productive culture among the Quebecois? Borrowing from Weber, some sort of Catholic cultural deal? Similar antagonism between the Flemish & Walloons in Belgium might support that last bit, but Razib says Weber’s theory doesn’t seem to apply well to former Hapsburg domains.

46

yeliabmit 03.27.11 at 2:41 am

Myles is making himself pretty distasteful with his Quebec-bashing. He appears (from his statements) to be Federal Liberal from Ontario. I don’t know any Federal Liberals out here in BC that have the same hate on for Quebecois as their Ontario counterparts.

For those who are curious to learn where they might lie on the Canadian political spectrum, the CBC has created this handy survey widget:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/votecompass/

The survey tells me I’m a Federal Green. While this doesn’t surprise me, I always vote NDP (even thought I am in an incredibly safe NDP seat here in BC). I will do so again, because the prospect of anyone other than my current MP being elected is not a pleasant one, and I want to see her awash in surplus votes. I am, like most people I know, thoroughly dissatisfied with the political system and government in Canada.

Incidentally, Alberta is not in the Canadian west. It’s in the prairies.

47

Jack Strocchi 03.27.11 at 2:43 am

Hmm, my Windows word-finding “Ctrl + F” function finds 48 references to “Quebec” in the comments on this post. It seems that cultural separatist movements may inhibit the formation of political coalitions. Who would have thunk it?

48

Ian 03.27.11 at 2:45 am

Most people in the rest of Canada don’t mind subsidizing PEI or Manitoba because those provinces want to be part of Canada. Most people in the rest of Canada don’t like subsidizing Quebec because a significant part of that province doesn’t want to be part of Canada. It’s the difference between giving a helping hand to a brother who is down on his luck but happy to be part of your family, and giving a helping hand to a brother who is down on his luck but eager to disavow the family.

49

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 2:50 am

Regarding Quebec’s laggardness…. I have a simple solution: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland just have to stop exploiting their oil resources. That way, they’ll become the laggards and they’ll receive equalisation payments.

50

Myles 03.27.11 at 2:58 am

Why is it that Quebec is a relative laggard?

To grossly oversimplify, Quebec before the Quiet Revolution (i.e. nationalism) was largely run by the Anglo managerial and financial elite, who were generally quite cosmopolitan. The advent of Quebec nationalism was partially an explicit rejection of that modus vivendi. Of course, the whole thing was a bit delusional, the Quebec nationalists were trying to turn culturally and economically Anglo-Canadian businesses headquartered in Quebec into ones that are actually Quebecker. As a result, and spurred also by Quebec nationalist terrorism (bombing the stock exchange, mail-bombing the Anglo neighbourhood, murdering the Quebec minister of labour), the Anglo elite quickly packed up for Toronto, which became the financial capital of Canada.

Once Quebec lost its role as the economic heart of Canada, its economy became peripheral.

51

Tom Hurka 03.27.11 at 3:06 am

Canada hasn’t had coalition governments (or not since WWI), but it’s had minority governments supported by a smaller party, with a formal deal between them, i.e. the smaller party promises to support the government in confidence votes and in return the government promises to enact some legislation on the smaller party’s agenda.

I’m pretty sure the Pearson Liberal governments of 1963-68 (best Canadian governments ever?) had that kind of arrangement with the NDP, Trudeau certainly had it with the NDP in 1972-74, the first David Peterson government in Ontario had it with the NDP in the 1980s, etc.

That kind of arrangement isn’t de facto that massively different from a coalition, so it’s not clear why Harper managed to scare Canadian voters away from the coalition idea in 2008. (Well, for one, he lied and said the BQ would be part of the coalition.) And the history of the looser kind of arrangement is that it tends to be bad for the smaller party, which loses seats in the next election since they no longer seem so distinguishable from the governing party.

And that, disastrous though the decision may turn out to be, was probably one factor in the Liberal/NDP decision(s) to topple the government now. They can’t spend years and years pretending to be opposition parties while always, at the end of the day, supporting the government. In fact, what’s best for each is that the other party support the government while they oppose it, so they can accuse the other of not really being opposed to the government (as the NDP accused the Liberals in the last election). The two parties end up in a kind of game of chicken, each trying to be the one that holds out longest against supporting the government. But after a while neither is willing to cave in to the other and they decide, each on their own, to pull the plug — suicidal as that decision may turn out to be. But i guess they’d say the alternative — continually supporting rather than opposing a Conservative government — is also suicidal in its way.

52

Myles 03.27.11 at 3:07 am

The survey tells me I’m a Federal Green. While this doesn’t surprise me, I always vote NDP (even thought I am in an incredibly safe NDP seat here in BC).

Did you vote in the recent (I think?) B.C. election for the NDP as well, against the carbon tax? Very green.

handy survey widget

Mhmmm. It says I am closest to the Liberals and furthest from the Conservatives.

53

Clark 03.27.11 at 3:15 am

If Quebec separates will they take their per capita share of the debt with them?

I think the big worry is what will happen to the maritimes if Quebec separates.

54

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:26 am

Myles is neglecting to mention that french-speaking Quebecers were second class citizens in their own province.

The terrorist attacks Myles mentions happened in the late sixties, it was the result of the actions of a small number of radicals (the Front the Liberation du Quebec, who never had more than 40 or so members, and not all of them active), and it was all over by 1971. The federal government used the terrorist attacks as an excuse to send in the army in October 1970, and to temporarily arrest and intimidate everyone that had some kind of connection to the then burgeoning independence movement.

By the way, that bit about the anglo elite leaving because of terrorism is a load of horseshit. There was no mass exodus. The terrorist actions were few and far between, and they have been completely blown out of proportion by Quebec by what we call angryphones around here. Anglos had been leaving for a while, simply because there were more jobs elsewhere. They did leave in greater numbers after the separatist Parti Quebecois was elected in 1976, six years after the heyday of the FLQ, and it became increasingly clear that speaking French would become necessary to work in Quebec.

Anglophones represent 13% of the population of Quebec, mostly concentrated in the Montreal region and they have their own school system and hospitals. In spite of what some morons may tell you, they are far from being some kind of oppressed minority.

55

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:30 am

Damn, I keep making stupid typos. Sorry about that! English, she is hard, yes?

56

Myles 03.27.11 at 3:34 am

it became increasingly clear that speaking French would become necessary to work in Quebec.

But why should they? They were managing largely Anglophone businesses selling to largely Anglophone national and international markets. The Quebec market didn’t matter. The notion that they should be obliged to speak French so as to please local sensibilities is absurd, as their economic success derives not from Quebec but the other way around.

Should the HSBC board of directors be obliged to speak Cantonese just because they are located in Hong Kong? Should foreign companies be obliged to speak Swiss German just because they are managed from Switzerland? Should Anglo American be obliged to speak Afrikaans? Must business be conducted in Arabic if in Dubai?

57

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:41 am

Myles, because French was the native language of the vast majority of their employees.

I mean, duh!

58

Myles 03.27.11 at 3:46 am

I mean, duh!

It turned out that accommodating the linguistic background of the vast majority of their employees was not important as accommodating the linguistic background of the vast majority of their customers.

59

Myles 03.27.11 at 3:48 am

I’m actually quite in favour of bilingual immersion, just immersion in actual, metropolitan French, rather than a regional dialect. Canada has been doing it wrong.

60

Daniel Lafave 03.27.11 at 3:48 am

@Vasi. Belgian political parties have a cordon sanitaire against Vlaams Belang because it’s a racist party, not because it’s a separatist party. The N-VA is separatist, and it will likely be part of the next Belgian government if one is ever formed. The Bloc quebecois isn’t a racist party.

61

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:49 am

Oh, and since French is the official language of Quebec, that means that whenever they have to deal with government, they have to do it in French.

Once again, duh!

62

Myles 03.27.11 at 3:55 am

since French is the official language of Quebec, that means that whenever they have to deal with government, they have to do it in French.

But promoting people who don’t necessarily speak English well, not to mention who might be unfamiliar with Anglo culture, is more or less business suicide for companies that largely sell to Anglophone markets. And promoting people who don’t necessarily speak English well is what the Quebec government set out to get the businesses to do.

63

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:57 am

Regional dialect, eh? Spare me the condescending crap.

I think we had better terminate this conversation, or I may become rather rude.

64

Simon 03.27.11 at 4:35 am

Given his disdain for regional dialects, one can only assume Myles speaks an impeccable RP.

65

hellblazer 03.27.11 at 8:44 am

Myles: I’m actually quite in favour of bilingual immersion, just immersion in actual, metropolitan French, rather than a regional dialect. Canada has been doing it wrong.

Which sodding metropolis? (Spoken as a Brit who’s been living in Canada for four years, two of them in Quebec City.)

I’m also not convinced that Québec vs. ROC is the be all and end all of Canadian politics, nor that Harper is as benevolently regarded as Myles seems to suggest.

66

hellblazer 03.27.11 at 8:54 am

Perhaps Anglo-Canadians wouldn’t bash Quebec so much if it actually had a functioning economy and didn’t depend so much on transfer payments.

Sorry, Myles, that smells like horseshit. People in one part of a country bashing people in another part of the country isn’t caused by these kinds of talking points, it’s just excused by such things. Do Albertan rednecks and Newfies really bond over economic analyses of federal distribution?

67

NN 03.27.11 at 10:07 am

I just wanted to echo Joe Heath at #14 re how this election came to pass. I doubt that any of the current opposition parties actually wanted to push an election now, but there have been several recent narratives regarding the ruling government refusing to provide information to, or misleading MPs. This culminated in a recent finding of the government being in Contempt of Parliament, which ended up being the trigger for the non-confidence motion and this next election.

If the opposition parties had let that slide, then it would have been a tacit acknowledgement that those actions were acceptable. If you ask me, it ends up being a bit of a gamble on whether the public as a whole cares more about the ethics and standards that this government has been violating versus what the expected level of scheming and dealing should be.

68

NN 03.27.11 at 10:39 am

And a couple thoughts re the Bloc debate, the Bloc may be demonised by some, but I don’t place any more stock in that kind of talk than I do in someone who says the Liberals are a bunch of lying sleazebags, or that Toronto (or Ontario) thinks it’s the centre of the universe and doesn’t give a damn about rural (or non-Ontario) problems.

I live in Toronto, am pretty far left-leaning, will likely vote Green, all things considered.

I appreciate that Quebec has a unique character, but I’m not particularly convinced that sovereignity or independence is the best way to solve Quebec’s problems.

Regardless of the Bloc’s stated position on a coalition, forming a government with the Bloc is difficult because their agenda is entirely focused on Quebec; for example, as an English speaker, even if I wanted to know about Bloc policy questions or ideas, there is almost no English content on their website; that which is there doesn’t seem to have been updated in months. That being said, I can understand most of what’s on the site from having studied French for 7 years and having a memory for it, but I’m sure that plenty of Canadians don’t.

69

Emma in Sydney 03.27.11 at 11:20 am

Given his disdain for regional dialects, one can only assume Myles speaks an impeccable RP
I know, it’s just too killing, eh what? Demmed Canadians, thinking they speak the Queen’s English, beastly cheek.

70

Michael 03.27.11 at 1:49 pm

This thread was interesting discussion until it got derailed by Myles and Loveshack, both of which appear to be shovelling it pretty thick.

As a Canadian, I really don’t know which is worse, the racist Quebecois or the racist Quebec-bashers.

71

Marc P. Vato 03.27.11 at 2:21 pm

I would like to thank Myles and H.P. Loveshack for illustrating to the non-Canadians on this forum the current (dismal) state of Anglo/Franco relations in Canada. However, as a fellow Canadian, I would like to try respectfully to somewhat elevate the tone of the discussion.

First, Myles: please avoid taking cheap shots at Quebecois language and culture. It is really beneath you, and it pretty much vitiates your credibility in this discussion.

H.P.: Perhaps it would help of you could clearly articulate what exactly the French Quebecois hope to achieve by separation. I live in Canada, and I still haven’t figured it out. Here is my (ignorant) perspective —perhaps you can correct any misunderstandings I have.

Many years ago, the British conquered the French part of Canada, and the French Canadians became a `conquered people’. However, they had it pretty good as a `conquered people’; the conquest did not involve rape, pillage, forced religious conversion, ethnic cleansing, or outright genocide (unlike, say, the way Europeans treated the natives Americans), or wholesale enslavement and exploitation (e.g. Europe in Africa). Instead, the French Canadians were allowed to keep their language, their culture, their Catholic religion, and even their Napoleonic legal institutions. They were only required to swear allegiance to the British Empire and live under a British elite, and effectively became second-class citizens in their own homeland.

Fast forward two hundred years. In the 1950s, the French Canadians had formal legal equality (and special legal protections) under Canadian law, but were an economic and political underclass. However, over the last 60 years, the `Quiet Revolution’, the Sovereigntist movement, and strong Federal government support for official bilingualism and multiculturalism have pretty much erased these inequalities. As far as I can see, French Canadians now have full participation in the Canadian elite (economic, political, academic, etc.). Indeed, the Canadian federal government not only legally protects French language and culture, but actively subsidizes it (not just through transfer payments, but also e.g. through cultural institutions like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board, and through publicly-funded French language schools across Canada, etc.). So it is very difficult for an English Canadian to understand the Separatist grievance. In exactly what sense are the French in any way persecuted, marginalized, excluded, or in any way discriminated against in Canada in 2011?

One major problem Quebec does face is that it is `an island of French in a sea of English’ (i.e. North America). The language barrier certainly imposes economic costs (which perhaps explains why the Quebec economy consistently underperforms compared to other parts of Canada, despite the high average education level of the Quebecois population). However, I fail to see how the rest of Canada can be blamed for this, and I fail to see how political separation from Canada will in any way solve this problem. If anything, an independent Quebec would be even more culturally and economically marginalized in North America. Perhaps you could explain this part.

On the other side of the question, some people ask, “What’s the big deal if Quebec separates, if that’s really what they want?” There are several reasons why Quebec separation is objectionable:

First of all, separation would involve significant costs; there would be a border to enforce, a separate currency to manage, and a whole host of Federal government institutions which would have to be duplicated by the newly independent Quebec government.

Indeed, separation goes completely against the major political trend of the last sixty years towards greater global economic and political integration (exemplified by the European Union, NAFTA, etc.). This trend has been driven by the recognition that nationalism and national borders are generally a problem, not a solution. Separatists have to explain why this logic does not apply to them.

Second of all, the history teaches us to be strongly suspicious of ethnic nationalist political movements (which is what French Separatism is). Around the world, ethnic nationalism is a force which has often lead to gross human rights violations. To be more specific: Quebec contains a substantial Anglophone minority (especially in Montreal), who are justifiably afraid that they would be persecuted or marginalized in a sovereign Quebec. French sovereigntist policy is (understandably) obsessed with the long-term threat of linguistic and cultural assimilation into the North American anglophone majority culture. Over the past 30 years, this perceived threat has been used to justify policies which explicitly discriminate against anglophones (e.g. the infamous sign law, which stipulates that on any public notice, the French text must appear first and appear in larger font than the English text; or the fact that anglophone public schools and universities in Quebec have been systematically underfunded, compared to their francophone counterparts; or the fact that new immigrants to Quebec are discouraged, in the strongest possible terms, from adopting the English language). In other parts of the world, these sorts of discriminatory policies would be regarded as prima facie evidence of official racism, but because the anglophones are the majority in North America and still perceived as some kind of `elite’ in Quebec, these policies have been tolerated. But in an independent Quebec run by revanchist ethnic nationalists with an outsized persecution complex, there is a real risk that anti-anglophone policies would run out of control. H.P., please explain why Quebecois anglophones have nothing to worry about.

Third, the logic of Separatism leads inexorably to Balkanization. If Quebec can separate from the Rest Of Canada, then why can’t the western (English) half of the island of Montreal separate from the Rest Of Quebec? The Separatists often speak of how Canada has `two founding nations’ (English and French). But in fact there are three founding nations —it’s just that the third nation (the natives, a.k.a. the `First Nation’) was almost entirely eradicated and assimilated by the other two. Much of northern Quebec is actually populated by natives. And certainly, these natives have infinitely greater reason to consider themselves a persecuted and marginalized minority than the French Canadians do. If Quebec can secede from Canada, then why can’t these natives secede from Quebec?

I hope you are starting to see that it is very difficult to take seriously the idea of ethnic autonomy without risking total political disintegration.

In fact, many of Quebec’s grievances are shared by other provinces (e.g. Alberta and B.C.) —namely that the Federal government is too strong, and the Provincial governments are not sufficiently autonomous. So instead of separation, perhaps a better solution would be a more decentralized Canadian constitution, which gives greater autonomy to all the provinces. Quebec could use its enhanced autonomy to promote French language and culture. Alberta could use its enhanced autonomy to continue become a northern version of Texas. This is a solution which would please everyone (except the Feds). H.P. could you please explain why this sort of political decentralization would not be sufficient to address Separatist grievances?

72

Bill Gardner 03.27.11 at 2:52 pm

The Maritimes (NB, NS, PEI) are each slightly poorer than Quebec (and, wow!, they have less than half the GDP per capita of Alberta — by the way, who is the Sultan there?). Yet their grievances — assuming they hold any — haven’t come up in the discussion. I’m curious why that is.

73

subdoxastic 03.27.11 at 2:53 pm

@ hellblazer

Does such analysis extend only to Alberta rednecks and Newfies, or can it be extended to include any group of folks who privelege a more regional approach to their politics?

If Alberta Rednecks and Newfies are distinct enough cultures to qualify as having their own easily applied stereotypes, how is their myopic regionalism any different than that proffered by the Bloc?

74

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:20 pm

@ Bill Gardner and subdoxastic (#61 and 62):

If people from the Maritimes, Alberta and Newfoundland want to air their grievances, more power to them. Not being an Albertan, a Maritimer or a Newfoundlander, I can’t do it for them.

By the way, the “regionalism” of the Bloc only appears “myopic” to Canadian patriots. But see, if Canadian nationalism is legitimate, then so is Quebec nationalism.

75

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 3:34 pm

Oh, and there’s a big difference between the “regionalism” of Quebec and that of other provinces: the other provinces never elected separatist governments and they didn’t have two independence referendums.

40% of the population of Quebec are hardcore separatists. The vast majority of french-speaking Quebecers are, to different degrees, nationalists, in the sense that they think of themselves as Quebecers first. It’s just that there’s still a large % that believe that Quebec benefits from staying in Canada. I used to believe that too, but the last 15 years made me reconsider.

76

Myles 03.27.11 at 4:28 pm

Which sodding metropolis?

France.

77

Myles 03.27.11 at 4:52 pm

the other provinces never elected separatist governments and they didn’t have two independence referendums.

So the lesson plan for getting ahead in the Canadian confederation is, electing separatist governments that spar with the rest of Canada at every turn, and then waste money on referenda. Merci beaucoup! Why didn’t I think of that? What is this, Mean Girls?

But see, if Canadian nationalism is legitimate, then so is Quebec nationalism.

If Quebec insists on being such a distinct nation, then perhaps it should stop taking money from another separate, wholly distinct nation: Canada. The transfer payments are a small part of a giant web of subsidies that includes various make-work schemes and industrial policies.

I don’t mind formal independence. What I mind is this delusional half-association nonsense the PQ keeps putting forward. It’s basically a situation where the subsidies would continue as before, but with no accountability. And this is not to mention that the rest of Canada would probably not want to remain in association with a sovereign Quebec, or that the federal government will presumably relocate out of Hull. If you don’t like the marriage, why not just get a formal divorce? Either a subsidized and Canadian Quebec, or an unsubsidized (in any sense) and independent Quebec. Pick one and stick with it. A subsidized and independent Quebec is not in the cards, despite the impression the PQ likes to give.

(I don’t mind the Bloc, by the way.)

78

Myles 03.27.11 at 5:09 pm

Do Albertan rednecks and Newfies really bond over economic analyses of federal distribution?

Anglos up and down the country feel pissed about the fact that Canada, an officially multicultural country is bending backwards to accommodate the most explicitly ethno-nationalist jurisdiction in North America. Canada is becoming ever more multicultural and cosmopolitan; Quebec refuses to do so.

79

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 6:48 pm

Anglos up and down the country feel pissed about the fact that Canada, an officially multicultural country is bending backwards to accommodate the most explicitly ethno-nationalist jurisdiction in North America.

Well, up and down requires a sample size of 2, and the rest is tendentious (you don’t think the US and Mexico are competitively ethno-nationalist?)

80

Bill Gardner 03.27.11 at 7:11 pm

the most explicitly ethno-nationalist jurisdiction in North America

Perhaps, but you need to give Arizona points for effort.

81

Myles 03.27.11 at 7:30 pm

Perhaps, but you need to give Arizona points for effort.

Arizona needs to work harder to surmount the level set by Bill 101.

82

Myles 03.27.11 at 7:34 pm

And who is next for the Liberals if Ignatieff gets on with his life?

Robert Keith “Bob” Rae, PC, OC, OOnt, QC, MP, Rhodes Scholar (Balliol)

83

hellblazer 03.27.11 at 7:42 pm

Not wishing to fan the flames (and acknowledging I know very little about my country of residence) – I think saying “metropolitan French” = “French spoken in France” is rather tendentious. Besides, are we talking about “haute français” or the way people actually speak in various parts of France? I’m sure some French academicians would approve of Quebecers sticking to “bonne fin de semaine” rather than “bonne weekend”, just as they’d have conniptions over using “bienvenue” to mean “you’re welcome”.

Manitoban French, *that is weird* – or at least sounds it…

84

hellblazer 03.27.11 at 7:45 pm

subdoxastic @73 – that was exactly my point. (Most people I talked to in Quebec didn’t have active separatist feelings, or at least were too polite to vent them to an actual English Anglo; but they may have separatist sympathies, and in any case who is one going to vote for? surely not the Adéquistes?)

85

hellblazer 03.27.11 at 7:50 pm

Oh, and Marc P. Vato @70 appears to be talking a lot of sense.

86

Myles 03.27.11 at 8:01 pm

I’m sure some French academicians would approve of Quebecers sticking to “bonne fin de semaine” rather than “bonne weekend”

1) Some movies are dubbed twice, once for Quebec, once for France. The divergence in accent is greater than in English (whether the whole formerly class-based nonsense in England, or the trans-Atlantic divergence).

2) “Bon weekend” is taught as the standard by Alliance Française. The thing is people who are Francophiles (like me) care a lot about France, but not Quebec, and people who care a lot about Quebec are generally the sort of blood-and-soil Canadian patriot who aren’t actually Francophiles.

87

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 8:13 pm

The divergence in accent is greater than in English

…my dad’s bigger than your dad

88

Bloix 03.27.11 at 8:30 pm

“They [Anglophones did leave in greater numbers after the separatist Parti Quebecois was elected in 1976, six years after the heyday of the FLQ, and it became increasingly clear that speaking French would become necessary to work in Quebec.”

I am personally familiar with several bilingual Montrealers from Anglophone families who moved to Toronto, Vancouver, or the US because they felt that they were discriminated against in professional employment. It wasn’t sufficient to be bilingual; you had to be Quebecois. Perhaps that’s changed.

89

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 8:34 pm

It wasn’t sufficient to be bilingual; you had to be Quebecois. Perhaps that’s changed.

Perhaps. Or perhaps your anecdote is just that.

90

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 8:36 pm

To Marc P. Vato (#70),

Remember the Meech Lake accord? It was negotiated by a federalist Quebec Prime mInister, and it pretty much outlined the minimal requests with which most Quebecers agree:

- a recognition of Quebec as a “distinct society”;
- a constitutional veto for Quebec and the other provinces;
- increased provincial powers with respect to immigration;
- extension and regulation of the right for a reasonable financial compensation to any province that chooses to opt out of any future federal programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction;
- provincial input in appointing senators and Supreme Court judges

To become effective, this agreement needed to obtain the consent of all provincial and federal legislatures within three years. It didn’t.

Remember the Charlottetown Accord? It was a package of proposed amendments to the Constitution of Canada, proposed by the Canadian federal and provincial governments in 1992. It was submitted to a public referendum on October 26 of that year, and was defeated.

Whenever it was asked of the rest of Canada to accept a certain number of conditions so that Quebec could become an integral part of Canada (remember, Quebec hasn’t signed the Canadian constitution), these demands, even when made by moderate Quebec governments, have been rejected. I’ve come to conclude that the rest of Canada is only comfortable with Quebec as long as Quebec behaves like just another province. It is obvious to me that Quebec is not just another province. Maybe it isn’t to you, but therein lies the problem.

If separation comes to the table, well, then the spectre of “ethnic nationalism” and “racism towards the english minority” and “partition of Quebec” is raised , the usual federalist bogeymen. Never mind that Quebec has had several openly separatist governments through the years and that not once has the English minority ever lost any important rights. Sorry, having English printed in smaller characters on a sign doesn’t qualify as an oppressive demand. Pretending that the English speaking inhabitants of Quebec are somehow oppressed makes a mockery of the word oppression. Quebec follows laws, Quebec has a charter of rights.

And the threats of partition are infantile. The province of Quebec has borders that are accepted by the federal government and the bordering provinces. It never occurred to a Quebec separatist to annex the french speaking areas of nearby New Brunswick.

By the way, this ethnic nationalism horseshit is old news. The Parti Quebecois has gone out of his way to have it known that they consider anyone who lives on the territory of Quebec to be a Quebecer. Ethnically, I’m not even a Quebecer, I’m of Portuguese descent. Yet, I have been able to sympathise and integrate into Quebec society, and I have adopted their language and culture.

91

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 8:40 pm

…I have adopted their language…

I hope your accent is appropriately metropolitan.

92

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 8:44 pm

Sorry, it should read “Yet, I have been able to sympathise with and integrate into Quebec society, and I have adopted their language and culture.”

93

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 8:46 pm

Funny, the more I talk to English Canadians about Quebec, the more I become convinced that separation is the only viable option!

Than you, Myles and Marc P. Vato!

94

Myles 03.27.11 at 8:57 pm

You are talking as though Quebec separation is some national disaster for Canada. It isn’t. Canada would be a better, more liberal, more open country without Québécois linguistic nationalism and officially enforced insularity, as long as nobody proposes that nonsense about a common passport or a common currency.

Nobody is begging Quebec to stay in Canada.

95

Myles 03.27.11 at 9:03 pm

Honestly, more than a few Anglos would be perfectly happy for the rest of Canada to secede from Quebec, if the Quebeckers don’t want to do it themselves.

96

Bloix 03.27.11 at 9:07 pm

#89- the fact that something is an anecdote is not evidence that it’s false. Thirty years ago, at the peak of Quebec nationalist fervor, young, Anglophone Quebecers believed that speaking French was not enough – that they could not prosper in Quebec because they were ethnically the wrong type. I wouldn’t think that would be surprising.

#90 – “they consider anyone who lives on the territory of Quebec to be a Quebecer.”
Of course they do. They consider Quebec to be a nation and therefore the people who live within its territory to be subject to its jurisdiction. They’re not looking to expel people or expropriate their property.

97

Marc P. Vato 03.27.11 at 9:15 pm

H.P. Loveshack @90: Regarding the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown processes: those agreements were negotiated in good faith by a lot of people from across Canada, and presumably would have been beneficial to many provinces. I don’t know the details of why they failed to be ratified, but I suspect it represents a typical failure of the political process, probably mainly due to public apathy and ignorance, combined with the fear-mongering of certain vested interests. It is probably comparable to more recent failures of B.C. and Ontario to ratify changes to their election laws. It does not represent some sort of anglophone conspiracy against Quebec. If this is the best evidence you can provide of how Quebec gets `screwed’ by the rest of Canada, then you are not doing very well at all.

If separation comes to the table, well, then the spectre of “ethnic nationalism” and “racism towards the english minority” and “partition of Quebec” is raised , the usual federalist bogeymen. Never mind that Quebec has had several openly separatist governments through the years and that not once has the English minority ever lost any important rights.

That may be because these French separatist governments have still had to operate under Canadian Federal law and the Canadian Charter of Rights, so there was a clear limit to how discriminatory their policies could be. These sorts of legal limitations are, presumably, precisely what the French Separatists hope to escape by formally separating from the rest of Canada.

Sorry, having English printed in smaller characters on a sign doesn’t qualify as an oppressive demand.

If the state of Arizona passed a law saying that all public signs had to display English text first and in larger font than Spanish text, and that Spanish-only signs were illegal, this law would be struck down by the SCOTUS in a nanosecond as a violation of the First Amendment.

I am not claiming that Quebec anglophones are horribly oppressed. As you say, the current disciminatory policies are pretty small beer. I am simply pointing out a clear pattern of ethnically motivated discrimination, which any student of history would find disturbing.

And the threats of partition are infantile. The province of Quebec has borders that are accepted by the federal government and the bordering provinces. It never occurred to a Quebec separatist to annex the french speaking areas of nearby New Brunswick.

First of all, enough with the name-calling. Second of all, I am not making threats: I am simply pointing out that it is logically inconsistent for you to say that the French Quebecois `nation’ has a moral right to separate from the rest of Canada because of their special ethnic status (`distinct society’, etc.), but for you at the same time to deny that other ethnic groups within Quebec would have at least as much moral right to secede from an independent Quebec.

By the way, you still haven’t answered my main questions: in exactly what way is the rest of Canada somehow victimizing or oppressing the French Quebecois in 2011? Exactly what do you hope to gain by separating? And don’t give me vague talk about `autonomy’, `national pride’, `dignity’ or `distinct society’. I want concrete examples of how life in a separate Quebec would be better for the average person.

98

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 9:21 pm

…the fact that something is an anecdote is not evidence that it’s false.

no, just anecdotal.

Thirty years ago, at the peak of Quebec nationalist fervor, young, Anglophone Quebecers believed that speaking French was not enough – that they could not prosper in Quebec because they were ethnically the wrong type. I wouldn’t think that would be surprising.

not surprising, just anecdotal.

99

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 9:22 pm

Yeah, yeah, I know, this strange insistence from Quebecers to keep speaking French and preserving their culture is surely an indication of “insularity”. What’s wrong with them, eh? Why can’t they just be part of our big Canadian multicultural family and speak English like everyone else ? Surely they must be racist!

100

Myles 03.27.11 at 9:28 pm

By the way, how’s this for a proposal: legislate to automatically mandate not just a Quebec referendum, but a federal one about whether Canada and Quebec should remain one country, at every federal election. See how long the sovereignty movement would last under it.

Nobody is stopping Quebec from being its own country. There’s no need to seek accommodation within the Canadian context.

101

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 9:30 pm

Oh, and Mr. Vato, Quebec anglophones aren’t an ethnicity. They’re just Quebecers that speak English as their mother tongue.

You keep trying to frame the argument in terms of ethnicity, presumably because it allows you then to accuse separatists of racism. This isn’t a matter of ethnicity. It is a matter of language and culture.

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 9:51 pm

– a recognition of Quebec as a “distinct society”; – a constitutional veto for Quebec and the other provinces; – increased provincial powers with respect to immigration; – extension and regulation of the right for a reasonable financial compensation to any province that chooses to opt out of any future federal programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction; – provincial input in appointing senators and Supreme Court judges

This to me was the dealbreaker—the bolded bit. Canada is already an extremely decentralized federation. The inability of the federal government to set national social minima is a problem.

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, most of the other issues that Loveshack and Myles have brought up aren’t really currently as big as a blog argument would make them out to be. Most anglo-Canadians don’t even think about the sign law in Quebec or obsess over the poor oppressed anglo-Montrealers. Montreal is carried up in the global tide of cultural anglicization more or less the same way many other non-English-speaking modern cities are.

But Loveshack is right about one thing: the constitutional acceptance of a special status for Quebec in any way that has any legal effect on the federation is toxic in much of the rest of Canada. It is particularly resented in the prairies, which see it as being lumped into being an extension of Ontario: if there are two founding nations, they’d rather be considered a third.

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:01 pm

Separation is a problem because it does a few things:

1. It’s extremely disruptive at the well-integrated border of Ontario and Quebec, especially considering the very large number of federal institutions at the Ottawa-Hull area, and the federal investments in West Quebec. Even if they were to be paid off by Quebec (during a negotiation that would be so epic it would dwarf any of the constitutional arguments), reestablishing them on both sides of the border would be difficult and painful.

2. It turns the Maritime provinces into East Pakistan Canada, cutting them off geographically and further reducing the sense that they are part of the family in the West; these places rely on equalization far more than Quebec to remain populated.

3. It makes the Canadian fragments more susceptible to arm-twisting and weaker as a negotiating unit with the USA.

4. It does not clearly overcome any of the global reasons why English is dominant; it doesn’t put any further francisization tools into the hands of Quebec.

5. It represents a failure in the world of a multiethnic/multicultural state. It’s a terrible example. We want countries to come together under larger federal umbrellas, not fragment into smaller ones.

That’s why few anglo-Canadians are in favour of a sovereign Quebec, protestations to the contrary. And few Quebec sovereigntists, even, are truly willing to go “cold turkey” on Canada—it is merely that they believe that they deserve a special status in a far looser arrangement, where it would still be easy to drive to Toronto and there would be no economic dislocation. A little bit of have your cake and eat it too.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 10:09 pm

At Mandos (#102),

The idea of having the federal government setting “national social minima” in Quebec is abhorrent to most Quebecers, federalist Quebecers included. In spite of what Vato and Myles would like to believe, in social and economic terms, Quebec is far closer to traditional European welfare states than the rest of Canada. This happened in large part because of separatist governments: both the separatist Parti Québecois and the Bloc Québecois have traditionally been left of centre. The entire Québec left, almost without exception, strongly favours independence.

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:26 pm

You can always exceed the minimum.

It is the fundamental conflict between the Quebec and RoC left that for the RoC left, the federal arena has traditionally been the bulwark of social democracy. The only way that can be achieved is having a federal government with teeth to force e.g. Alberta into compliance. I have never seen why that should preclude Quebec from doing better than compliance and, indeed, on the health care front, Quebec is often accused of doing worse than compliance.

Recent events suggest that exclusive trust in either level is misplaced. We need both to back up the others and taking the federal government out of the equation is taking out one level of backup.

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:29 pm

Er, me in 103, “protestations to the contrary, notwithstanding.”

107

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 10:35 pm

Mandos,

have you perchance noticed who has run the federal government in the last 5 years?

I don’t expect things to improve, you know. As I said at the beginning of this, in recent years, the economic and political power of western Canada has been on the rise, and, without excessive generalization, I can say that their values are much more to the right than those of eastern Canada, Quebec included.

108

ckc (not kc) 03.27.11 at 10:36 pm

traditional European welfare states
Charlemagne? Napoleon? …which traditional states did you have in mind?

109

BKN in Canadia 03.27.11 at 10:37 pm

Please, can we go back to talking about Libya, or zombies, or something? I taught political science and Canadian constitutional law from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s–the period of Meech Lake, Oka, Charlottetown, the second Quebec referendum… I live in the West but have elderly inlaws in Montreal. This whole thread reminds me that eternity spent in Hell would be preferable to reliving those events and arguments. I just recently gave away a bunch of lit from that period, e.g. “Sovereign Injustice: Forcible Inclusion of the James Bay Cree in a Sovereign Quebec”, “Negotiating with a Sovereign Quebec”, “After Meech”…it filled a large laundry basket that was too heavy for one person to lift.

110

boomer 03.27.11 at 10:43 pm

“Yeah, yeah, I know, this strange insistence from Quebecers to keep speaking French and preserving their culture is surely an indication of “insularity”. What’s wrong with them, eh? Why can’t they just be part of our big Canadian multicultural family and speak English like everyone else ? Surely they must be racist!”

I think the problem is the insistence on imposing the language on those who wish to make a different choice. Why, for instance, must children go to elementary school in French, unless one of their parents was educated in English in Canada? Why isn’t this a matter of personal choice as it would be in any other province?

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:47 pm

have you perchance noticed who has run the federal government in the last 5 years?

Yes, that’s why I said that trust in a single level of government is misplaced. It’s a strength of federal systems of administration that there are two layers, and a further strength when these two layers have some overlap/redundancy, so that one can compensate when the other is weakened. Full subsidiarity and unitary states (as an independent Quebec would most likely be) are not necessarily optimal.

Right now the vandals are in federal administration. At other times they will be in provincial (Quebec included).

I don’t expect things to improve, you know. As I said at the beginning of this, in recent years, the economic and political power of western Canada has been on the rise, and, without excessive generalization, I can say that their values are much more to the right than those of eastern Canada, Quebec included.

What is rising in Western Canada is a form of populism that has taken both left and right-wing forms historically, and now takes a right-wing form in a greatly distended reaction to Trudeau, etc. That population has always stemmed from being seen as a “branch” of the Toronto-Montreal axis rather than a part of Canada with a right to its own interests.

In some ways, as terrible as a Harper majority would be, it may have the result of renormalizing politics in the West and defusing the populist fuel that fires the right-wing movement in Canada. (I don’t recommend it, of course.) But your implication suggests acknowledgement that the current primary division in Canada is not French/English but East-West.

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Cranky Observer 03.27.11 at 10:48 pm

> 5. It represents a failure in the world of a multiethnic/multicultural state.
> It’s a terrible example. We want countries to come together under larger
> federal umbrellas, not fragment into smaller ones.

“We” do? Who is ‘we”? Assuming ‘we’, why do we want this?

Cranky

113

Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:50 pm

I think the problem is the insistence on imposing the language on those who wish to make a different choice. Why, for instance, must children go to elementary school in French, unless one of their parents was educated in English in Canada? Why isn’t this a matter of personal choice as it would be in any other province?

A minority polity must make choices from a lens different from one of strict individual rights that is the privilege of the majority, if it is to survive as a cultural unit. It chafes to the individualist, but Quebec has taken it as a precondition of its existence that it must be able to override the economic imperative to anglicize.

This is hard to judge. I belong to one of the English-speaking polities of Canada, but my personal background is one of a descendant of Muslim Leagues who help break India for reasons very similar to the ones raised by Quebec sovereigntists. So I have a dual sympathy here.

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Mandos 03.27.11 at 10:53 pm

“We” do? Who is ‘we”? Assuming ‘we’, why do we want this?

Until someone comes up with a new post-statist global order without any of the Westphalian trappings, I suggest that nationalistic fragmentation is a recipe for violent conflict and further fragmentation, and that historically it has been proven to be so. Sometimes it is unavoidable, of course, but in Canada I suggest it is eminently avoidable, and probably not on the horizon in the very near future.

115

H.P. Loveshack 03.27.11 at 10:56 pm

At Boomer (#109),

“Why isn’t this a matter of personal choice as it would be in any other province?”

Surely, you’re jesting, right?

116

Mandos 03.27.11 at 11:00 pm

Loveshack: Most people in the USA find it extremely difficult to understand a government telling people what schools they are eligible for based on the ethnicity of their parents. Culture is a matter of individual rights, in this view, and if it should be the case that Quebeckers freely choose to anglicize their children, so it should be.

There’s a case for this, of course: why do any cultural collectives have a prior right to exist over the desires of the individuals who inhabit it?

117

boomer 03.27.11 at 11:00 pm

@ Loveshack (#114),

I’m not aware that French Canadians in any other provinces, even Alberta, are compelled to send their children to English school.

118

Blain 03.27.11 at 11:25 pm

Wow, this discussion certainly has been thoroughly derailed!

In case anyone outside of Canada (or not familiar with Canadian politics) might be confused by all of the talk about Quebec separatism, it is important to note that this issue is *not* even on the radar in this election.

Quebec separatism had *no* role in causing this election, and will not be decided (in any way) by the outcome of this election.

119

Substance McGravitas 03.27.11 at 11:37 pm

Nobody is begging Quebec to stay in Canada.

If “nobody” means “absolutely everyone in Canada but me” (I like Quebec!) then I am struck by the constant effort made to keep Quebec in Canada.

French immersion school down the block; long waiting list for it.

120

Mandos 03.27.11 at 11:40 pm

It’s the law of Canadian online political discussions on American forums, like Godwin’s Law. It will eventually reduce to an argument over Quebec.

Blain is right; it’s simply not on the radar. The next time it will appear is in the Quebec provinicial election. Federally, it’s a nonissue. It only came up in the allergy to the BQ.

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Myles 03.27.11 at 11:51 pm

French immersion school down the block; long waiting list for it.

French immersion schools have more to do with academic (and also a bit of social) sorting (the sort of people who put their kids into immersion are usually upper-middle class but not rich enough to afford a good independent school, and the kids are consequently quite good in school usually).

If indeed anybody wanted their kids to grow up bilingual (and there are some), it’s not for the sake of Quebec. It’s because French is a great language to learn. This whole notion that Canada must beg, beg, beg Quebec to stay is just bizarre; if they want to secede and become a middle-income, stagnating economy, let them!

122

Substance McGravitas 03.27.11 at 11:53 pm

Oh Jesus Myles just shut the hell up. We already produced Conrad Black.

123

Myles 03.27.11 at 11:58 pm

We already produced Conrad Black.

Who happened to know more of Quebec’s history than most Quebeckers themselves, and actually wrote the authoritative biography of Maurice Duplessis (I believe that was his M.A. topic).

He’s a crook, but one thing he’s not is an anti-Quebec xenophobe.

124

Substance McGravitas 03.28.11 at 12:06 am

Myles,he’s a blowhard, you’re blowhard, but I appreciate your getting 5 instead of 4 out of the equation.

125

Bill Gardner 03.28.11 at 12:10 am

As an outsider interested in getting up to speed in Canadian politics, I appreciate the intervention by Blain @117.

Quebec separatism had no role in causing this election, and will not be decided (in any way) by the outcome of this election.

So, then, what issues might be decided by the outcome of this election?

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Myles 03.28.11 at 12:20 am

@Substance: Black is a horrifically bad columnist and newspaper writer, but a decent historian. It’s unfortunate.

So, then, what issues might be decided by the outcome of this election?

Absolutely nothing, actually, unless in the event of the Liberals winning a minority (unlikely) NDP goes into wingnut mode (unlikely) and vetoes (also unlikely) the Canada-EU free trade pact, which would be awful for Canada. But that’s three unlikelies in a row.

So, basically, this is probably the most consequence-free election in ages.

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Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:21 am

The main issues:

1. whether Stephen Harper will have an unfettered hand in the dismantlement of Canadian federal institutions, particularly completing his transformation of the public service in his own image.

2. whether there will be a realignment of Canadian partisan politics in which there will be no nationally-viable centrist party—or, conversely, whether the form of Western populism to which Stephen Harper nominally hews (over his Randroid interior) has reached the limits of its national appeal.

Other issues surround the Canadian deficit (IMO, not that bad all things considered) and military spending (useless aircraft).

128

Substance McGravitas 03.28.11 at 12:25 am

The fate of Michael Ignatieff hangs in the balance!

129

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:27 am

1. whether Stephen Harper will have an unfettered hand in the dismantlement of Canadian federal institutions, particularly completing his transformation of the public service in his own image.

Yawn. This is honestly the most alarmist interpretation possible. Does Harper suck? Yes. Does he suck more in relation to politicizing the civil service more than Jean Chrétien did? No. Does it matter? Not really. Does anybody really care? No. I’m not even voting in this election.

2. whether there will be a realignment of Canadian partisan politics in which there will be no nationally-viable centrist party

It’s not a problem with the Liberal Party; it’s a problem with Ignatieff, who basically comes across as a insufferable tool and a Yank besides. If we had been led by, say, Frank McKenna, instead of Iggy, we probably would have won a billion years ago. It’s still the natural governing party, it’s just going through a rough patch.

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Myles 03.28.11 at 12:32 am

(The problem with Ignatieff is that he has ideas, and his ideas are usually bad for Canada. What Canada wants is someone with no ideology and only vague ideas, with whom all the sectional interests can be comfortable, and who can be counted on to not feel too comfortable with the Americans. Ignatieff fulfills just about none of the criteria.

I haven’t heard Iggy say a single thing about the Canada-EU free trade pact, and this is literally the most important piece of Canadian public policy in recent years. His ideas are relevant to world powers, not to Canada’s own, relatively local concerns.)

131

Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:36 am

Yawn. This is honestly the most alarmist interpretation possible. Does Harper suck? Yes. Does he suck more in relation to politicizing the civil service more than Jean Chrétien did? No. Does it matter? Not really. Does anybody really care? No. I’m not even voting in this election.

I’m sorry to say that it matters a great deal. It’s a tribute to the professionalism of the Canadian public service that the disarray in which many arms of the Canadian government are is not yet obvious to the average Joe Canadian. JC has nothing on Harper in this department. Imagine a stealthier Bush. It is not merely politicizing, it is vandalism.

It’s not a problem with the Liberal Party; it’s a problem with Ignatieff, who basically comes across as a insufferable tool and a Yank besides. If we had been led by, say, Frank McKenna, instead of Iggy, we probably would have won a billion years ago. It’s still the natural governing party, it’s just going through a rough patch.

A rough patch meaning that most of Quebec is inaccessible—so inaccessible, it has been opened over the past couple of elections to the NDP—and the shift in population and other trends means that Western populism could sweep it away. Iggy is not a cause, he’s a symptom. If you really are some kind of non-voting Liberal sympathizer (I’m not), you are all too sanguine about what has happened.

This is an important election.

132

Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:38 am

For a good take on all these matters, I highly recommend my friend Dr. Dawg’s Blawg: here.

133

Marc P. Vato 03.28.11 at 12:42 am

H.P. Loveshack @ 101 says:

You keep trying to frame the argument in terms of ethnicity, presumably because it allows you then to accuse separatists of racism. This isn’t a matter of ethnicity. It is a matter of language and culture.

Most of the time, there is no meaningful way to define `ethnicity’ except language and culture. What else did you have in mind? Genetics? At a genetic level, it is impossible to distinguish e.g. a Serbian from a Croatian or a Hutu from a Tutsi. So-called `ethnicities’ are entirely cultural/linguistic constructs.

But if you insist on maintaining some hairsplitting distinction between `discrimination on the basis of ethnicity’ versus `discrimination on the basis of language and culture’, so be it. Then the objectionable policies of Quebec separatists would be `merely’ discrimination on the basis of language and culture. I fail to see how this makes them less objectionable.

Also, you still have not answered my core questions. In exactly what way are French Quebecois oppressed or marginalized in Canada in 2011? And exactly what substantive improvements to Quebecois welfare do you think you will accomplish through separation?

In a later exchange with Mandos, you make it sound like your problem is that the Rest of Canada is too right-wing. Left to its own devices, Quebec would like to become a European style welfare state. But somehow anglophone rednecks in Alberta keep thwarting this noble goal. Is this your core grievance? If so, perhaps you could explain exactly the mechanism whereby membership in Confederation prevents Quebec from implementing European style welfare policies. My understanding is that most `welfare state’ institutions are actually provincial jurisdiction (e.g. healthcare, public education, social assistance), so Quebec can run these things any way it wants. And indeed, Quebec has, traditionally, has been quite left-wing in these areas (which is good, IMHO). But nothing is stopping Quebec from moving even further to the left. Certainly, anglophones in Western Canada aren’t stopping Quebec.

In fact, if anything, separatism has been counterproductive to the Canadian left. By splitting the left wing vote, the Bloc Quebecois has greatly helped the federal Conservatives in recent elections. Which brings me to my next point.

Blain @117 says:

Quebec separatism had no role in causing this election, and will not be decided (in any way) by the outcome of this election.

The connection is the Bloc Quebecois. Of course, as a permanent minority party, the BQ will never be able to foist a Quebec separation referendum onto the agenda of Parliament. But that’s not it’s job. It’s job is to act as a `spoiler’ party, which siphons Parliamentary seats away from the other parties, and then uses its block of seats to extort concessions for Quebec from whatever minority/coalition government happens to be in power. This is why Harper can score political points by accusing Ignatieff of secretly planning a `coalition government’, because `coalition’ here is understood as a code-word for `negotiating with the evil BQ’.

134

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:43 am

If you really are some kind of non-voting Liberal sympathizer (I’m not), you are all too sanguine about what has happened.

Look, as far as I can tell, Canada is doing fine. The country is still vaguely centre-left.

The big thing, the most important thing, is that Canada-EU free trade is pushed through. This trumps just about any other economic issue in Canada right now, and is absolutely crucial for Canada’s long-term economic health and independence. It was also initiated by the Harper government, so I am inclined to be tolerant toward them on this account. This is the sort of thing that should be home turf for the Liberals: shoring up the long-term position of the Canadian economy.

135

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 12:47 am

@ Boomer (#116),

“I’m not aware that French Canadians in any other provinces, even Alberta, are compelled to send their children to English school.”

Not that I know of, no. I mean, You have something much much better than any stupid language law. You have Hollywood, New York and London, and rock’n’roll and hip hop, action movies and CNN and the entire weight of globalised english mass culture behind you. Language laws? You don’t need no stinking language laws!

Canadian multiculturalism is a load of shit: of course you can afford to give the impression that people have those kinds of choices! In the end, you know they’ll ended good little english speaking multicultural citizens of nowhere, just like most North Americans.

136

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:47 am

At the end of the day, if we don’t get free trade with EU, we’d be tied to the sinking American ship when it goes down. And nobody will be complaining about Harper’s awfulness toward the civil service then. So I’m inclined to give Harper a pass as long as he pushes the free trade deal through, and then kick out the Tories and return the natural governing party to power. (Does anyone think Iggy is going to put his weight behind this thing and push it through if he gets in? I’d rather trust Bob Rae.)

137

Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:48 am

There’s a big question of whether e.g. the CBC would survive a Harper administration. Harper’s hardcore supporters view the CBC as a left-wing propaganda engine brainwashing the east into voting to steal Alberta oil.

138

Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:49 am

Canadian multiculturalism is a load of shit: of course you can afford to give the impression that people have those kinds of choices! In the end, you know they’ll ended good little english speaking multicultural citizens of nowhere, just like most North Americans.

So…most North Americans are citizens of…nowhere? Really? Why should citizenship be tied to culture? Wasn’t “civic nationalism” supposed to evacuate these distinctions?

139

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:50 am

There’s a big question of whether e.g. the CBC would survive a Harper administration.

The CBC can always be recreated. Canada’s trade position cannot. I like the CBC a lot, and I think it should be expanded with greater federal funding, but look, if we managed to save CBC and not work on our long-term economic position, it’d all be for nought.

140

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:51 am

So…most North Americans are citizens of…nowhere? Really?

I think he’s what some might called a frangryphone.

141

Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:52 am

As long as mass communication remains cheap, anyway, we (or our descendants) re all going to end up speaking the same language in the long run, whatever that language is. Language laws or no language laws, independent Quebec or not.

142

snuh 03.28.11 at 12:54 am

this transfer payments thing seems like it must be bullsh-t. so if quebeckers really were bilking the rest of canada for lots of unmerited payments, wouldn’t we expect (1) that quebec would be strongly in favour of remaining in canada, and (2) that the rest of canada would be strongly in favour of kicking them out? (i hazily recollect dsquared once made this point re scottish nationalism).

organised labour in canada never really killed off the liberal reformers the way it did in other anglo countries. from the outside, it looks like some unions back the NDP (and before them the CCF) and others back the liberals, and in quebec the unions back neither. maybe this helps explain why social democracy has never come together in one party?

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Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:54 am

The CBC can always be recreated. Canada’s trade position cannot. I like the CBC a lot, and I think it should be expanded with greater federal funding, but look, if we managed to save CBC and not work on our long-term economic position, it’d all be for nought.

As someone who is frankly happier about cultural globalization that economic globalization, Canada’s trade position can go hang itself. (Why I am not a Liberal.) The CBC will be impossible to reconstitute once it is gone; the age of free trade has supplanted the age of positive institution-building. Until that ends, the bulwarks (including public broadcasting, in whatever language) must be maintained.

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Mandos 03.28.11 at 12:56 am

(1) that quebec would be strongly in favour of remaining in canada, and (2) that the rest of canada would be strongly in favour of kicking them out?

(1) The argument is that Quebec voters use independence as a blackmail threat for goodies.

(2) The people who most fervently believe in this interpretation are Alberta right-wing populists who are often indifferent to Quebec’s status in Canada, at best (“just go already!”).

So I’m not sure that this interpretation works.

145

Myles 03.28.11 at 12:57 am

As someone who is frankly happier about cultural globalization that economic globalization, Canada’s trade position can go hang itself. (Why I am not a Liberal.)

You know, the CBC would more or less be gutted anyways if Canada’s economic position turns into a giant version of Newfoundland in 1949, out of necessity if nothing else…

Rich countries can fund their cultural sectors more generously. Poorer countries cannot.

146

Mandos 03.28.11 at 1:00 am

As I believe that economic globalization on the whole has been an engine for the perpetuation of economic inequality in developed countries and an enormous bait-and-switch game on the whole, I do not agree that these things are necessarily linked except in the minds of those who subscribe to economism. If the problem is dependence on the USA, then by all means reduce that dependence.

147

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 1:00 am

So, you all speak English, right… And what is your ethnicity exactly?

Sure, the vast majority of French speakers in North America belong to one particular group, but the vast majority have completely abandoned, since at least the 1960s, a purely ethnic definition of themselves as a people.

It is you who insist in framing the Quebec question in ethnical terms. I never mentioned it. This ethnicity crap is just your way of bringing up the racism accusations against separatists.

148

Mandos 03.28.11 at 1:04 am

So, you all speak English, right… And what is your ethnicity exactly?

I for one have a very complex ethnicity with its basis in South Asia.

The reason why the ethnicity accusation comes up is that Quebeckers are attempting to protect something above and beyond what, apparently, individual choice would protect. If Quebec would lift all its language laws (and I’m not suggesting it do that), do you have no confidence that Quebeckers would choose to maintain their identity? If not, why not?

And if not, and if a larger principle were at stake, what is that larger principle? It looks to many outsiders like something the equivalent of ethnicity is at stake, in the sense of cultural/social continuity. Otherwise, it wouldn’t matter. Would it?

149

Myles 03.28.11 at 1:08 am

If the problem is dependence on the USA, then by all means reduce that dependence.

It’s like hydraulics. You can’t reduce dependence on the USA unless you increase trade with other countries. As some must have pointed out before me, the only effect of Canadian protectionism is compounded dominance by the American economy, because Canadian protectionism deters Americans much less than it deters other foreigners. Let’s just not go down that road again.

150

Myles 03.28.11 at 1:08 am

As I believe that economic globalization on the whole has been an engine for the perpetuation of economic inequality in developed countries

And by the way, you know, Canada has actually done really well out of economic globalization, both rich and poor…

151

Stephen 03.28.11 at 1:10 am

Is this blog actually moderated?

152

ckc (not kc) 03.28.11 at 1:41 am

Is this blog actually moderated?

as in “Canadians are trolls”?

153

JasonSL 03.28.11 at 1:53 am

Mandos: I do not agree that these things [prosperity and free trade] are necessarily linked except in the minds of those who subscribe to economism.

People with a nuanced view will recognize that increased allocative efficiency and free trade are close to necessarily linked. In the short term, increased allocative efficiency is linked to greater economic activity, which, depending on distribution, may or may not get translated into greater prosperity.

The problem with free trade for welfare liberals, which probably describes most people here, is that while it makes today’s pie bigger, and so is ceteris paribus desirable, increased allocative efficiency in the short term may not lead to greater economic growth in the long term, as some impediments to free trade can be sound industrial policy, and the diminishing marginal utility of wealth can mean that a bigger but less evenly-distributed pie can decrease material well-being.

So I’d restate your point to limit it to calling a necessary link between unharnessed, unmoderated free trade and prosperity a symptom of economism.

154

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 2:22 am

Someone above asked what issues will decide this election. The answer is of course none. The election result will be based on how effective the Conservative attack ads are at further demonizing Ignatieff. If the liberals can run a good campaign there is a chance that they can come out of this election with a few more seats. If they fumble a conservative majority will be the result. This would be a disaster for Canada. Despite what our friend Myles has said up thread, Stephen Harper is a hard right ideologue. His destruction of the census and his attack on the independence of the civil service should be proof enough.

/Personally I consider myself a Red Tory and in the past could have voted for any of the three major federalist parties. The new Conservative Party is not the Progressive Conservative Party of Old and will never get my vote. This time I will be voting NDP.
// As for the Quebec issue, while I do not want Quebec to separate I find their dominance of the federal civil service very worrying for the long term health of that institution.

155

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 2:23 am

Don’t bother with Myles Mandos. He has never seen a job that he didn’t want shipped overseas.

156

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 3:31 am

I’m done with this debate. Don’t get me wrong, I do love reading the kind of arguments that Canadian nationalist cook up to convince themselves that their nationalism is good while that of Quebecers separatists is bad. It’s very entertaining. But kind of repetitive after a while, as they tend to be variations on the same bogeymen.

157

Mandos 03.28.11 at 3:51 am

Loveshack: *shrug* How is that accusation of double standards any different from the anglo reaction to the idea that Canada is partitionable but Quebec is not? You basically dismissed every criticism without a response other than incredulity. Are the reasons why someone might object so hard to imagine?

The basic issue is whether cultural collectivities have rights.

MPAV: I’ll keep that in mind. :)

158

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:10 am

I know I said I was done, but i can’t resist to poke fun at Mandos argument about partition: look, right now pretty much everyone agrees what the territory of Quebec is. The federal government agrees, the neighbouring provinces agree, it all has been set down in treaty. What you are telling me is, if Quebec secedes, this changes.

I am forced to conclude that this would just be a way to punish Quebecers for separation.

Therefore, I politely request that you go do wheelies on a unicycle. Is that clear?

Now I’m really done.

159

Mandos 03.28.11 at 4:41 am

I know I said I was done, but i can’t resist to poke fun at Mandos argument about partition: look, right now pretty much everyone agrees what the territory of Quebec is. The federal government agrees, the neighbouring provinces agree, it all has been set down in treaty. What you are telling me is, if Quebec secedes, this changes.

When one territorial treaty opens, all relevant treaties open. You seem to think that Quebec is already a sovereign entity inside of Canada as opposed to a subsidiary, non-sovereign entity whose administrative borders are perfectly negotiable.

Otherwise no group without a well-defined border could ever secede. Everyone who wanted to secede would already have to be in possession of a province. That’s a pretty ridiculous position. Tito could have turned Yugoslavia into a unitary state and avoided all the fuss, otherwise.

This is all ridiculous anyway. It’s not actually going to happen on a “Yes” vote to a referendum, and it isn’t a way to punish Quebeckers. My argument was simply to point out that the accusations of hypocrisy work both ways. Quebec separatists cannot accuse “Canadian nationalists” of being hypocrites—there isn’t a sovereign Quebec nation yet; there are negative consequences to doing so and few positive ones.

160

Mandos 03.28.11 at 4:44 am

When one territorial treaty opens, all relevant treaties open. You seem to think that Quebec is already a sovereign entity inside of Canada as opposed to a subsidiary, non-sovereign entity whose administrative borders are perfectly negotiable.

Make that, are negotiated—Labrador. There’s no particular necessary reality to any provincial border.

161

djw 03.28.11 at 11:23 am

look, right now pretty much everyone agrees what the territory of Quebec is.

Couldn’t the same be said of Canada?

And what of the first nations in the North? My understanding is their preference is to remain in Canada, for pretty understandable reasons. Even if their precise boundaries aren’t precisely currently defined, should that really serve to vitiate their self-determination rights?

162

You're turning me trivial! 03.28.11 at 12:45 pm

Way back in the mists of this heated debate: “I mean, duh!”

Did you not mean “deux”?

Sorry about that, but (despite my deep interest in paultics and having spent much time with my Canajun relatives) my brain got dissolved about halfway down the thread.

I believe there are lower circles of hell where we might find the politics of Belgium and of Anglesey County Council, but there’s not been too much that’s educational or edifying in the preceding blathering. (Apologies to the handful of innocent parties!)

163

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 12:56 pm

Modern Canadian federalists have nothing to offer Quebecers except accusations of racism and threats of partition.

164

polyorchnid octopunch 03.28.11 at 1:22 pm

Well, I’m an Ontarian who lived for many years in Montreal, and in fact my children live with my ex-wife in Laval, Qc. After reading this thread, I have only one thing to say.

Myles, you’re an ignorant tool.

165

polyorchnid octopunch 03.28.11 at 1:23 pm

Oh, I lied, I have one other thing to say. Loveshack, so are you.

166

chris 03.28.11 at 2:10 pm

I suggest that nationalistic fragmentation is a recipe for violent conflict and further fragmentation, and that historically it has been proven to be so.

As opposed to lumping several ethnicities together into one state and calling it something like “Yugoslavia”, which could never lead to fragmentation and violence.

Heck, even Belgium is close to coming apart at the seams these days.

If you’re going to get the fragmentation whether you like it or not, you may as well try to achieve it peacefully, it seems to me.

167

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 2:23 pm

polyorchnid octopunch 03.28.11 at 1:23 pm:

“Oh, I lied, I have one other thing to say. Loveshack, so are you.”

Hey, Polyorchnid, I think you forgot to add that I’m also racist and insular and I don’t know what else. [/sarcasm]

168

boomer 03.28.11 at 2:58 pm

“Modern Canadian federalists have nothing to offer Quebecers except accusations of racism and threats of partition.”

And generous economic subsidies, a global currency, infrastructure investments, etc etc. I could go on, but what’s the point.

I think it’s telling that Quebec separatists can never quite bring themselves to put the question to their voters clearly : Separate from Canada, yes or no? Of course on such a question they would lose badly, so great amounts of obfuscation are necessary in order to tilt the playing field and present public opinion as being in favour of separation, when in reality at best a sizable minority is in favour of some kind of “looser union” but as we know that isn’t the fever dream of Quebec nationalism.

It’s telling, at least to me, that you get so touchy about the issue of racism. I think there’s no doubt that the origins of souverainisme are quite strongly steeped in ethno-nationalist and racist politics (l’argent et le vote ethnique) and while the BQ especially has made some admirable moves away from that history, that doesn’t retroactively change the past. And moreover, it can’t be denied that the move by the BQ and PQ to be more inclusive ipso facto sabotages the separatist project by including many people who see a vote for those parties as a way to achieve particular Quebecois interests *within* Canada, and for whom BQ is often a way to cast their vote for a more social democratic option.

169

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 3:33 pm

Blah blah, blah… We are not going to achieve anything by continuously arguing about this.

For separatists in the Canadian province of Quebec, the nation is Quebec. For their opponents, either inside the province of Quebec, or outside it, the nation is Canada.

Personally, I have no attachment to Canada, your country. It comes down to this: I do not feel Canadian. Fundamentally, the basis of it isn’t rational, it’s emotional. And your own attachment to your country, fundamentally,is as emotional as my attachment to Quebec. You’ll probably deny it and then find reasons why your own nationalism is more legitimate than mine, but it’s a load of crap.

As I said before, I want out. And the more I read your belittling arguments and your veiled accusations of racism and your rationalisations and justifications and constant reframing of the issue in the least flattering terms possible, the less I want to be part of it.

170

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 3:48 pm

If Quebecers vote for independence, I suggest that the model to adopt for what happens next should be the way how Norway became independent from Sweden peacefully, on to form two prosperous countries. I suggest that, in case Quebec separates, Canada and Quebec can learn from their example and find win-win solutions.

I mean, what’s the alternative? Sending in the army?

171

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 3:51 pm

Just wanted to add this letter to the editor from the Montreal Gazette from an Anglo Doctor working out of Montreal.

” Re: “A different story on language,” (Letters, March 24).

Several letters over the past few days have dealt with language difficulties in dealings with the Quebec bureaucracy. Michael Samuelson states that having always lived in Montreal he has never had any difficulties and while in business never had any problems with the Office québécois de la langue française (although many others have, as has been widely reported over the years.)

As a physician who also has lived in Montreal all his life I can also state that I never had any problems with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec whenever I called the special line for professionals for billing information to the medicare system; that is, until last fall when, speaking with an agent, I was informed that by law she was now under no obligation to speak to me in English. English discussions are permissible if a citizen were to call for information, but such courtesies were no longer to be extended to provincial professionals.

Such lack of respect and courtesy is just another cog in the wheel that drives young anglophone professionals out of Quebec.

There is no mystery to this continuing exodus. I complained in writing to my MNA, Geoff Kelly, on this issue but never received the courtesy of a response. But then again I’m an anglo and I guess my vote is presumably guaranteed.

John Bray M.D.

Beaconsfield ”

H.P. Loveshack I am curious what your response to this letter is.

172

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:10 pm

MPAVictoria, (#170):

“H.P. Loveshack I am curious what your response to this letter is.”

I think it lacked class and that it was rude of that agent to behave like that. I have no problems addressing people in English if it is clear that they do not speak French.

However, I also think that living and working in Montreal for years and years without learning enough French to get by is rather rude. There is no reason other than basic courtesy to address anglophones in English, anglophones should not take it for granted, or feel entitled to it.

Quebec is French, period.

173

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 4:20 pm

“There is no reason other than basic courtesy to address anglophones in English, anglophones should not take it for granted, or feel entitled to it.”

And you wonder why anglophones are worried about how an independent Quebec would treat them? This attitude helps explain why Quebec is suffering such a shortage of trained medical professionals.

174

Dex 03.28.11 at 4:25 pm

For the people who are wondering about the ethnicity aspect, one of the key stumbling blocks with any attempt at seperation by Quebec from Canada involves the native rights claims in Northern Quebec, including the vastly valuable hydro-electric complexes at James Bay. The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1976 has been the framework for administering the territory and claims, but much of the land is held as Crown-in-right-of-Quebec, under Canadian sovereignty. Seperation would invalidate the treaty, and Native Canadians in Quebec would maintain the strongest claim to about 60% of Quebec. Obviously, since most of those who advocate seperation in Quebec do so with the idea that their current borders would be the defacto borders of an indepedent country, it turns into a combustable issue in which pro-seperatists accuse nationalists of making it a racial issue to find ways to punish Quebec for leaving, and pro-nationalists accuse seperatists of ignoring native claims and rights of self-determination when convienent to their goals.

175

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:31 pm

@ MPAVictoria,

More Quebec bashing.

You must be one of those annoying english speakers that go to Paris and demand to be served in “la langue de Shakespeare” at all times!

Sure Quebec suffering’s “a shortage of trained medical professionals”, mostly generalist doctors. But so is the rest of Canada. And Quebec’s shortage was caused by massive cuts to healthcare, not because english-speaking doctors are leaving the province in droves because of our terrible, oppressive, racist language laws.

176

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:34 pm

I find the feeling of entitlement of so many English speakers rather humorous.
Quebec’s official language is French. This isn’t a bilingual province.

177

Jake 03.28.11 at 4:46 pm

I’m done with this debate.

If only. At least you are posting fewer comments on this subject than everyone else put together, so maybe someday you’ll be done. Or maybe Quebec and Arizona can secede from their respective countries and create a new North American alliance of “Culture Remains Always Pure” and leave the rest of us in peace.

178

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:51 pm

@ Dex (#173),

“…ignoring native claims and rights of self-determination when convienent to their goals.”

I must say, considering the way how the federal government has treated and still treats first nations, I find this whole defence of native claims and rights of self-determination argument rather hypocritical.

179

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 4:58 pm

@ Jake (#176),

Yes, I know, I’m a terrible, horrible racist. I must really despise and hate anglophones. I mean, I even bothered learning their language just so I could tell them how much I despise and hate them! [/sarcasm]

Et vous, comment va votre Français, mon cher Jake?

180

Dex 03.28.11 at 4:59 pm

@Loveshack (#177)

Perhaps, but I doubt the argument of “The Federal government screwed them historically so now we have the right to!” will play particularly well when the question comes up. However, it is a good example of one of the many factors that will be in play should a referendum ever succeed. Unfortunately, it usually ends up in the usual back and forth character assassinations as opposed to a real discussion of those elements that will complicate seperation.

Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that the only way Quebec can maintain its unique identity is as a part of Canada, and the rise of the PQ has diluted their traditional hold on federal executive power and allowed the rise of the Western conservatives. But, I’m not from Quebec or a seperatist, so my perspective is obviously going to be different.

181

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:05 pm

By the way, I think there are there are something like 58 countries that have French as an official language, including Canada.

They must all be racist, insular and, oh… So, so racist!

182

Clark 03.28.11 at 5:05 pm

Bill (72) I think the problem with most of the Maritime complaints is that they had their industries taken to prop up Quebec. But honestly that happened so long ago now (when was it that the container shipping was subsidized and put in Quebec – 50 years ago? 60 years ago?) that it’s hard to complain too much. And the real problem there is the relative loss of coal mining as a big driver of profits as well as the general loss of shipping and fishing due to economic forces mostly independent of the things that get debated. Also Nova Scotia has benefitted a bit from the oil that’s propping up Newfoundland.

I do think that the Maritimes justly worry about Quebec separating and what it would do to them. Back when I still lived in Nova Scotia and separation was last a big thing there were many even worried about more American dominance. I think that vastly overstated of course.

I moved to the states though and have been living here for a while. So I don’t know what things are like in Nova Scotia much anymore .

183

boomer 03.28.11 at 5:08 pm

“Quebec is French, period.”

Yikes. If I said Canada is English, period, I wonder how you’d react.

I think it’s so telling, you scratch under the surface of an apparently reasonable separatist, and you find ugly, ugly things. Their own “emotional needs” are paramount over anyone else’s rights, especially if those others are anglophone or allophone, or really anybody who isn’t “pur laine”. It’s like a spoiled child, who must be coddled and at all times told it’s special and different, and how its poop smells better than anyone else’s, or they’re just going to take their ball and go home.

184

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:11 pm

Dex (#179),

I would have loved a real discussion of these subjects, but the character assassinations, the veiled accusations of racism and the Quebec bashing started quite early, and things went down hill from there. No matter what I say, it gets reframed into ethnic nationalist terms, and from there, it’s just a small step towards racism.

Right now, I admit it, I’m just trolling. It’s infantile, but it makes me laugh.

185

boomer 03.28.11 at 5:11 pm

“I find the feeling of entitlement of so many English speakers rather humorous.”

There’s enough projection going on in this sentence to make one’s head spin.

186

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:14 pm

Boomer,

I have lived for short periods in Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. The rest of Canada is english. The bilingual country of Trudeau is dead. I’m not even sure if it once was alive.

187

Dex 03.28.11 at 5:14 pm

@boomer (#182)

He’s not incorrect. Quebec is the only unilingual province in Canada. However, the province is functionally bilingual in all but some rural areas.

However, any sort of generalization doesn’t help the conversation. It’s just name calling, facually incorrect, and doesn’t contribute.

188

Blain 03.28.11 at 5:21 pm

(Sigh)

Just to repeat my earlier point (from post 118), Quebec separatism has *nothing* to do with the current election.

Absolutely nothing.

Quebec separatism might become an issue again if/when the PQ form a government in the province of Quebec. Even then, though, I’m sceptical that we’ll see a referendum on separatism anytime soon, if ever, given the continuing low support for the idea in Quebec, and the anti-separatism demographic trends in the province (immigrants tend to oppose the idea).

Arguing about separatism is pointless until a PQ (majority) government is in power in the province, *and* it is seriously considering holding a referendum. Until those conditions hold, separatism simply is not on the cards.

What is this election about? Good question! The de jure cause for the election is the fact that a majority of the members of Parliament have found the Harper Government (TM) in contempt of Parliament (this was the issue of the vote of non-confidence). This is unprecedented, but, unfortunately (IMO), I’m not sure that most Canadians actually care about it. In all likelihood the next parliament will have a composition very similar to this one, although there is a distinct chance that Harper might achieve a majority (which worries me quite a bit). If Ignatieff doesn’t improve the Liberals’ overall representation, I suspect that he will call it a day (he’d likely be forced to quit in any case, as the Grits find it simply inconceivable that they have been denied power for so long, viz. 5 years).

189

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:21 pm

Boomer (#184):

“There’s enough projection going on in this sentence to make one’s head spin.”

In the territory of Quebec, anglophones represent about 13% of the population. I speak and write your language. Montreal is, by far, the most bilingual place in Canada.

How’s your French?

190

Dex 03.28.11 at 5:23 pm

@loveshack (#183)

I’d contend that there is fault on both sides here.

In any case, back to the original topic of the coalition, the issue is very much that the seperatist Bloc in a coalition brings out issues with Canadians outside of Quebec in having a party with a vested interest in undermining national interest in favour of one province having any legitimate say in the mechanics of governing. That’s an understandable position, and one that unfortunately drives the adversarial relationship with the federal government that you’ve displayed, and I can only assume is a fairly common opinion with those who favour seperatism. It feeds a cycle of feeling neglccted, and encourages votes for candidates who further seperate the province from the levers of power, and thus increases the feelings of neglect and lack of representation.

191

Dex 03.28.11 at 5:26 pm

@Blain (#187)

Unfortunately, it’s an election that was best suited for the Liberals to fight about fifteen years ago. Harper is vulnerable, but it requires the kind of bloody knuckles campaign that hammering relentlessly on the contempt charge and the scandals without even the slightest pause or concession. Letting the Tories start by defining this based on the ‘coalition’ nonsense has cost them a week already, and I get the feeling that the Liberal gameplan is to try and win it all at the debates. If so, they’ve badly miscalculated their strategy.

192

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 5:28 pm

“I have lived for short periods in Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. The rest of Canada is english. The bilingual country of Trudeau is dead. I’m not even sure if it once was alive.”

Ottawa is extremely bilingual, especially in the Civil Service. This of course has had the effect of squeezing out applicants from the West.

193

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 5:28 pm

“Montreal is, by far, the most bilingual place in Canada.”
And yet you argue that an Anglophone Doctor should not be able to receive government services in English.

194

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:32 pm

@Dex (#189),

I agree. I don,t know if you have read the rest of the thread, but I was initially a moderate federalist. I thought it was possible to find a way of satisfying Quebec’s need’s while remaining within the Federation. Good faith attempts were made with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords… But both were rejected. And these accords covered only Quebec’s minimal requests!

Yet, I voted “Non” in 1995 independence referendum. I still had faith that, considering how close to separation the country had been, that there would be another good faith attempt at mending things. But nothing has happened since then. In fact, I have the impression that things have actually gotten worse: I don’t remember a time when the hostility towards Quebec was so clear and permanent.

I feel cheated and I regret having voted “non”. Next time there’s a referendum, I’m voting “Oui”.

195

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 5:39 pm

MPAVictoria (#192) said “And yet you argue that an Anglophone Doctor should not be able to receive government services in English.”

I argue that he shouldn’t feel entitled to them, just like I think that one shouldn’t expect to be served in english in a Spanish cafe. Out of politeness, the waiter might address you in English, but he isn’t required to do so.

Quebec isn’t bilingual. Nevertheless, as the Anglophone doctor mentioned, it is rare that someone refuses to use English.

196

Dex 03.28.11 at 5:48 pm

@Loveshack (#193)

In my opinion, there lies the danger in electing substantial numbers of seperatist MPs. The battleground shifted from Quebec to Ontario and the West, and with that, the loss of the influence that originally brought the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords in the first place. Less than 20% of Quebec residents believe the province will actually seperate, especially considering the monumental challenges and potential losses that the process would involve for Quebec. With those factors in place, there’s no reason to deal seriously with the Bloc because their big threat isn’t something they can implement if they don’t get their way. And since the premise of their party is disjointing the country, there’s political points to be made by keeping them as far from power as possible.

I firmly believe the only way to adress Quebec’s desire as a unique society is from within Canada, and that only happens when Quebec has the influence to force a seat at the table. That doesn’t happen when their representation is dominated by seperatists.

197

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:00 pm

Dex (#195),

“I firmly believe the only way to adress Quebec’s desire as a unique society is from within Canada, and that only happens when Quebec has the influence to force a seat at the table. That doesn’t happen when their representation is dominated by seperatists.”

After the failures of Charlottetown and Meech, many Quebecers, even federalists Quebecers, pretty much lost all hope that their interests can be expressed and defended by a purely federalist party.

Just look at the political platforms and the leaders of the NPD, Liberals and Tories: if you were a Quebecer, even a mildly autonomist Quebecer, not a hardcore separatist, would you vote for any of these parties? Or would you vote for the Bloc and Duceppe, who at least are consistent and, for the most part, honest about their allegiances?

I don’t even really blame the Federalist parties: the mood of the rest of Canada is such that any significant positive gesture towards Quebec has pretty much become political suicide.

198

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 6:21 pm

“Montreal is, by far, the most bilingual place in Canada.”

“Quebec isn’t bilingual”

I am confused. Are you saying that Montreal is not part of Quebec?

199

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:26 pm

You’re easily confused. The Province of Quebec isn’t bilingual, it’s official language is French. But many, many Montrealers, the citizens of the largest city in the Province of Quebec, which is still part of Canada, speak both french and english.

200

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:28 pm

Sorry, it should read ‘its official language is French”.

201

MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 6:36 pm

If Montreal is bilingual and anglophones pay taxes shouldn’t they have the option of having services provided in English where numbers warrant such service? I support the Federal Gov’t providing services in French where numbers warrant. If there is a need for the service what is to be gained by failing to provide it?

202

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:41 pm

There’s one thing you have to understand: in Quebec, separatists are not bogeymen and racists, traitors and horrible, horrible persons. Everybody knows one, everyone has a friend or family member who wants an independent Quebec. People may perceive separatism as some kind of politically extreme movement elsewhere in Canada, for most Quebecers, even for strong federalists, separatism is a perfectly legitimate political option.

So even moderate federalists have little problem voting for the Bloc. And massive voting for the Bloc in Quebec helps produce minority governments. And since the Bloc and separatists are demonised outside Quebec, any kind of political alliance even peripherally involving the Bloc is unacceptable to the rest of Canada.

203

H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:50 pm

MPAVictoria (#200):

“If Montreal is bilingual and anglophones pay taxes shouldn’t they have the option of having services provided in English where numbers warrant such service? “

They have that option: for instance, there are english school boards, universities and hospitals. Many government services are provided in both languages. But, by the looks of it (I’m referring to your doctor’s letter), there are some government services which sometimes aren’t. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. The government must have its own reasons… Maybe there aren’t enough english-speaking persons requesting the service to justify maintaining a bilingual functionary. Maybe there’s a bilingual functionary, but he got dumped by his english-speaking girlfriend that morning. I don’t know. I don’t get all hot and bothered if there are some services that aren’t provided, as long as most are.

204

Yvan St-Pierre 03.28.11 at 6:50 pm

Not sure the current situation of mutual neglect is such a bad thing, really. The relative disconnect from federal politics, here in Quebec, actually lets us deal with our own issues without always blaming the feds, and the Rest-of-Canada can also handle its own stuff without bothering too much with us. I don’t think either that re-electing the sovereigntist provincial party here will have much of an impact, except make the rhetoric a bit more strident from time to time on both sides of the Ottawa river. Quebec separatism in Canada is a bit like hockey – some people get real serious about it, but it’s a lot more barking than bite.

In the longer term, I think the only thing that will break this deadlocked situation would be a realization in Quebec that more political strength can be levied through economic prosperity than through posing as a victim of history that should be compensated. When you’re only 1 in 50 North American with a francophone society, you better make it clear to yourself, as well as to potential investors and immigrants, that doing things in French will make you at least as well-off, or even better-off, than the rest of the continent.

I’m afraid this isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

By the way, hockey is especially relevant in this campaign, as the Bloc will certainly attempt to capitalize on the Conservatives’ refusal to fund a new arena in Quebec city, where most of the handful of Conservatives MPs in the province have been elected last time. Real funny thing is this could be the key to Harper gaining a majority or not.

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MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 6:53 pm

Shorter H.P Lovecraft: Don’t worry everybody I will be just fine.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:58 pm

Yes it will. In the Montreal area, there is by now a long tradition of getting along. Most english speakers know some french, most french speakers know some english. The two communities work side by side, and in general, there is no hostility.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 6:59 pm

And the name is Loveshack, not Lovecraft.

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MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 7:06 pm

Oh so sorry Mr. Sanctimony McPatronizer

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 7:10 pm

@ MPAVictoria (#207),

“Oh so sorry Mr. Sanctimony McPatronizer”

LOL!

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Bilingual in Alberta 03.28.11 at 7:11 pm

From my perspective, Quebec separatism is just one of the issues plaguing Canada’s political state of affairs which is, if you stop to think about it, extremely dysfunctional.

There are governmental structure issues like the lack of ratified constitution, senate issues, the disappointing performance of first-past-the-post, even our vestigial monarchy. There are education problems among the populace. Politicians get down to minimum business and maximum dirt-slinging, leaving voters skeptical and ill-informed. Talk of a coalition government produced unmitigated outrage from many people I know, who literally thought it was illegal. It is very true that many Canadians think we vote for the Prime Minister and not the MP.

How long can this system keep running while we turn a blind eye? I worry what will happen in this country without significant reform. Our government does not serve us well, regardless of who is in power.

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MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 7:28 pm

Seriously though I am sorry that you have felt the need to move from the federalist to the separatist camp. I think Canada is a stronger country with Quebec in it.

I find it interesting that those from Quebec feel that they are not being represented within Canada while other Canadians feel that Quebec has far to much influence. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

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piglet 03.28.11 at 7:50 pm

Marc 71, thanks for that comment. Btw, it is worth noting that this: “Instead, the French Canadians were allowed to keep their language, their culture, their Catholic religion, and even their Napoleonic legal institutions.” was one of the crimes that American revolutionaries accused the British king of in the Declaration of Independence. That bastard really deserved to be brought down. Not to mention that he also promised to respect the land rights of the Native Americans.

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piglet 03.28.11 at 7:54 pm

Loveshack: “the other provinces never elected separatist governments and they didn’t have two independence referendums.”

Sure and they voted No in both referendums, and they have voted the separatists out of government 8 years ago, and don’t forget that even when the PQ was in government, they never received close to 50% of the vote. So it is hard to follow your argument. The tendency seems to be precisely that Quebecers care less now about independence than they did 15 years ago, when the last referendum failed. Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus on a political project that actually appeals to a majority of Quebecers?

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 8:03 pm

The majority of Quebecers are Quebecers first. Even most of the federalists are, to different degrees, autonomists.

Generally speaking, nearly everyone wants the same thing: the long term survival of a French-speaking Quebec. Nearly no one wants to merge, assimilate, into english North-America.

A lot of Quebecers are strongly ambivalent: they want a sovereign Quebec within a united Canada, and many Quebecers still believe that Quebec can thrive, as a French speaking province, within Canada.

You can try building a political project that doesn’t involve the whole independence question, in fact, there are now people who are trying to pull that off, but I don’t think it can last. You can’t just ignore the elephant in the room: eventually, probably next time the federal government tries to intervene within matters of provincial jurisdiction (something that happens all the time), your coalition will split along federalist-separatist lines.

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MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 8:16 pm

“You can’t just ignore the elephant in the room: eventually, probably next time the federal government tries to intervene within matters of provincial jurisdiction”

Can you give examples of the kind of issues you think the federal gov’t is intervening in?

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Steve LaBonne 03.28.11 at 8:19 pm

You can try building a political project that doesn’t involve the whole independence question, in fact, there are now people who are trying to pull that off, but I don’t think it can last.

Given that there hasn’t been a PQ government in 8 years and there’s little prospect of one any time soon, I’d say it’s lasting just fine. (And I say that as a USAian of partly Québecois descent, who is quite sympathetic to Québec autonomism, and who reads French, though doesn’t speak it well, and would very much like the language to survive in North America.)

I have to say also that I can’t quite see how the cycle you described quite well in your #201 helps Québec.

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Yvan St-Pierre 03.28.11 at 8:20 pm

@ MPAVictoria
As opposed to HPL, I moved the other way around, from being a sovereigntist (using this word is not just positive spin, by the way, but it reflects the real resonance it has in Quebec, which is related to the capacity to manage one’s own affairs – most ‘separatists’ I’ve ever known would love to have their own country without having to dismantle anybody else’s) to being a federalist, under the general assumption that some economies of scales are actually pretty useful for our cultural vitality (not mentioning other public goods for which we share an interest with everyone else). This being said, I think we could all do without a lot of the drama that we see on both sides of the issue. I also find it difficult to understand that we all seem to have disagreements where we still assume the good faith of the other party, but as soon as linguistic politics comes in, no one seems to just agree to disagree. It’s all historical humiliation here, and human rights violation there.

It’s also interesting to see that ‘separatists’ often get conflated with the much larger set of those who believe that bill 101 is a legitimate law (for those not familiar with our political background, this is our language law, which constrains somewhat the use of language in public and institutional settings). Why is language so much more fundamental a right than, say, use of a given currency, when the use of English is limited, but is incomprehensibly childish nit-picking when it is a francophone majority making a democratic choice to tilt incentives a bit further in its favor? If Arizona had a Spanish-speaking majority voting a pro-Spanish law, then the comparison would make more sense, right? But would it have the same rhetorical strength then?

Dialogue across the language divide would take a huge step in the right direction if it just left these old colonial rivalries in the closet for a while. But that’s the old idealist in me talking – for now, the cold shoulder is probably the best we can do.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 8:41 pm

@ MPAVictoria (#213):

The last conflict involving federal vs. provincial jurisdictions (it’s still going) involved the creation by the Federal government of a national securities commission. The governments of Alberta and Quebec oppose the creation of such a commission: provinces have traditionally been responsible for regulating securities because of their constitutional authority over property and civil rights.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.28.11 at 8:44 pm

Steve LaBonne (#214): Quebec,s liberal party, the main provincial federalist party, are extremely unpopular right now, so much so that i don,t think they will be able to climb back and win the next elections, which are due, I believe, in a couple of years. There will be a PQ government sooner or later. This issue won’t go away.

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chris 03.28.11 at 8:56 pm

Btw, it is worth noting that this: “Instead, the French Canadians were allowed to keep . . . their Napoleonic legal institutions.” was one of the crimes that American revolutionaries accused the British king of in the Declaration of Independence.

How could the British king, at or before the time of the Declaration of Independence, possibly have allowed *anyone* to keep Napoleonic legal institutions?

And why would the same people who passed the First Amendment consider “allowing” someone else to keep their Catholicism an “accusation”?

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MPAVictoria 03.28.11 at 8:56 pm

“The last conflict involving federal vs. provincial jurisdictions (it’s still going) involved the creation by the Federal government of a national securities commission. The governments of Alberta and Quebec oppose the creation of such a commission: provinces have traditionally been responsible for regulating securities because of their constitutional authority over property and civil rights.”

But after seeing the mess that poorly regulated securities markets resulted in in the United States doesn’t it make sense to regulate this on a national level? I mean regulating securities is hardly the sort of thing to inspire people to the barricades is it?

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Bill Gardner 03.28.11 at 9:02 pm

Any suggestions as to what a curious neighbor might read to get some background on your politics (and not just the Anglo-French tension)? I read a general academic history of Canada some time ago and found it a bit of a snooze. This is to your credit and good fortune: no Gettybsurg, no Watergate, no Wounded Knee.

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Pascal Leduc 03.28.11 at 9:02 pm

Whats the difference between a Quebecer who is Quebecer first and one who is Canadian first. As a french canadian living in montreal I see allot of overlap between the two. Everytime the subject of Quebec cultured is brought up it is always presented as being some kind of fixed unchanging group-think, independent of the people who actually inhabit the province. I simply dont consider it possible for a group of people to “lose” their culture, it can only change and modify, something that people like Loveshack apparently consider abhorrent.

Honestly, as someone born in 85 my whole childhood has been dominated by the question of seperation and i am sick of it. Separatism has taken on this mythic idea where if it achieved then all of our problems will be instantly and eternally fixed, feeding into this is a complete refusal by seperatists to define exactly in what way and to what degree seperation whould happen, better to keep things vague so that we do not mire ourselves in the detail.

At this point ive come to the decision that seperatism is either a joke or a failure. Either the PQ has no hope or no intention (or both) of calling another referendum and simply fans seperatist flames to get their votes (think anti-abortion politicians in the states). Or it simply just failed and the whole thing should be tabled and a forgotten for the short term and frankly most likely for the long term too.

Almost all of my friends are francophone and none of them are separatists, in fact in all the people i know, the only seperatist i know of is my own father, i don’t know anyone of my generation who wants seperation most don’t even care. Bill 101 might have preserved the french language but it did nothing to give the kind of emotional connection that would make them care.

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bh 03.28.11 at 9:25 pm

#93 — I’m glad you’ve done a good job convincing yourself, because I can’t imagine you’ve done that for anyone else. You and your main opponent here are both coming off pretty badly, but at least Myles seems to be making arguments in between the stuff that sounds kinda bigoted.

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Pascal Leduc 03.28.11 at 9:36 pm

Bill, I dont know to much about literature that you could find, though I would encourage you to look for anything about the founding of canada as a nation since its full of politicians who where quite a character, high stakes political drama and judging from the pictures, lots of booze. I cannot imagine such a combination not generating some interesting reading :)

Otherwise you can always grab some inspirations from these patriotic canadian commercials

They are little vignettes that contain important events and characters to canadian culture and probably the most patriotic thing Canadians could ever produce. As a child I saw them all the time during commercial breaks on TV. You can probably use them as jumping points for books that refer to the more interesting parts of our history.

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James 03.28.11 at 10:10 pm

I agree 100% with absolutely everything HP Loveshack has said. I also believe that the anglos that left Quebec left because they couldn’t be bothered to speak french and/or couldn’t be bothered to live in a society where they weren’t the dominant ones, and/or were searching for jobs. Not because of any fault of the french for standing up for themselves.

To hear the anti-Quebec stuff coming out of people like Myles’ mouth has recently tipped me over the edge into being a believer in separating as well. And I’m an Anglo. If the ROC want to go and frame the debate in such ugly terms, without even addressing in the smallest way the real concerns Quebecers have, then it is hard to see that as anything but the end of the road for the Quebec-in-Canada project.

I could decend quite easily into the types of arguments Myles has but against the ROC, there is quite a few nice little “points” I could score, making the ROC look quite poorly. But I think we are all quite sick of the back and forth at this point.

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hellblazer 03.28.11 at 10:47 pm

Yikes, what happened to this thread? Anyway, not having time to thoroughly parse or think through all the comments since my last one, I’ll just second #118, # 163, # 164, # 187 and #222

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Myles 03.28.11 at 11:06 pm

Any suggestions as to what a curious neighbor might read to get some background on your politics (and not just the Anglo-French tension)?

George Grant, Lament for a Nation, considered the seminal work on Canadian nationhood; Michael Ignatieff is his nephew.

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piglet 03.29.11 at 12:09 am

chris: “How could the British king, at or before the time of the Declaration of Independence, possibly have allowed anyone to keep Napoleonic legal institutions?”

Good point. I quoted the “Napoleonic” from Marc without thinking. The clause in the Declaration I am referring to is this: “For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province…” The clause refers to a 1774 law that allowed Quebec to keep most of its French legal traditions and to remain catholic. An explanation of the context is here: http://colonialhall.com/histdocs/declaration/declarationanalysis20.php

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piglet 03.29.11 at 12:57 am

218: “Quebec,s liberal party, the main provincial federalist party, are extremely unpopular right now, … There will be a PQ government sooner or later.”

There may very well be a PQ government but not because Quebecers want separation. It will be because they will get tired of the current government after many years and PQ is the main opposition party. The PQ has regularly received 40%+ (never a majority) of the vote from 1976 to 1998. Since then it has hovered around 30% and even fell to 3d party status in 2007 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Quebec_general_elections). I have lived in Quebec City and it was striking how quickly this almost exclusively francophone PQ stronghold eroded in the past decade – only the central city still elects PQ/BQ candidates. That is despite the fact that the Capitale Nationale is full of provincial public service employees who tend towards nationalism, and most francophones I knew were in fact souverainistes (but at least one changed his mind recently). My anecdotal impression is that separatism simply doesn’t appeal any more. People realize it doesn’t solve their problems and are tired of the old debates.

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Alain 03.29.11 at 2:24 am

Let’s try an allegory.

Those who want independence for Quebec (separation from Canada, say those who are against it) are like the nerds looking forward to the singularity, wanting the singularity to happen. They are even willing to work hard towards its success, sometimes.

Those who do not want the singularity or are in denial of it or denounced it as impossible (or don’t know much about computers) are the good people in the rest of Canada.

Now the singularity won’t happen overnight and in the meantime the singularity nerds and those who are in denial of it have to sort of live in the same country and think of forming a political coalition to make Peace, Order, and Good Government possible..

The only way to make a coalition happen is for the singularity denial bunch to enter in a pact with the singularity nerds, those who want to download their brains into computers and become one with machines. Oh, and in addition to the digitizing of minds and their downloading that part of the Canadian landscape in and around Quebec is going to be completely transformed by nanobots.

“Let nanobots loose on our Canadian soil? You must be crazy!”, say many people in the rest of Canada, outside of singularity-yearning Quebec. “Nano-whats?” say many other people in the rest of Canada. They haven’t quite caught up with the concepts involved you see.

“But the singularity will be good for everybody!” say the singularity nerds of Quebec. “Eternal life for all. No suffering. No material wants. Besides, it’s Quebec soil, it’s our land”

“Enter into a coalition with those digital freaks? I’d rather go back to the abacus”

This allegory means to show that we are not speaking the same language.

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Tom West 03.29.11 at 3:40 am

While I’m a Canadian nationalist, I have to say that I find H.P. making the most cogent points.

Generally speaking, nearly everyone wants the same thing: the long term survival of a French-speaking Quebec. Nearly no one wants to merge, assimilate, into english North-America.

There is an strong continuous pressure, both economically and culturally, for French-speaking Canada to be absorbed into the English majority. The *only* way to avoid that is to make Quebec unilingual. Does this have a huge economic cost? Of course. Does it mean that anglophones will be find Quebec less accommodating to their language? Yes.

Is there any other way to preserve Quebecois culture and language? No.

In the end, these are costs that most Quebecers consider to be worth paying.

I’d be less sympathetic, but given that I’m perfectly willing to put up with laws that restrict my economic activity (and substantially lower our economic growth) in order to maintain my culture as distinct from the United States, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to blame Quebecers for doing the same.

Both Canadian and Quebecois governments do what they must to maintain their distinct identity. However, what they must do to maintain that identity *is* different.

However, it is my genuine hope that that Quebec will be able to find the accommodations it needs to survive within Canada. I fully expect to see sovereignty issues come and go at least 3 or 4 more times in my lifetime and do not think it will ever be “resolved”.

I also hope (probably vainly) that ROC Canadians will be able to deal with having their feelings hurt by the rejection of their beloved country by Quebec nationalists in a far more adult way than we’re seeing here.

Anyway, I’m betting it’s a long time before anyone else here is unwise enough to ask again about Canadian politics…

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King Rat 03.29.11 at 4:05 am

I’m not entirely sure, as I almost never am when reading separatist arguments, what H.P. Loveshack is talking about when he talks about how English Canada isn’t willing to make concessions to Quebec to preserve the French language and their unique status within Canada; I have vivid memories of Parliament overwhelmingly passing a motion declaring that Quebec constituted a nation within Canada. I would also not be at all surprised if Yvon Godin’s bill mandating bilingualism for Supreme Court appointees becomes law in the next Parliament. Against this, we have…a proposed national securities regulator. I can feel the oppression all the way out here in the Maritimes.

Quebec nationalists, as we’ve seen in this thread, feel very aggrieved when anyone brings up the possibility of partitioning la belle province in the aftermath of a successful secession referendum. I honestly don’t know why. The Supreme Court ruled in the Secession Reference that the government of Canada would be obliged to negotiate with the government of Quebec in the aftermath of a successful referendum; there’s no obligation that the federal government abandon Canadian citizens in Montreal and the north who wished to remain Canadian.

I think the biggest blind spot sovereigntists have is not any of the strawmen that H.P. Loveshack had delighted in thrashing. They seem to have no appreciation for how the rest of the country would react to a yes vote. I think that H.P. Loveshack is right to scornfully dismiss the notion that we’d send in the army. Quebec would become an independent country, and without bloodshed. After that, all bets are off. And it’s the rosy assumptions that seem to permeate sovereigntist discourse that I think most infuriates and, in a dark way, amuses people in the ROC. Canadian passports? No assumption of Canadian debt? An undivided Quebec? Dream on, I say.

My basic position on Quebec nationalism is that while I would like it if Quebec would continue to pursue its aspirations within Canada, I really don’t care if Quebeckers decide to go. The only thing I will say is that they should make that choice with their eyes open: it will be a messy, if bloodless, divorce, and both Quebec and Canada will come out of it diminished. If, after considering that, Quebeckers choice independence, then frankly I think the country is better off without them.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:33 am

Right, exactly: I agree with the idea that the balance that Quebec has struck within its borders is good for Canada. It has worked so far, even if it may chafe to people who believe that individual rights always trump collective rights.

As King Rat puts it, it’s the rosy assumptions of the post-”yes” future that are the problem. The slogans of the sovereignty movement during the 1995 referendum prominently included “Yes, and it all becomes possible.” No, no it doesn’t. The RoC will accept Quebec’s independence, but not necessarily on the terms most favorable to Quebec.

The problem moving forward constitutionally in Canada is (1) exhaustion with the subject and (2) the rise of the West, particularly Alberta, which has a set of issues it has (now we would say) historically felt to be neglected by the constitutional wrangling, and addressing all these issues in ways that are most optimal individually to Canadian regions may not be so optimal for the federation as a whole.

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piglet 03.29.11 at 2:46 pm

I think the biggest blind spot sovereigntists have is not any of the strawmen that H.P. Loveshack had delighted in thrashing. They seem to have no appreciation for how the rest of the country would react to a yes vote.

I think the even bigger problem would be how those Quebecers who voted No would react. Suppose an independence vote succeeds with 55% (a higher share is totally unrealistic). That would leave the new country with 45% of its population opposed to its existence. These people won’t just roll over and assimilate, let alone enthusiastically support the new nation. The idea that you hold referendums until you scratch together a bare majority in favor, and then have a democratic mandate for secession, and then a new country with a bright future is just waiting for you, that is what strikes me as incredibly naive about the whole souverainiste project. Anglophones and Francophones and First Nations will have to live together in Quebec whether or not you call it a sovereign country.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 3:16 pm

Oh look, more people putting words in my mouth! How fun!

I never said anywhere that Quebecers are profoundly oppressed. Also, I find the fascinating the hurry with which so many dismiss any complaint regarding the federal government. The securities commission is the latest provincial/federal conflict. But, because we have a federalist provincial government right now, and we live in morose times, there haven’t been a lot of occasions for serious conflict. There has been other recent conflicts, like the supreme court intervening in the affair of the “écoles passerelles”, for instance. But the Charest government decided to go along. I find it interesting that, even when there’s a grovelingly servile pro-federalist provincial government, there are still provincial/federal conflicts. I can only shudder with excitement at how things are going to be when there will be a Parti Quebecois government! But I’m a cup half-full kind of guy, you know. ;)

Also, unlike many separatists, I have no illusions regarding the behaviour of english Canada in case of separation. And I am fully aware that there will be some tough times ahead after a declaration of independence. My hope is that there will be negotiations, and that they will be lead in good faith. I gave the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905 as an example of how I hope things will go down. But if partition is on the table, I can tell you, things are going to turn ugly very fast. Is that really what you want?

237

H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 3:26 pm

You know what’s going to happen if there’s no independence? The demographic, political and economical weight of Quebec within the Canadian federation will continue to inexorably decline. The west and the prairies are on the rise, and they are far more conservative, far more favourable to North American integration, and less understanding of Quebec’s needs. Under the weight of North American mass culture, Quebecers eventually will go the way of the Manitoban french. But I’m sure we’ll keep a few nice folkloric traditions for the tourists, something a bit like Cajun music and creole cuisine.

238

MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 3:35 pm

H.P. Loveshack:
“But if partition is on the table, I can tell you, things are going to turn ugly very fast. Is that really what you want?”
I just don’t see how you can be logically consistent if partition is off the table. If Quebec can leave vote to leave Canada why can’t Montreal, or a native reserve, vote to leave Quebec?

239

H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 3:42 pm

As I said before, the present territory of the province of Quebec is accepted by pretty much all the institutions involved, federal and provincial… And most importantly, it is accepted by the majority of Quebecers. If you really want to start negotiating with a newly independent Quebec under the worst possible terms, just bring partition to the table. It’s the best way to really alienate Quebecers and start some serious conflict.

Hell, you might even unify the vast majority of the francophone population, even those that voted “Non”, against the rest of Canada!

240

H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 3:44 pm

You are not scaring anyone with partition, you know. In fact, you are helping less reasonable separatists whip up anti-Canadian sentiment.

241

Substance McGravitas 03.29.11 at 3:47 pm

It is a blog comment section. We are whipping up pixels.

242

Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 3:54 pm

I’m also a single issue Canadian voter and would like people to address my concerns of Hamilton ever getting an NHL team*.

Speaking of keeping the terms of Separation as vague as possible (EXCEPT NO PARTITION!), I’m wondering how Separation will do anything to prevent this from happening: “The demographic, political and economical weight of Quebec within the Canadian federation will continue to inexorably decline”. Well, okay the “within the Canadian federation” part, sure – but materially, the notion that an independent Quebec will somehow be more robust and resilient against the cultural influence of the rest of North America is one of those begging the question things**.

*If they did, then Toronto will want one too!
** Also too, whether this is even a good or positive thing.

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Jake 03.29.11 at 3:55 pm

The present territory of the nation of Canada is accepted by pretty much all institutions involved; it’s only a disaffected minority in one province that disagrees.

244

H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 4:15 pm

At Dragon-King Wangchuck (#241),

There are a number of nations that are territorially smaller and have populations less numerous than Quebec (Scandinavian countries come to mind), but no one contests their right to exist, or that their continued existence hasn’t favoured their culture and language. Why must Quebec be any different?

245

H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 4:18 pm

Ahhh… I’m bored.

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jim 03.29.11 at 4:25 pm

Tom West 231: Anyway, I’m betting it’s a long time before anyone else here is unwise enough to ask again about Canadian politics…

I dunno. I think it’s been an informative thread. Someone did ask, Why doesn’t Quebec secede? and we’ve had answers. We’ve been shown rather than told, perhaps.

I do think the question has been posed the wrong way round. Why doesn’t Quebec secede? Because the majority of Quebeckers don’t want to. H. P. Loveshack (a wonderful screen name by the way — the B-52s bomb Cthulhu? — even if the cultural references are somewhat anglophone) somewhere upthread called Meech Lake Quebec’s minimum demands. Not so. The minimum demands that a majority of Quebeckers make of Canada have been met. So they’re willing to stay.

The right way to pose the question is, Why doesn’t English Canada expel Quebec? or, more subtly, Why doesn’t English Canada revert to the oppressive anti-francophone policies of, say, sixty years ago, and drive Quebec to secede?

Four reasons:

1. Fear of violence against what is still a substantial anglophone presence in Quebec. The FNLQ had a perverse effect. The violence they thought would lead to separation instead led to sufficient amelioration that separation became unnecessary. Withdraw that amelioration and the violence may return.

2. There has grown up along the Montreal-Toronto axis a conurbation, like BosWash or the Bay Area or Southern California, which is economically fruitful. Dropping an international boundary across it might damage it.

3. The East Pakistan/West Pakistan problem. No-one wants a truck traveling from Toronto to Moncton to have to go through two sets of customs and immigration.

4. Fear of further breakup. The Canadian National Idea is not strong. If Quebec goes, why shouldn’t the Maritimes or BC or the Prairies?

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 4:30 pm

Quebec doesn’t have to be any different. That’s my point.

A sovereign Quebec is still going to have the troubles of an ascendent global English language hegemony. Will still have to deal with cultural imports from ROC and the USA. Will still be filled with a not insignificant number of anglophones. It’s not like a sovereign Quebec could do a better job at policing language than it’s doing right now.

What advantages are there? Their own flag and symbolic unity to strengthen cultural identity. That’s awesome. It’s also what Quebec has right now.

Also too, my point about Hamilton. Because a Hamilton NHL team is much more likely at this time than a Yes vote under the Clarity Act.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:32 pm

1. Most of these small countries do not exist in a sea of English in which Quebec does exist with or without independence.

2. Many people in these smaller (and not so smaller) countries fear assimilation into global mass culture, regardless of their sovereignty—it is a product of mass communications technology + young people. Very few tools would be added to the Quebec cultural defense arsenal from sovereignty.

3. Some of these countries have banded together in federalizing entities. If you think that the EU, despite not being officially sovereign, isn’t more intrusive than Ottawa, you are mistaken. (See point #2.) Canada despite being a sovereign country has more of a separation of powers than the very intrusive (by comparison) acquis communautaire.

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 4:33 pm

“As I said before, the present territory of the province of Quebec is accepted by pretty much all the institutions involved, federal and provincial”

This isn’t really an answer. The territory that makes up Montreal, or a hypothetical native reserve, is pretty much accepted by all institutions involved. Why can’t these political organizations democratically opt out of Quebec the same way Quebec can opt out of Canada? This is particularly true in regards to native reserves.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:35 pm

Are our non-Canadian bystanders still watching this? Who knew that this whole can of worms would be opened by the OP? Of course it would. It’s like your neighbours decided to have their shouting match on the front lawn.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 4:37 pm

Oh, keep in mind that I, in no way, speak for other separatists or even other Quebecers. I’m just some guy with way too much free time on his hands.

I just hope that my opinions and explanations have made you understand a bit bettter why so many Quebecers vote for the Bloc and the Parti Quebecois.

But it is obvious that some people prefer to just listen to their prejudices and demonize away… What can a poor seperatist do, eh?

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:38 pm

You know what’s going to happen if there’s no independence? The demographic, political and economical weight of Quebec within the Canadian federation will continue to inexorably decline. The west and the prairies are on the rise, and they are far more conservative, far more favourable to North American integration, and less understanding of Quebec’s needs.

But this is also partly true of Ontario too. And the Maritimes. Even though both of these by and large speak English. Or did you think that the ongoing expansion of the west-centric Canadian petro-state didn’t have a price in the manufacturing parts of Southwestern Ontario?

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:41 pm

But it is obvious that some people prefer to just listen to their prejudices and demonize away… What can a poor seperatist do, eh?

The problem is that sovereigntists do not take this discussion as a two-way street, but tend to take the objections to it as illegitimate. Canada as a whole is open to the prospect of Quebec separating with active support for the idea in some pockets particularly in the West. It’s just that it may not have the salutary effects you think it has, and the ongoing threat itself has negative consequences that prevent other political developments from moving forward.

Ironically, the Bloc might in any case be one of the best arguments against sovereignty…

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 4:43 pm

Wait, are you people seriously trying to argue that staying within a federation completely dominated by monolingual anglophones is going to somehow increase the chances of long term survival of a french Quebec?

‘Cause, you know, that sounds really weird to me.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 4:45 pm

Since we’re dealing with Alternate Universe scenarios (next we should do one where teh Leafs win against Buffalo tonight, pushing the Sabres into a massive season-ending slump, securing a spot in the play-offs which leads to Toronto’s first Stanley Cup in forever and then Scarlett Johanssen shows up wearing nothing but a James Reimer jersey), I’m also against partition. I’m in agreement with HPL that Quebec’s borders are defined. That’s how you determine who gets to vote in the Referendum. If Montreal or Cree Nation want to separate from Sovereign Quebec or join Canada or propose a non-binding statement that Gilles Duceppe is a poopyhead, they’ll have to take the positive step of doing so.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:51 pm

Wait, are you people seriously trying to argue that staying within a federation completely dominated by monolingual anglophones is going to somehow increase the chances of long term survival of a french Quebec?

Yes. Under the historical arrangement of the Canadian federation going on a few decades now, the argument is that it’s going to make no difference at best, and at worst it exposes Quebec to America directly rather than indirectly, and Quebec does not have the population of e.g. Mexico or the level of difference with America that Mexico has.

This is long been one of the anti-sovereigntist arguments. You’ve never heard it before?

That’s how you determine who gets to vote in the Referendum. If Montreal or Cree Nation want to separate from Sovereign Quebec or join Canada or propose a non-binding statement that Gilles Duceppe is a poopyhead, they’ll have to take the positive step of doing so.

No one disagrees with this. I don’t know about HPL, though, but in previous arguments I’ve had over partition, it is the very legitimacy of a referendum in, say, Westmount in Montreal that is questioned by sovereigntists. ie, Quebec anglos cannot vote to separate from Quebec, because the borders of Quebec are more legitimate.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 4:52 pm

Cause, you know, that sounds really weird to me.

Yes. Quebec’s influence on Canadian politics is by far out of proportion to her population, economy, heck even her land mass. As the petulent and squeaky wheel in Confederation that has a long history of being catered to, being part of Canada is in her best interests. Granted this is declining, what with the new dominance of the Oil Sands interests – but Sovereignty is not going to change that at all. In fact, one might argue that removing such a large non-Alberta chunk from Canada might make Quebec-ROC relations even more difficult in terms of respecting Quebec’s distinct identity.

Unless of course you have some explanation as to how a sovereign Quebec has better options and ability to promote her identity.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:53 pm

In other words, re the survival of French, the (ongoing) fear of the 1982 constitution as written was/is mostly misplaced.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 4:54 pm

Mandos,

Nice! Now try to convince me that black is white!

This is silly.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:55 pm

In fact, one of the arguments of Western populists IN FAVOUR of “letting” Quebec go is that Quebec will thus be exposed to the international economic and political reality of its own situation directly (without the moderating buffer of the officially bilingual federal state), and thus assimilation to English will continue if anything at a faster rate.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 4:57 pm

That you have never been exposed to this line of argument (very standard and old in English media, particularly in the West) and react with incredulity suggests that you are not as much of an old hand at this as I thought you were. It is basically taken as a given in Anglo media that the federal state protects rather than dilutes francophone culture as a kind of “van Allen belt” given the stiff “solar wind” of global economics.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 4:59 pm

You’ve never heard it before?

Actually I hadn’t. Or probably, I had heard it but misunderstood because it’s crazy. What is this, grade school recess? “We’re secedeing and taking Cree Nation with us! No touchbacks!”

But anyways, I empathize with Sovereigntists on this partition thing anyways. As if a Yes vote wasn’t already hypothetical enough.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 5:02 pm

Wait. I quoted the wrong part. My bad.

No takers on the Hamilton thing, huh?

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 5:04 pm

Furthermore, paradoxically, the influence of the Canadian prairies is highly decentralist and favour devolution of powers onto all provinces including Quebec…

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 5:16 pm

Dragon-King Wangchuck:
I could get behind a new hockey team in Hamilton. At the end of the day what is one more team for my beloved Oilers to lose to anyway?

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 5:18 pm

H.P. Loveshack:
Just think of how many jobs the Federal Gov’t reserves for Francophones in the civil service with its official bilingualism policy. Those positions would vanish if Quebec separated.

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Okie in Montreal 03.29.11 at 5:19 pm

CT comments policy “Commenters who who routinely seek to make marginally relevant debating points may be barred to make room for those with a substantive contribution to the discussion. It is up to us. ” How does this conversation not meet this threshold?

Secession is such a tired issue (especially around here) that Lonely Planet advises visitors to avoid talking about it lest you bore your dinner hosts. We can discuss the BQ without using the S word.

John, check this one out.

Legislative Coalitions and Minority Governments in Canada
http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2009/Godbout-Hoyland.pdf

Jean-François Godbout ( Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University)
Bjørn Høyland (Department of Political Science, University of Oslo)

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 5:22 pm

MPAV,

Then we are mortal enemies. If Hamilton makes the playoffs before Toronto (extremely likely if they ever get a team) then the shame will be TOO MUCH TO BEAR. Toronto would have to secede so that ROC won’t see our bitter bitter tears, but only hear our mournful wailing from behind our locked borders.

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 5:34 pm

Dragon-King:
I am sure we will both be very old men before Canada wins another Cup. Who knows though? Maybe the Canucks will do it this year.

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chris 03.29.11 at 5:36 pm

No-one wants a truck traveling from Toronto to Moncton to have to go through two sets of customs and immigration.

Customs inspectors seeking job security?

Or, less facetiously, Monctonian local businessmen whose businesses are endangered by goods trucked in from Toronto?

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 5:39 pm

Mandos,

My god, I just realised I should thank you for all you have done for Quebec! You have been so busy, working so hard, protecting us from the big bad anglo world, and here I am, a mountain of ingratitude, biting the hand that feeds me! [/sarcasm]

As I said before, this is silly.

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 5:43 pm

H.P. Loveshack:
I am not so sure it is silly. The federal government provides a ton of jobs, particularly jobs in management, for bilingual Canadians who usually happen to be francophones.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 5:46 pm

Well since Vancouver is not The Centre of The Universe, I’m all “meh.” Really, it would be nice for the Leafs to make the post-season for the first time since the Lockout. Regarding Hamilton though, as an Oilers fan, how would you feel if Calgary got an NHL team?

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 5:49 pm

Dragon-King:
NEVER MENTION CALGARY IN MY PRESENCE!!!!

On a more serious note I get where you are coming from and as someone who does not really care one way or the other you can consider me convinced that it is a bad idea.

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knaveofstaves 03.29.11 at 5:55 pm

@Mandos 248:

I’m from that second-order CA (-lifornia) and I’m reading, learning, enjoying, refreshing. Though I spent an embarassingly long amount of time wondering why Taiwan had such an outsize influence on Canadian politics. (The ROC.)

A brief summary of recent Canadian politics: “The decline of the Liberal Party has forced an uncertain realignment. Government is increasingly dysfunctional, because none of the four parties in the House of Commons present a vision that can win a majority.”

Sound fair? Is the Liberal Party still the natural party of government? Were Martin, Dion, and now Ignatieff all so… distasteful?

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.29.11 at 6:02 pm

you can consider me convinced that it is a bad idea

See HPL, this is how you win others to your way of thinking. Everyone loves a common object of ridicule to demonize! Here’s an example – Celine Dion’s Canada Includes Quebec.

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 6:26 pm

MPAVictoria,

Could you please tell me how many french speaking Quebcers work for the feds, as a % of the population of Quebec? 1%? 20%? 0,005%?

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H.P. Loveshack 03.29.11 at 6:28 pm

I don’t think you realise the patronising tone of those types of arguments.

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 6:32 pm

My god, I just realised I should thank you for all you have done for Quebec! You have been so busy, working so hard, protecting us from the big bad anglo world, and here I am, a mountain of ingratitude, biting the hand that feeds me! [/sarcasm]

Don’t shoot the messenger. This is exactly how Quebec is seen in the West, and you probably know that know that—a mountain of ingratitude, biting that hand that feeds it. It’s less so in Ontario, which stands to be hurt be the departure of Quebec. But its the default position in e.g. Alberta to believe that Alberta oil subsidizes Quebec culture.

I would be so quick to completely dismiss all of the idea, though. As I said, there are disadvantages to unitary states. I don’t agree with the Western populists; Quebec along with all other provinces punch above their overall individual weights in the highly decentralized Canadian system…

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 6:34 pm

In the long run, by the way, as long as mass communications culture continues, no extant minority culture is going to survive, regardless of what state architecture they set up. Barring a total civilizational collapse, our descendents will all be speaking the same language, perhaps Mandarin-influenced AngloFrancoHispanoHindi.

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Substance McGravitas 03.29.11 at 6:49 pm

Could you please tell me how many french speaking Quebcers work for the feds, as a % of the population of Quebec? 1%? 20%? 0,005%?

I have no current number, but way back in the nineties it was over 100 000 employees. It’s not going to be insubstantial. Presuming those people are doing necessary things separating from Canada may not lead to those positions vanishing, just that the feds won’t be paying their salaries.

Cheapskates at Statistics Canada have tables that seem to promise numbers for those earning federal dollars but want money.

http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/pick-choisir?lang=eng&id=1830002&pattern=1830002&searchTypeByValue=1

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Mandos 03.29.11 at 6:54 pm

Secession is such a tired issue (especially around here) that Lonely Planet advises visitors to avoid talking about it lest you bore your dinner hosts. We can discuss the BQ without using the S word.

It’s very difficult to talk about the reason why the Conservatives are using the “coalition” stick with which to beat Iggy without talking about the why many RoCians dislike the BQ—or at least why Harper thinks it’s a vote-getter in th RoC.

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MPAVictoria 03.29.11 at 6:56 pm

H.P. Loveshack:
No I don’t know what the percentage is, however given that the federal government employees tens of thousands of workers I am betting the number is higher then you might think. Not trying to be patronizing.

284

yt 03.30.11 at 5:29 am

@knaveofstaves
“Is the Liberal Party still the natural party of government? Were Martin, Dion, and now Ignatieff all so… distasteful?”

This idea that the liberal party is the “natural” governing party is a post-WWII idea. Prior to that, the Tories were probably the default party.

The main issue with Martin was more that the Libs were wrought with scandal from the Chretien era, scandal that still haunts them despite the numerous conservative improprieties which point towards a ‘meet the new boss’-type situation. At the time, Harper was viewed with a lot more scepticism – his image has since softened in many people’s eyes.

Dion got outgunned. He ran on a campaign of ideas, and the cons framed one of those – the carbon-tax – as some kind of radical eco-socialist plot to destroy ‘the economy’. Harper hadn’t done anything too bold in his first term, and the LPC was still largely divided, as many had wanted Ignatieff all along.

Ignatieff has been attacked as being power hungry, someone that left Canada and only returned because he sniffed power from abroad. He’s painted as a detached and aristocratic snob, out of touch with the mainstream. To my mind, he’s done little to change people’s opinion and I think this election will depend on his ability to be what early supporters expected of him.

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Myles 03.30.11 at 5:40 am

This argument is still on? God is Loveshack tireless.

And this is quite right:

And it’s the rosy assumptions that seem to permeate sovereigntist discourse that I think most infuriates and, in a dark way, amuses people in the ROC. Canadian passports? No assumption of Canadian debt? An undivided Quebec? Dream on, I say.

Canadian passports for a sovereign Quebec…snicker. I’d sooner give Canadian passports to the French.

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Richard Johnson 03.30.11 at 6:28 am

It has nothing to do with an aversion to coalitions per se, and everything to do with the fact that the only available coalition is electoral poison for the Liberals.

First, a Liberal-NDP coalition will strengthen the NDP at the expense of the Liberals. A significant fraction of the Liberals’ votes are from people who might vote NDP, but believe the NDP can’t form the government. If the NDP is going to be part of any Liberal-led government ahead of time, a bunch of these people will vote NDP instead of Liberal.

Second, a Liberal government dependent on the Bloc will strengthen the Conservatives at the expense of the Liberals. A lot of Liberal votes are votes against separatism; if the Liberals announce an alliance with the BQ ahead of time, that pushes a bunch of those voters into the Conservative column.

So, if the Liberals declare in advance that they’ll form a coalition, the result is that they’ll lose votes in the election, which will risk electing an actual Conservative majority at worst and strengthen the relative power of the NDP in any eventual coalition at best. If the Liberals declare in advance they’ll never consider a coalition, they can keep the Conservatives from getting a majority and maximize their own strength relative to the NDP—but have themselves made a centre-left coalition an act of betrayal of their promises.

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Richard Johnson 03.30.11 at 6:46 am

By the way, of course secessionists like HPL want to declare the possibility of “partition” by non-Francophones seceding from Quebec out-of-bounds. After all, the result would put much of HydroQuebec’s generation capacity in a non-Francophone Cree polity that isn’t likely to want to keep selling at “Heritage Pool” rates.

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piglet 03.30.11 at 7:53 pm

Loveshack is unfortunately a representative example of a large fraction of Quebec separatists and therefore it is very instructive to debate him even though it obviously won’t change his mind. A couple remarks about his latest posts if anybody is still interested:
1. The argument of Quebec’s diminishing political and demographic weight. I don’t know that this is really true but what if? Guess what, Quebec’s weight will diminish if it’s independent at least as much than as a Canadian province. Quebec’s global weight is diminishing because it is growing slower than some other countries. I don’t see this as a problem at all. What’s the point of comparing yourself to others. However if it is a problem for you, it is a problem regardless of Quebec’s constitutional status. And as a small state, Quebec probably has a better chance maintaining its “political weight” as part of a larger entity than on its own. I understand that you disagree with that statement but I don’t see you ever making an argument. Your claim that Quebec will somehow be more powerful in the global context when it secedes is totally unsubstantiated. That makes it so hard to debate it.

2.Several times you mentioned constitutional conflicts between Quebec and Canada (e. g. the security regulation issue) as an argument against the viability of the Canadian federal system. What you don’t seem to understand is that those conflicts are totally normal. They appear in any political entity with multiple levels of government. The USA (just think of health care reform), Germany, Switzerland, the EU, Britain, they all deal with constitutional conflicts between states and federal governments, within states or regions, within supranational entities. Quebec has been in turmoil over municipal fusions for years. That was a massive intervention of the provincial government in municipal affairs (fn1). Conflicts of that kind are part of life. They cannot be avoided (if Quebec secedes, there will still be conflicts with Canada and its provinces and internationally) and to argue that a state or region should secede every time it can’t get its way in such a conflict is just insane.

fn1) Come to think of it, maybe the municipal fusions were what really dampened separatist enthusiasm. Many citizens were really really upset about this BQ initiative and maybe they realized that the BQ doesn’t have much respect for regional autonomy within Quebec.

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Mandos 03.30.11 at 7:57 pm

perl -pe “s/BQ/PQ/g ;” previous_post.txt

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piglet 03.30.11 at 7:59 pm

With respect to our host, I should mention Australia although I don’t know much about state-federal relations there. But really you can name almost any country. Many nowadays have some kind of federal structure and concern about central government overreach and regional disparity is pretty much universal.

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piglet 03.30.11 at 8:00 pm

You are right: Many citizens were really really upset about this PQ initiative and maybe they realized that the PQ doesn’t have much respect for regional autonomy within Quebec.

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Mandos 03.30.11 at 8:21 pm

But that’s not at all surprising or inconsistent. The whole point of the exercise is defining a Quebec nation that is an integral unit. Montreal is not a nation by their reckoning; therefore why should it be autonomous?

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Yvan St-Pierre 03.30.11 at 8:58 pm

@ piglet

Respectfully, if I may, your points against secession only make unambiguous sense in my view when language is taken out of the equation. Clearly, there is no comparable situation in either the US or Australia. The Quebec case must be looked at first and foremost through the language question.

1. We may very well believe this is wishful thinking, and I’m inkling on your side there, but in all fairness to the argument, the secessionist idea is that sovereignty would make it clear to prospective immigrants that Quebec is not a passageway to an anglophone continent but a francophone country on its own. Again, we can disagree as to how efficient this would be, but the point seems to me totally legitimate, and my crystal ball is no better than anyone else on either side of the issue. Is yours?

2. There is no comparable situation in either the US or Australia. They’re federations alright, but they include no jurisdiction with an ambition to maintain a thriving democratic society operating in a different language than that of the other jurisdictions. Disputes between levels of government then are not simply administrative in nature, they pit deep-seated political loyalties against each other. Consider the possibility that for many people in Quebec, Ottawa is making decisions that make no sense within the political discussions that go on in french newspapers – these decisions appear to be imposed against the collective will, at least as it is represented in their own language. The regulatory body thing is one of those.

If democracy is government by discussion, multilingual democracy can’t be just a minor variation on that theme. It has to be a special challenge, that’s for sure.

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piglet 03.30.11 at 10:49 pm

Ok, you are offering an argument. I disagree with it for two reasons, first, Quebec is itself not homogeneous and the anglophone minority will be totally justified to defend its interests in an independent Quebec. Second, immigration to Quebec is already controlled by Quebec. I don’t know whether you are familiar with Quebec immigration laws. I am. Quebec already has the right to make language a condition of admission. On the other hand, even an independent Quebec will not be able to prevent immigrants from moving on if that is their choice (and given that most immigrants, even Francophones, are federalists, one wonders how separation would make Quebec more attractive to wards them). Again I don’t see a plausible argument for how separation will solve any of Quebec’s real or perceived problems.

Ad 2. I don’t see what language has to do with the question of whether securities should be regulated on the federal level or not. This is the kind of power play that you find in every federal union. Bavaria is frequently at odds with the German federal government. What is interesting is that many Quebec nationalists believe Bavaria is somehow like Quebec, because of her insistence on state autonomy. They don’t seem to understand that such an attitude is quite normal and has nothing to do with separatism (Bavaria does have a separatist party, it gets about 1% of the vote). Most of the disagreements between Quebec and Ottawa are of the same sort as those between Bavaria and Berlin or Texas and Washington, or indeed Alberta and Ottawa. It is only Quebec nationalists that obsessively interpret these disagreements as fundamental issues that can only be resolved by separation. It is as if you insist that any marital dispute can only be resolved by divorce. Now in marital affairs it is probably better to rely on your feelings even if they may not be rational. In politics that doesn’t seem such a good idea. Quebec separatists insist that politics should be a matter of feelings, and the majority simply doesn’t follow them.

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piglet 03.30.11 at 10:52 pm

“The whole point of the exercise is defining a Quebec nation that is an integral unit. Montreal is not a nation by their reckoning; therefore why should it be autonomous?”

I don’t know who gets to make these definitions: this is a nation and this is not. Besides, Quebec is NOT an integral unit by any non-arbitrary definition. Neither is Canada or indeed any other country I know of. But that is precisely the point: We should know better, in 2011, than looking for organically defined, ethnically homogeneous nation-states.

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James 03.31.11 at 1:28 am

I think I can safely speak for all Quebeckers in that we no longer wish to hear what Alberta has to say about us.

If I could make a somewhat silly point, that still I keep thinking of, is that when I hear all these arguments about how unrealistic or “naive” separation is, it kind of reminds me of the argument where it’s “unrealistic” or “naive” to care for the environment in a major way, “unrealistic” or “naive” to believe in social programs, etc etc. You can find little technocratic arguments that may be somewhat hard (or not) to answer but it doesn’t annul the validity or ability to succeed of the movement. Or to make a dumber equivalence, it’s kind of like “you know, breathing causes cancer, cuz oxygen causes cancer”. This is how I see the whole “ya know you can’t use our currency, ya know you can’t use our passport, your debt is gonna be huge, etc etc”

Or it reminds me of being vegetarian. “Oh you know, vitamin B12, you’ll never get enough etc etc”. Et pourtant..

I know this doesn’t mean a whole lot in a scoring-points-for-and-against the argument for separation but I have recently made these connections, laugh at them if you will.
People love making little nitpick arguments and then feel like they have defeated you.

Tell us how separation is impossible (it clearly isn’t, based on all the precedents), tell us how it won’t solve our problems (clearly with our hands on the wheel, instead of sharing with western canada, can’t hurt our causes), you can’t.

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Mandos 03.31.11 at 1:35 am

Tell us how separation is impossible (it clearly isn’t, based on all the precedents), tell us how it won’t solve our problems (clearly with our hands on the wheel, instead of sharing with western canada, can’t hurt our causes), you can’t.

No border is sacred. The question is, is it better than not? Are you saying that that question is not worth asking?

What Alberta thinks, I agree, is not in itself relevant: I only present it as an illustration that the things that sovereigntists believe are absurd and incoherent may not be.

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James 03.31.11 at 10:43 am

No, I definitely think it’s a question worth asking. But isn’t the answer to that question something that should be about the goals of separation itself? Like, to make a nice little francophone society with local culture and potentially stronger social and green programs?

I mean is it better than not: I forsee potential xenophobia. I forsee drama between english and french, and me getting my hackles up since I identify as an anglophone. I forsee potentially a new right wing emerging since people can express the full gamut of political options instead of “against-Canada”. I forsee some neoliberal coalition trying to coopt all the good times and turn it into Quebec-has-to-make-tough-choices false choices. However, I see a country that could be pretty amazing, I see a people who can actually protect themselves properly from being merged into Project North America, I see a manageable country where we can try and do good things internationally and locally.

The present conservative government, and the previous liberal government, have totally alienated me from Canadian politics. Maybe it’s selfish that I just feel like dropping out.

Sorry I feel like a bit of a fraud, I feel this website has a lot of great people and comments and I’m not sure I’m up to it but I felt like giving my 2 cents.

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Yvan St-Pierre 03.31.11 at 1:29 pm

@ piglet

On the immigration argument, I was only offering, as best I could see it, the main argument of those who see a demographic advantage over the longer term from a Québécois country. I’m not saying we should agree with this conjecture, but only that it is neither inconsistent nor particularly implausible. I’m afraid I don’t see the relevance of your response, though. The argument has nothing to do with the presence of the anglophone minority, and it has nothing to do with controlling the selection of immigrants from within the pool of self-selected prospects. It has to do with making that first step, i.e. the decision to migrate, a function of moving to a French-speaking country as opposed to moving to an English-speaking one. The conjecture that is made here is precisely that, currently, prospective immigrants are under the impression that Canada is really an English-speaking country, hence as you say, Quebec ends up with mainly federalist immigrants despite its measure of control over immigration. We can have different theories of the motives of immigrants, which will make us pick different sides with respect to this argument, but there’s really no obvious way to “win” it, assuming it’s of any interest. The only respectable way out of this, that I know of, is called voting.

As to the securities regulation, again, I still think that you’re leaving aside a significant aspect of the question, which is that pretty much all social relations, including political and economic ones, are taking place within a linguistic universe. People who can’t get understand each other can’t do much together either. Now, clearly, if we do speak the same language, we can still find all sorts of ways to disagree and fight and use up our testosterone. In that sense, you’re right again: there’s no need for the language issue to explain the existence of tensions over the optimal level of centralization. But this does not vitiate the linguistic argument in any way – I’m just saying it is painting an additional coat of such tensions, and that it’s not an imaginary coat. Surely you must know that a good part of the story here is that anglophones have traditionally been seen as those who had control over the main levers of Quebec economy until the Quiet Revolution. One of the main results of the 60s-70s era is often called “Quebec inc.”, i.e. the francophone newly developed larger-business class, and which got sort of mythological status, kind of like Maurice Richard standing up to the Anglo establishment. So the idea that there would be no real incentive anymore for businesses to lead their financial activities in french is bound to tickle those who think that a strong culture requires a capacity to do as much of its business as possible in the language of that culture. Again, I’m not saying this is just cause for declaring war on anyone, I’m saying it just makes sense that it is a real bone of contention, rather just another proof of the stupidity of those who don’t see things the way we do.

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Yvan St-Pierre 03.31.11 at 1:44 pm

Sorry – “rather than just another proof…”

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Substance McGravitas 03.31.11 at 1:59 pm

The conjecture that is made here is precisely that, currently, prospective immigrants are under the impression that Canada is really an English-speaking country, hence as you say, Quebec ends up with mainly federalist immigrants despite its measure of control over immigration.

The immigrants I know who have gone through the process are usually under the impression that Canada’s languages are French and English, with French being particularly advantageous in Quebec. It may be different for refugee claimants, but I have also met immigrants who were awfully confused at the relative lack of French elsewhere in the country.

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piglet 03.31.11 at 2:39 pm

“I think I can safely speak for all Quebeckers”

Good for you, I can’t safely speak for any group larger than one.

“The present conservative government, and the previous liberal government, have totally alienated me from Canadian politics.”

I don’t blame you but I notice that in both most recent federal elections, more Quebeckers voted for Con and Lib than for BQ. BQ still won most seats but the Capitale Nationale of all regions supports Harper (and also elected Andre Arthur, one of the most extremist MPs). You see, reality is messy. If there really were an overwhelming consensus in Quebec in favor of separation and against federalism, your position would make a lot of sense. But there isn’t.

“The only respectable way out of this, that I know of, is called voting.”

See above.

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piglet 03.31.11 at 2:46 pm

Yvan, an awful lot of countries, maybe most, are not monolingual. I don’t dispute that the language barrier adds problems (but also a cultural wealth that we shouldn’t want to miss) but I can’t follow the claim that any mundane political dispute involving Quebec must be interpreted in the prism of language.

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Yvan St-Pierre 03.31.11 at 3:01 pm

@ Substance McG

May I ask how you know whether your evidence is representative? And then, how could one use such evidence against the contention that, if things were different, beliefs and expectations would change as well? Do you have evidence about those who did not immigrate in Quebec, because they possibly thought North America was English-speaking all over?

This being said, I can only go so far in defending a thesis I don’t agree with in the first place. I just want to suggest that it is a respectable thesis, and that it is built on an argument that is not particularly outrageous. I think mutual respect is a necessary condition of all interesting debates, and that its relative absence may be one of the reasons that a given disagreement will turn people on or off so intensely. Then nobody learns anything about the other side – they’re just reinforcing their own biases.

@ piglet

Not sure if and why your response in #302 is directed to me, or why it quotes my comment. Now, I’m not at all suggesting that any dispute between Quebec and Ottawa must be interpreted with the language issue in mind, or even that whenever it is part of any problem it is the most important aspect of it. I’m saying that language is what makes these “normal” tensions for a host of other reasons, more of a challenge to handle when you factor in the linguistic barrier, not only in terms of making it more difficult to understand each other, but also by making us debate about it in distinct networks, and based on a different experience of the power relations involved.

This said, I think we could agree that an intricate part of this cultural wealth you are alluding to, is linked to a capacity to deepen our understanding of different views. I think there’s lots we can learn by listening with a view to real understanding, rather than just attempting to win an argument.

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piglet 03.31.11 at 3:17 pm

“Not sure if and why your response in #302 is directed to me”

No it’s not but your comment fit.

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Substance McGravitas 03.31.11 at 3:28 pm

May I ask how you know whether your evidence is representative?

I really don’t, and I don’t want to represent it as other than anecdotal. But my work involves some of the elements around immigration so I speak to new arrivals on an almost-daily basis. I am involved in certain small efforts between the provinces to serve those people better, and I am mindful of and grateful for the expertise of my colleagues in Quebec. Members of my extended family are recent arrivals to Quebec, and though their experience can’t be universal, the information provided them by the authorities, though sparse, hasn’t been too misleading. I’m in the west and pretty routinely see translations in French prepared for the purpose of arrival in Canada. That said, I don’t think any authorities are representing to immigrants anywhere that they should be supporting the dissolution of the country they’re ending up in, so sure, why wouldn’t recent arrivals be knee-jerk federalists?

For what it’s worth, thanks for writing clearly and even-handedly.

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