Saturday, April 09, 2005

Scandal? Oui! Separation? Non!

There's a lot of talk about how the sponsorship scandal could lead to another Quebec referendum. Warren even says a yes vote is possible and he's not alone in this apocalyptic assessment. I don't buy it. First of all, even if Quebec turns on a federalist party, it doesn't mean they'll turn on federalists. That'd be like saying if Canadians turn on the party bringing in same sex legislation, they're against equal marriage.

The Bloc could not get over 50% in the last election and it's a safe bet that not every Bloc voter is a separatist. The issue last election was on the federal government trying to buy Quebec's loyalty - that's an issue that could play into the separation argument. Now? The issue is of one party's alleged corruption - that's a party issue, not a nationalism issue.

Some people say the scandal will destroy Jean Charest. Well, anyone who has followed Quebec politics over the past two years knows that the most effective person at destroying Jean Charest has been Jean Charest. He was hugely unpopular before the scandal broke and has done many things to make him far more unpopular since then. His disapproval rating is a mind-boggling 71% and that's before a single word was said implicating his party in the scandal. If anything, this scandal might actually help him since the PQ is getting dragged in. It's going to be very hard for the PQ to use this scandal as an issue when they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Some people say the scandal will propel Gilles Ducceppe to the leadership of the PQ and shortly afterwards as Premier of Quebec. Possibly. But, let's be clear. Gilles Ducceppe is popular and compared to the other three stooges on the national scene, he looks pretty good. But the guy is no Lucien Bouchard.

And that's the point here. No separatist party in the history of the province has ever gotten over 50% in a federal election, provincial election, or a referendum. In 1995, the OUI side had perhaps the greatest politician of his generation leading them, a year after he had almost literally risen from the dead. They had the failure of Meech to run on, they had a largely ineffective NON campaign, and they had a trick question. Despite all this, they still couldn't win. So I don't think a man who is a shadow of Lucien Bouchard will be able to do the job this time.

Let's also remember, we've got the Clarity Act in place. The fact that the OUI side has never gotten 50% on trick questions in the past tells me that them getting a clear majority on a straight-up question is nearly impossible. So before Mr.Travers and co try to pin a phantom minor up-peg in Quebec separatism (since I haven't seen any polling data to support this thesis) on Jean Chretien's shoulders, let's take a breather and remember that JC won two referendums in the past and brought in the bill that will make it nearly impossible for the separatists to steal the country in the future.

Yes, the Bloc will do very well next election. Yes, Jean Charest is likely finished. But the only way this scandal could threaten Canadian federalism is by Prime Minister Stephen Harper doing something incredible stupid. And if Brian Mulroney's time as Prime Minister didn't lead to a separate Quebec, I can't imagine Harper's leading to that.

7 Comments:

  • Was reading the Montreal Gazette at home on the couch this morning...interesting comment on how this week's poll has 47% of people saying "ok" provided an economic partnership, etc. is tacked on. Another interesting column this week about Landry's warm welcome by students at McGill's law faculty. That'd be a faculty which ships half its grads to New York/Boston/Toronto each year. Not historically a sovereigntist hotbed.

    And there's my point: sovereignty vs. separation. I'm more federalist than damn near anyone I know (being an Albertan in Quebec), lest I be mistaken here. But don't underestimate the legitimacy or the appeal that sovereignty holds in the minds of contemporary Quebec voters. Particularly les enfants de la loi 101, who couldn't vote last time around.

    Separation is dead, but in the result sovereignty is no longer a crusade: it's less dramatic and that lack of polarization makes its success that much more likely. Your arguments against a successful vote are premised on seeing a polarization between the two camps, which doesn't really exist to Quebeckers. When the champions of federalism have lost their moral authority in all quarters, the ground shifts. It may shift sleepily, but the result is the same in the end.

    By Blogger matt, at 2:27 PM  

  • The Globe mentioned that 47% poll...I think it was from early 2004. It said 47% with a partnership and 28% without...I agree outright separation isn't really an option anymore.

    As for some quasi-sovereignty arrangement, that all depends on how much the federal government is willing to give and how much hardball they're willing to play.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:44 PM  

  • I must disagree (politely of course). In the early 90s the polls told us that Quebecers would surely vote against separation. The actual result was a participation rate of 93.52% and a 49.44% "qui" vote. The 2004 poll may be no more valid than the polls we read in 1993 and 1994.

    Even if SSM, BMD and Kyoto are not sufficiently important to convince Quebecers to vote for separation, War may be. Harper proclaimed his support for the invasion of Iraq (his appearance on FNN, his letter to the Washington post and his statement that such decisions should not be left to opinion polls). I suspect a Harper led CPC majority would join a future coalition to invade Syria or Iran. This is an issue that the separatists would try use to their advantage.

    By Blogger Psychols, at 5:59 PM  

  • In what way is "48% with an economic partnership" relevant? I would vote for the Liberal candidate (even with J Chretien back in the saddle) with a 100% forgiveness of my personal taxes and a new Mercedes. Unfortunately for me, that's not on offer.

    The relevant figure is how many will vote for separation if it means re-establishing economic relationships with what remains of Canada - no partnership, just the usual self-interested negotiations. In that case, milk quotas, support for the aerospace industry (other than what is funded by Quebec City), and equalization will be entirely off the table.

    The cost of dual-language or french-language labelling will be borne by Quebec consumers, instead of being absorbed by the larger Canadian market. Quebec construction workers should expect to find it no easier to work in Ontario than Ontario workers now find it to work in Quebec, and so on. Harmonized customs procedures and rates are possible, if Quebec City can convince Ottawa (and Queens Park, and Edmonton, and Victoria, etc) that they provide a net benefit to Canada.

    I do not expect that these negotiations (if they were ever to take place) would be easy for either side, but in particular, I believe that they would be more difficult for Quebec:- although not as extreme, they would be in the same position vis-a-vis the RoC as the whole of Canada is now in negotiation with the US - a significantly smaller economy negotiating with a significanly larger one. Their difficulty in negotiating with the US will be even greater, since, aside from electricity they have little that will interest the Americans, and that is a product that is not easily stored or exported to alternate markets.

    Cheers,

    Dean

    By Blogger deaner, at 1:52 AM  

  • Some thought from “la belle province”.

    No, despite all the rebuttal toward the liberal (federal and provincial) there’s no referendum in view, even of the Parti Quebecois is elected (the next government in Quebec will probably not have the majority). Issues like the SSM or Kyoto protocol are far to “distant” to be use as argument to trigger a new referendum. The new generation of voter is no longer motivated by the separation. People here will sure have a loud voice about thing like decentralisation and fiscal iniquities with Ottawa but with the disillusion of the boomer and the new preoccupation of the youth, a new referendum would be suicidal.

    David, French-Canadian living in Montréal !

    By Blogger David, at 2:43 PM  

  • Did ya notice how the rats are starting to jump ship? Way too funny!

    By Blogger Richard, at 10:40 AM  

  • The last time (1990 I think), he quit the Conservative for the Liberal.

    David Kilgour is a kind of barometer, when he quit your party there's a good chance that the power will shift.

    By Blogger David, at 4:02 PM  

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