Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Son of Meech

Stephen Harper has been dropping hints about re-opening the constitution for a while. At least, he has ever since he traded in his Reform Party principles for a chance to become Brian Mulroney Jr.

So it shouldn’t have been a huge surprise that yesterday Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Rona Ambrose Jean-Pierre Blackburn suggested a Tory majority would lead to the Quebecois nation resolution getting some “meat around it”.

What kind of meat remains to be seen, although Blackburn’s mention of “historical demands” invites speculation. Given the lack of pressing current demands, I guess it makes sense to look at historical ones. My personal opinion is that revisiting Meech and Charlottetown is not something Canadians want or need but, then again, I don’t need to win 20 seats in Quebec to get a majority government. So my opinion is probably clouded on this topic.

Given the complete uselessness of the Bloc, this kind of talk probably will lead to Conservative gains in Quebec. However, it’s also a subject the opposition leader can talk about with some authority. And given that he doesn’t have a ton of friends left in Quebec to lose, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to come out strongly against this.


YUMMY MIXED METAPHOR UPDATE: There is no appetite for this because the fruit is not yet ripe to put more meat on the constitution.

What does it say when Lawrence Cannon, of the famous "who's on first Quebec nation press conference", needs to clarify the government's position on this? Is there any way the Conservatives could look more dazed and confused vis-a-vis Quebec?

Well, I guess they could do something like this.

Labels:

44 Comments:

  • This has to be one of the stupidest proposals I've seen this month; no surprise that it comes from a Mulroney-era hack.

    Sure, this might net Harper some more seats in Quebec, but in the short term this would merely "sharpen the contradictions" within the party. For a former Reformer, he seems to tolerate proposals that were utterly untenable 20 years ago, and failed twice.

    Of course, I expect Dion to point out that a system of regional vetoes has existed since the mid-1990s.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 5:28 PM  

  • "This week's appointment of Gerard Kennedy, the Liberal leadership candidate who most strenuously opposed the nation resolution, as Dion's intergovernmental affairs critic was seen in Quebec as yet another sign that the party is determined to burn its bridges in the province."
    - Chantel Hebert

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 6:00 PM  

  • Yes, because the most Quebecois pay a lot of attention to the opposition critic portfolios.

    I think EVERYTHING done by Stephane Dion is perceived by Chantal Hebert to be a sign he's turned his back on Quebec.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:13 PM  

  • Great label

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:20 PM  

  • Ah yes, Chantal Hebert, the great source for all the objective views on Dion and Kennedy!

    Conveniently forgotten, Kennedy is also on quote as saying he supports the Quebecois as a Nation but he did not support the motion because it had no substance to it and it was being used merely as a political pawn.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 PM  

  • Here is what I think Harper's fevered brain is thinking. If I can say to the nationalists "I will give you the federal spending power and you give me Senate reform and we can both bully Ontario into going along 'For the good of the country'". It is complete nonsense of course. McGuinty would be executed for treason if he gave on either issue, but I suspect that is what Harper has in mind.

    By Blogger Greg, at 7:29 PM  

  • I note that Decima has the Liberals up several points and virtually tied with the Tories since the Kennedy appointment. Damn, that guy is good.

    As for the Quebec candidates' list farce, my guess is that most Canadians will be more concerned about which party is hiding its constitutional agenda as opposed to which one can't reveal its list of candidates. But that's just a guess.

    Wait til Calgarians see that we're running Mitsou. A Liberal majority will be in sight. I can feel it.

    Bye Bye mon Cowboy suddenly takes on new meaning.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:14 PM  

  • April Fools! Oh wait its April 2...make no mistake this pure and simple Machiavellian politics by Harper.

    Polls show Tories support continues to be strong in Quebec - a place where they will need to win more seats in order to get into majority territory. He is giving francophones the lingua they want to hear. I don't know if he intends to follow through with it after an election, but this type of talk is worth a few more points in Quebec Polls.

    The thing about Harper is in each region of the country he is skillfully playing into anti-Ottawa and anti-Ontario sentiments to try and build a majority.

    Perhaps not surprising that the by-elections showed growing support outside of Ontario for the Conservatives and abysmal showings in Ontario.

    This is party of election build up for Harper. Expect an election call by summer.

    By Anonymous Rob C, at 9:18 PM  

  • //This has to be one of the stupidest proposals I've seen this month; no surprise that it comes from a Mulroney-era hack.//

    This is nothing more than Harper adopting Michael Ignatieff's platform from the Liberal leadership race.

    It was Ignatieff who relit the "nation" and "constitutional" fires.

    Are people's memories that short?

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 9:26 PM  

  • Seems to me this was orchestrated by Harper. He can now say in Quebec "see, give me a majority and you'll get all the power" and outside Quebec he can say "Blackburn is an idiot, don't listen to him".

    By Anonymous BG, at 12:07 AM  

  • Unlike pulling the plug on immigration, Canadians would accept the Liberals pulling the plug on this issue.

    I hope Stéphane realizes this and keeps hammering the Conservatives over "And you would do what with the Constitution if you got a majority?" until the next election.

    There is nothing the rest of Canada, including Conservative voting rural Canada, hate discussing more. It gave rise to the Reform Party and would be the end once again of the Conservative Party (after Meech, 2 PCs elected).

    Stéphane, we got one gift from Flaherty, to gain back more than a few of the 40 Ontario Conservative seats back.

    Stéphane, we got another gift here, to gain back more than a few of the other, 50+ outside Alberta Conservative seats back.

    By Anonymous MississaugaPeter, at 12:13 AM  

  • By the way, I'm not sure what point Brian Dell is trying to make by quoting Dion-hating, Chantel Herbert.

    Her and the Toronto Star have on more on one occasion done a hatchet job on Gerard. From 1996, where a ridiculous front page headline adversely affected Gerard's fate on the fifth ballot, to yesterday's smear job, the paper that was founded with a moral code, is now run by those without any. See

    http://warrenkinsella.com/index.php?entry=entry080320-082928

    The Toronto Star has been a friend of Liberals in the past, but has shown to be a very poor friend to decent Liberals Stéphane and Gerard.

    By Anonymous MississaugaPeter, at 12:29 AM  

  • If the Liberals force an election over this (but how can they, Harper has just adopted Michael Ignatieff's Liberal leadership campaign platform)...

    Ignatieff would be neutered.

    Ignatieff had the most support in the Liberal caucus, so most of the Liberal caucus supported this.

    Harper would destroy both Dion's and Ignatieff's careers at once when he won the election.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 11:04 AM  

  • Seems to me this was orchestrated by Harper. He can now say in Quebec "see, give me a majority and you'll get all the power" and outside Quebec he can say "Blackburn is an idiot, don't listen to him".

    You know, eventually some bilingual people inside Quebec and outside it will compare notes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:46 AM  

  • "Is there any way the Conservatives could look more dazed and confused vis-a-vis Quebec?"

    This is quite rich coming from a self-identified member of the Liberal Party of Canada.

    "I hope Stéphane realizes this and keeps hammering the Conservatives over "And you would do what with the Constitution if you got a majority?" until the next election. There is nothing the rest of Canada, including Conservative voting rural Canada, hate discussing more."

    LOL. Canadians hate discussing the Constitution and you want your leader to talk about nothing but the Constitution. Sounds like a recipe for success.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:59 AM  

  • Liberals need to think about the consequences of going to an election without money.

    “(AP) Sen. Barack Obama, second to none in the race for campaign cash, raised more than $40 million in March and boosted his vast network of donors to nearly 1.3 million, the campaign announced Thursday.”

    “Clinton aides said Wednesday that they anticipate Obama will outspend her by 2-to-1 in Pennsylvania. In the first round of campaign ads, Obama spent about $2 million to Clinton's $450,000, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ads. Obama is also already airing ads in Indiana and North Carolina, which won't hold primaries until next month.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:31 PM  

  • The Conservatives can say whatever they want, but it is all just talk. Quebec has demands that the Conservatives would never present to the provinces for agreement, because the provinces would never agree to them. A third failure at the constitution and we'll have a third (and this time winning) referendum.

    Quebecers still aren't sure about Harper, whether "open federalism" is anything more than a meaningless saying, but hopefully they'll realise it is completely meaningless. And then yesterday Blackburn and everyone else in the party says that the fruit isn't ripe at the moment for opening the constitution. But at least now they've pretended to be up for it.

    Gilles Duceppe said it best: after 141 years in the Canadian federation, it isn't that the fruit isn't ripe, it's that the tree is rotten.

    What bothers me most is that Canadians don't care, they don't want to open the constitution. Why? Because they can't give what Quebec rightfully demands, and would rather hope the problem just goes away. Well, it won't.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 12:37 PM  

  • Liberals need to think about the consequences of going to an election without money.

    Only if Conservatives are planning to violate campaign expense limit laws... again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 PM  

  • Pray tell, Eric, how is Quebec in any way restricted from pursuing its "specificity" currently? As far as I can tell, you offer nothing more than the usual sovereigntist diatribes wherein opponents - like Dion - are deemed "self-loathing". Of course, this only shows the complete bankruptcy of sovereigntist thought as it applies to little things like respectful political discourse.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 1:20 PM  

  • And to turn Duceppe's tortured metaphor around, if the tree has stood 141 years, it has endured many years of weather good and bad, and will be standing when the true "self-loathing" types are long gone. The trees that live longest, after all, do not bear fruit of any kind.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 1:23 PM  

  • "A third failure at the constitution and we'll have a third (and this time winning) referendum."

    I guess the fruit will finally be ripe by then, eh? Third time is a charm (for referendums obviously, not constitutions). Or after all these years of talking about separation is that tree rotten? I mean, if the the Bloc can't even win in Roberval-Lac Saint Jean anymore ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:13 PM  

  • Josh,

    I call Dion a self-loathing Quebecer because he chooses the interests of Canada over the interests of Quebec. If a Canadian chose the interests of America over the interests of Canada, what would you call him?

    As to ways we are restricted from pursuing our specificity, what about a voice on the international scene? What about total control over our tax revenue? What about ensuring we have a minimum of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons? How about full control over immigration? How about the end of federal interference in provincial jurisdictions? How about the recognition of our Charter of the French Language and the application of it throughout Quebec? You know, things like that.

    And as to the metaphor, old trees eventually die, dry-out, and fall down. They don't live forever. We haven't been able to solve this problem since 1759. Do you really think the debates and in-fighting we have had since the Quiet Revolution have helped Canada? Imagine how smoothly Canada would be sailing if Quebec were a separate state.

    Anonymous,

    Wow, one by-election. Hey, didn't the Liberals just lose in Outremont and a Liberal fortress in Vancouver? I wouldn't talk if I were you.

    The Conservatives are doing better in Quebec because some Quebecers (thankfully a minority) have allowed themselves to be duped. Bloc and Liberal voters, at least, no what they're voting for.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 3:44 PM  

  • If Harper tries to pull off this crap, all the Liberals need to do is run in the West on the platform that they are not the party trying to appease Quebec, and presto, instant reversal of fortune. The Cons might pick up seats in Quebec, but they will lose just as many West of Toronto, result will be a wash.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 PM  

  • "Wow, one by-election. Hey, didn't the Liberals just lose in Outremont and a Liberal fortress in Vancouver? I wouldn't talk if I were you."

    Why? I'm not a Liberal. Keep attacking them all you want, I don't care. It's not going to do anything for the Bloc out in the regions where they are likely to lose a bunch of seats to the Conservatives in the next election.

    "Bloc and Liberal voters, at least, no what they're voting for."

    Yeah, they're both voting for parties that will prop up this Conservative Government (probably the next one too if the Conservatives don't get a majority) because they're too scared to go to the polls. And you're actually trying to claim that the Tories are the ones duping Quebecers.

    "And as to the metaphor, old trees eventually die, dry-out, and fall down. They don't live forever."

    Kind of like the separatist movement in Quebec. Don't think I didn't notice you didn't bother to address my comment about that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:28 PM  

  • "I call Dion a self-loathing Quebecer because he chooses the interests of Canada over the interests of Quebec. If a Canadian chose the interests of America over the interests of Canada, what would you call him?"

    I think you missed the fact that Canada isn't a constituent part of the US... completely different scenario.

    "what about a voice on the international scene?"

    Quebec is not a country and thus has no place in international affairs.

    "What about ensuring we have a minimum of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons?"

    Hysterical. HoC = Representation by population -- since Quebec represents ~23% of the population and is declining, that's a ridiculous idea.

    "How about full control over immigration?"

    Quebec is not a country and thus has no place in areas involving external affairs.

    "How about the recognition of our Charter of the French Language and the application of it throughout Quebec?"

    How about not repressing minorities because they don't speak French?

    "Imagine how smoothly Canada would be sailing if Quebec were a separate state."

    If Sovereignists think life would be so swell outside of Canada, why don't they go seek citizenship in another country... say, one where French is spoken... like.. say, France?

    -Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:29 PM  

  • Hey, didn't the Liberals just lose in Outremont and a Liberal fortress in Vancouver? I wouldn't talk if I were you."

    Uh, no they hung on to fortress Vancouver-Quadra.. Its definitely been my experience that there is a real correlation between support for separatism and ignorance of the rest of the country.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:41 PM  

  • -- "It's not going to do anything for the Bloc out in the regions where they are likely to lose a bunch of seats to the Conservatives in the next election."

    Unlikely. Aside from that recent CROP poll that over-represented the Quebec City region, the Conservatives are well below their 2006 support in Quebec. The Liberals have even supplanted them as the #2 option after the Bloc, which will continue to hold the majority of the seats in Quebec.

    -- "Yeah, they're both voting for parties that will prop up this Conservative Government (probably the next one too if the Conservatives don't get a majority) because they're too scared to go to the polls."

    The Bloc did support the Conservatives at first, which is unfortunate, but they aren't anymore. Only the Liberals are propping the government up now.

    -- "Kind of like the separatist movement in Quebec. Don't think I didn't notice you didn't bother to address my comment about that."

    Sovereignty still has 40% support. You call that dead? The Parti Quebecois is back in 2nd place and even 1st place, depending on the poll.

    -- "Uh, no they hung on to fortress Vancouver-Quadra.. Its definitely been my experience that there is a real correlation between support for separatism and ignorance of the rest of the country."

    You're right, I made a mistake there, I apologise. I meant that the Liberals almost lost that fortress in Vancouver-Quadra.

    -- "I think you missed the fact that Canada isn't a constituent part of the US... completely different scenario."

    Not at all. National identity and citizenship can be different things.

    -- "HoC = Representation by population -- since Quebec represents ~23% of the population and is declining, that's a ridiculous idea. "

    Wrong again. It was recently recognised by the Supreme Court (I believe) that certain communities, the Acadians for example, deserve special consideration when drawing up electoral boundaries. Quebec has been recognised as a nation, and thus deserves - at least - the same consideration as the Acadians.

    -- "Quebec is not a country and thus has no place in areas involving external affairs."

    Immigrants are external affairs? And as a nation, Quebec has interests beyond that of a mere province. It was your government that recognised us as a nation.

    -- "How about not repressing minorities because they don't speak French?"

    Hey, great idea. Where is that happening? Certainly not in Quebec.

    -- "If Sovereignists think life would be so swell outside of Canada, why don't they go seek citizenship in another country... say, one where French is spoken... like.. say, France?"

    Because Quebec is our country, not France.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 6:12 PM  

  • "Not at all. National identity and citizenship can be different things."

    In one case, you're referring to a citizen of one country supporting an external country over their own. In the other, you're referring to a citizen of one country supporting a different viewpoint wrt their own country. The example is inherently incorrect.

    "Wrong again. It was recently recognised by the Supreme Court (I believe) that certain communities, the Acadians for example, deserve special consideration when drawing up electoral boundaries."

    Care to provide a reference?

    "Immigrants are external affairs? And as a nation, Quebec has interests beyond that of a mere province. It was your government that recognised us as a nation."

    Yes, immigrants, who are citizens of countries that are external to Canada, are a matter of external affairs. I think the degree of control that provinces already have over this is seriously flawed.

    "-- "How about not repressing minorities because they don't speak French?"

    Hey, great idea. Where is that happening? Certainly not in Quebec."

    So I guess they stopped using the notwithstanding clause to support Bill 101 than? No? I guess this just another case of Quebec wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

    "Because Quebec is our country, not France."

    Quebec is not a country, Quebec is a province.

    -Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 PM  

  • Mike,

    You are looking at things too technically. I am a Quebecer. I am also a citizen of Canada, but I am not Canadian. If I were to move to Latvia and get Latvian citizenship, I'd still be a Quebecer. Dion is no exception.

    Here is a reference for the Acadian ruling:

    http://www.elections.ca/scripts/fedrep_nb/report/reasons_e.htm

    The important part:

    "In this respect, it points out that "such relative parity as may be possible of achievement may prove undesirable because it has the effect of detracting from the primary goal of effective representation." The Court cites examples where factors may justify a departure from voter parity: "Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account…" It concludes that departure from voter parity can be justified "to ensure more effective representation" and "in the end, it is the broader concept of effective representation which best serves the interests of a free and democratic society."

    --- "Quebec is not a country, Quebec is a province."

    No, Quebec is my country. Otherwise I have no country.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 9:38 PM  

  • I call Dion a self-loathing Quebecer because he chooses the interests of Canada over the interests of Quebec. If a Canadian chose the interests of America over the interests of Canada, what would you call him?

    It just so happens that Quebec, as a constituent part of Canada, has interests that are coincident with that of Canada's, by definition. What's more, over the past six decades, there have been four long-serving PMs of Quebec origin, from St-Laurent to Chretien. If the interests of Quebec are not served by placing a Quebecer ("self-loathing" or otherwise), I fail to see the situation could possibly improve with independence.

    As to ways we are restricted from pursuing our specificity, what about a voice on the international scene?

    Under international law, Quebec is recognized as already possessing the right of self-determination as a constituent part of a federal democratic state. Francophone Quebecers are no more deserving of "pursuing (their) specificity" than any other group in this country or on this planet. In any case, you beg the question with this, since, of course, the only solution is independence.

    What about total control over our tax revenue?

    Again, this is not a right nor is it a reasonable precondition of legitimate governance. The citizens of Gatineau do not have total control over tax revenue collected from them, but there is no compelling reason why they should.

    What about ensuring we have a minimum of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons?

    Representation in the House of Commons follows (roughly) the principle of representation-by-population, and so this cannot be guaranteed. However, the size of Quebec guarantees it a fairly decisive share of Commons seats.

    How about full control over immigration?

    Quebec and several other provinces have already concluded agreements with the federal government to gain control over certain recruitment policies. I don't have a link right this second, but immigration has been one area where different levels of government have cooperated with some success in the past decade or two.

    How about the end of federal interference in provincial jurisdictions?

    In a federal state, the constitutional division of powers does not reflect "watertight compartments" which should never interact, but rather an ongoing process of cooperation, competition, and general acrimony.

    How about the recognition of our Charter of the French Language and the application of it throughout Quebec?

    Is the government of Quebec not currently applying it?

    And as to the metaphor, old trees eventually die, dry-out, and fall down. They don't live forever. We haven't been able to solve this problem since 1759. Do you really think the debates and in-fighting we have had since the Quiet Revolution have helped Canada? Imagine how smoothly Canada would be sailing if Quebec were a separate state.

    I think they've helped, yes. They are, after all, continuing a very old tradition in this country of trying to find ways of dealing with such lingering problems, and given the 141 years of political stability and, yes, prosperity on any measure that we've enjoyed, I'd say it's worked out pretty well.

    You are presuming (a) that secession would not be contested or messy (which is unlikely for a variety of reasons) and (b) that political issues can be "solved" simply by effecting separation. It's a rather big unknown, and your vaguely Utopian presumption that your solution would "solve" all political dilemmas to the extent that it would be only smooth sailing ahead is ridiculous. How well do you think Canada would fare if chopped in half, especially if on the basis of a bare majority which claims it can compel a bare minority to accept separation?

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 12:22 AM  

  • "--- "Quebec is not a country, Quebec is a province."

    No, Quebec is my country. Otherwise I have no country."

    Than by your own choice you have no country. Quebec is not a country, it is a province within a larger country.

    Also, I'm glad you decided to not argue my point on Bill 101 -- I take it this means you accept that the French majority in Quebec is actively oppressing the minority? I have a hard time accepting complaints of oppression from a group of people who will happily oppress others when it meets their own agenda.

    As to your point on me being too technical -- sovereignty is a very technical, legal thing. It's not possible to ascertain it's nature without being technical.
    -Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:57 AM  

  • Eric - keeping in mind where the word "Canadian" comes from, you're more of a Canadian than I will ever be.

    By Anonymous a newfoundlander, not a Canadian, at 9:39 AM  

  • "Sovereignty still has 40% support. You call that dead? The Parti Quebecois is back in 2nd place and even 1st place, depending on the poll."

    I never said it was dead, I just used your tree analogy about Canada and applied it to separatism. If the fruit is never going to be ripe for Constitutional Reform after all these years then why should the fruit for separation be ripe after all the years?

    As for support for sovereignty and the Parti Quebecois, are they really adequate indicators of Quebec's desire to leave the country? I noticed you left out the part about the PQ rising in the polls after they dropped the referendum issue. Hardly an endorsement of a desire to leave Canada by Quebecers.

    Still, let's get back to the Tories in 2006. Even if you think Quebecers are being duped, it must concern you that they appear so willing to give Canada a chance. You had the Bloc at 50% in public opinion polls and support for sovereignty just as high and all Harper had to do was walk in and say he was prepared to listen and practice a more open federalism and the support for the Bloc and sovereignty began to melt away. Again, hardly a sign of a strong desire to leave the country.

    And with the Bloc supporting the Tories throughout the first two years in parliament, they essentially showed Quebecers that federalism can work as the majority of Quebec showed consistent confidence in the federal government. And I say good for them and welcome back.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:59 AM  

  • Josh,

    Certainly, Quebec and Canada can have common interests. But St-Laurent, Trudeau, and Chretien have done nothing for Quebec. St-Laurent might as well have been from Winnipeg, Trudeau (among other things) instituted the assimilationist Official Languages Act and his behaviour in October 1970 was beyond the pale, and Chretien and his crew violated electoral law in the 1995 referendum and then paid off his crew afterwards. Yes, Quebec's interests were certainly well served. All of those politicians were more concerned with winning votes in Ontario than serving Quebec.

    As to your other points, you speak as if Quebec is just an administrative region. Quebec is a nation, recognised as such unanimously in the National Assembly and almost unanimously in the House of Commons, and thus should have certain rights and privileges that a mere province does not have. That includes deserving to "pursue their specificity", controling our own finances, having total control over immigration, and having special representation in the House of Commons (as recognised by the Supreme Court). For the Charter of the French Language, I am specifically referring to a Bloc Quebecois motion to apply the law in federal institutions that are within Quebec.

    I do not presume that independence will be uncontested or completely clean, but I also do not subscribe to the doomsday scenario that most federalists sell in order to scare Quebecers into complacence. It is in Canada's interest to not cause trouble after a successful referendum. And I certainly do not believe that independence will solve all of our problems. There are problems between Canada and Quebec that would obviously be solved since they wouldn't exist anymore. But it isn't about solving political problems, it is about having a country of our own.

    Mike,

    I don't want to argue semantics. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Quebec is my country, just as Ireland was the country of the Irish before independence. They felt it, what others thought didn't matter.

    I didn't argue you on Bill 101 because your position is ridiculous. The law is not an oppressive law. And I haven't been complaining about 'oppression'.

    Newfoundlander,

    I can't help that our name was taken. And, on another issue, Newfoundland deserves to have its specificity recognised as well.

    Anonymous,

    There are things that Quebec and Canada cannot agree on when it comes to the constitution. It simply can't be done. Independence can. And as to the polls, the Parti Quebecois is less popular than the sovereignty option, so I'm not sure what you're arguing.

    No, it doesn't worry me that some federalist Quebecers voted for the Conservatives. The Bloc Quebecois still received 42% of the vote in Quebec, the Conservatives received only half of that. The split of the federalist vote is a good thing. But, yes, I will agree. Some Quebecers are prepared to listen. To consider it an attachment to Canada is going a little too far. It is more about seeing what the Conservatives were willing to offer after the Liberals offered nothing but the status quo. Sovereignty cannot be accomplished through the Bloc Quebecois. Voting methods are different when it comes to provincial and federal elections.

    And, anyway, I didn't say Quebec has a strong desire to leave the country at this point. But 40% is still 40%. And you and I both know how easy it is for that number to tip up back over 50% again. Unfortunately, a good 20%-30% of the electorate is without conviction.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 11:40 AM  

  • "And as to the polls, the Parti Quebecois is less popular than the sovereignty option, so I'm not sure what you're arguing."

    It depends on what people are thinking they are agreeing to when they say they support sovereignty. Is it outright separation from Canada or some kind of increased powers for Quebec within the Canadian federation? What you perceive to be the definition of sovereignty could be quite different from what someone else perceives it to be.

    And as you said, election voting
    voting is complicated. I'm not really sure it can be said that support for a PQ government is necessarily support for an independent Quebec outside the Canadian federation.

    The only thing I think that can be concluded from these stats is that 60% of Quebecers are satisfied (at least for now) with where Quebec is (or where they think it may be going) with respect to its place within the Canadian federation and support for the nominally separatist party increased when it dropped the referendum issue. Not exactly signs of winning conditions for Quebec separation from Canada.

    "Unfortunately, a good 20%-30% of the electorate is without conviction."

    Well, they are the ones that make it interesting. Anyways, enjoy your weekend.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 PM  

  • Certainly, Quebec and Canada can have common interests. But St-Laurent, Trudeau, and Chretien have done nothing for Quebec. St-Laurent might as well have been from Winnipeg, Trudeau (among other things) instituted the assimilationist Official Languages Act and his behaviour in October 1970 was beyond the pale, and Chretien and his crew violated electoral law in the 1995 referendum and then paid off his crew afterwards. Yes, Quebec's interests were certainly well served. All of those politicians were more concerned with winning votes in Ontario than serving Quebec.

    I don't see how you can make claims about the particular motivations of four different politicians. Your comments don't make much sense - if St-Laurent, Trudeau, and Chretien were so anathema to Quebec's interests, then how did they manage to secure such strong electoral support in the province. In Trudeau's case, this meant no less than all but one seat in the 1980 election. Or are you arguing that Quebec Liberal voters did not know their own interests? It seems to be a sovereigntist conceit that Federal Liberals are supposedly anti-Quebec, even though, historically at least, they have enjoyed wide popular support in the province. It is simply an anti-democratic argument. Of course, the Liberals have lost considerable support over the years, but complacency and an ossifying organization will do that.

    Concerning 1970, I'll simply paraphrase Trudeau - if some bleeding hearts don't like the look of soldiers in the street and temporary detentions, then they can go on and bleed - it put a stop to any kind of independentiste violence, and though it may have helped set the stage for the Pequiste victory in 1976, we should be thankful that for all the political fights that followed they occurred peacefully.

    Regarding 1995, you are simply parroting unproven allegations which, in any case, are par for the course concerning irregularities on the "other side". Furthermore, considering the exceptional nature of a peaceful referendum and debate, suggesting that a state stand back while a vote on a vague question is taken is ludicrous.

    As to your other points, you speak as if Quebec is just an administrative region. Quebec is a nation, recognised as such unanimously in the National Assembly and almost unanimously in the House of Commons, and thus should have certain rights and privileges that a mere province does not have. That includes deserving to "pursue their specificity", controling our own finances, having total control over immigration, and having special representation in the House of Commons (as recognised by the Supreme Court). For the Charter of the French Language, I am specifically referring to a Bloc Quebecois motion to apply the law in federal institutions that are within Quebec.

    Quebec is just an administrative region - that it has a majority francophone population who consider themselves as comprising a sociological nation is immaterial. I have family and friends living in Quebec; they certainly do not consider themselves part of a nation distinct from Canada. It should be further noted that many groups - aboriginals and many anglophones especially - do not consider themselves part of any Quebec nation, at least not under your terms. As the saying goes, if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec. Arguing otherwise is sophistry.

    Even so, I fail to see how Quebec is currently unable to pursue its specificity under current arrangements. It already benefits from equalization payments and the usual fiscal transfers; this has not precluded the pursuit of a fairly unique social model in Canada, nor the development of a distinct pension plan, post-secondary system, and other such institutions. There are certainly some elements of social policy (like immigration) where collaboration is a necessity, but I am interested to know what powers over immigration you think Quebec should possess that it does not currently have. I encourage you to research the agreements that have already been made.

    As for federal institutions in Quebec, it goes without saying that the language of office use will differ on a case-by-case basis. I highly doubt that a post office in the Saguenay requires English-speaking employees, but a museum in Gatineau most certainly needs a completely bilingual environment.

    I do not presume that independence will be uncontested or completely clean, but I also do not subscribe to the doomsday scenario that most federalists sell in order to scare Quebecers into complacence. It is in Canada's interest to not cause trouble after a successful referendum. And I certainly do not believe that independence will solve all of our problems. There are problems between Canada and Quebec that would obviously be solved since they wouldn't exist anymore. But it isn't about solving political problems, it is about having a country of our own.

    You are presuming a high degree of rationality on the part of all actors. In the end, it is not in anyone's economic or political or social interest to pursue the breakup of a state which is one of the oldest and stablest constitutional democracies in the world. The process of a breakup is inevitably going to be at least somewhat messy, and it is always preferable (and easier!) to make incremental and feasible adjustments to institutional arrangements than to look for an illusory "permanent" solution. That simply gives rise to the folly of all-or-nothing constitutional debates.

    And on that note, I should mention again that regional constitutional vetoes already exist - Quebec, Ontario, BC, the Prairies, and the Atlantic provinces each have one, as was provided in this act. It could be constitutionalized relatively easily. As it stands, the Act like any law is still binding on the federal government.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 1:14 PM  

  • "The only thing I think that can be concluded from these stats is that 60% of Quebecers are satisfied (at least for now) with where Quebec is (or where they think it may be going) with respect to its place within the Canadian federation and support for the nominally separatist party increased when it dropped the referendum issue. Not exactly signs of winning conditions for Quebec separation from Canada."

    I have to disagree. Remember, a good portion of the electorate supported the ADQ, an autonomous party, and a good portion supported the Conservatives, who were promising changes. When it comes to "status quo", provincially 33% voted for the status quo and federally only about 25% did.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 2:23 PM  

  • Josh,

    The Liberals have had success in Quebec, that is true. But when the Bloc Quebecois arrived they became the favourite party. Since 1993 the Bloc Quebecois has never had a minority of the Quebec seats in the House of Commons. Certainly that says something, perhaps indicating what Quebecers have wanted as an option in federal elections before. Who knows how a Bloc Quebecois could have performed had it been formed in the 1970s. Quebecers seem to choose whoever promises the most change from the status quo. Trudeau promised changes in the 1980 referendum and so received 74 seats in Quebec. Then Mulroney promised changes and received 58 seats and 63 seats in 1984 and 1988 respectively. People promising the status quo have very little success in Quebec.

    In October 1970 Trudeau arrested and jailed hundreds of Quebecers who did nothing and held them without charge. This is not about soldiers in the streets, it was about an over-reaction. The Parti Quebecois and Rene Levesque were watched by the RCMP, yet neither had ever done anything violent. The FLQ was such a badly run organisation that it didn't require such harsh measures against it.

    As to the referendum, these aren't mere allegations. Money was spent in the referendum campaign that should not have been. Whether or not you like how electoral law is written, it was the law, and the federal government broke it. The few irregularities on our side are nothing compared to the millions and millions of dollars spent illegally by the NON side in the referendum.

    Quebec has been recognised by the House of Commons as a nation. That you disagree is immaterial. That a few of your Quebec acquaintances disagree is immaterial. And the partition of Quebec is such a completely different debate I'm not sure why you're bringing it up. But, suffice to say, international law is on my side in this matter. Carving up a state along demographic lines is completely against international law and precedent. Carving it up along established borders is not. Yugoslavia was a federation as well, and its constituent parts left as a whole. The same can be said with the Soviet Union and even Czechoslovakia.

    To answer your question about immigration, Quebec should have 100% control over selection of immigrants who come to Quebec.

    In most of the federal institutions in Gatineau (more than just a museum) the working environment is English, not French. Many federal institutions and federally regulated organisations in Quebec are in contravention of the Charter of the French Language. If Canada truly respects Quebec, then they should be willing to respect our laws.

    All-or-nothing constitutional debates are necessary in this case, because if Quebec signs the constitution and receives only a part of what it demands, it won't be opened again and it will be too late. Levesque did the right thing by not signing, and I remind you that federalist leaders of Quebec from Bourassa to Johnson to Charest have never signed the constitution since.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 2:44 PM  

  • Quebec has been recognised by the House of Commons as a nation. That you disagree is immaterial. That a few of your Quebec acquaintances disagree is immaterial. And the partition of Quebec is such a completely different debate I'm not sure why you're bringing it up. But, suffice to say, international law is on my side in this matter. Carving up a state along demographic lines is completely against international law and precedent. Carving it up along established borders is not. Yugoslavia was a federation as well, and its constituent parts left as a whole. The same can be said with the Soviet Union and even Czechoslovakia.

    On the contrary, the Commons motion merely recognized the "Quebecois nation", which is rather different from ascribing the qualities of nationhood to a government (impossible, since only people can be nations). What's more, Quebec is not a sovereign entity now nor has it ever been. Indeed, its current borders are defined solely by the Constitution of Canada and associated Acts.

    Furthermore, your assertion that the views of my family members and friends are irrelevant is appalling undemocratic - what gives you the right to assert how other people should identify themselves? This is, incidentally, why a "clear majority" is an absolute necessity in a referendum - it flies in the face of all logic and reason to argue that 50%+1 can compel 50%-1 to relinquish their citizenship and accept forcible incorporation into a sovereign Quebec.

    Regarding international law, you have failed to cite any actual precedents. Partition of territories on demographic lines has ample precedent. Some examples:
    1) The dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
    2) The partition of India leading to the creation of Pakistan
    3) The secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan
    4) The secession of Singapore from Malaysia (although, in this case, it was expelled!)
    5) The creation of the Republic of Ireland
    6) The secession of Kosovo from Serbia (recall that Kosovo was a constituent part of Serbia, which was in turn a federal unit of Yugoslavia)

    For that matter, if, as you say, "carving up a state along demographic lines is completely against international law and precedent", then you have just stated that Quebec secession is illegitimate. Once again, if Canada is divisible on the basis of demographic lines, then so is Quebec. If you were familiar with international law, you might consider that there exists no right under international law that affords statehood to any kind of "demographic", whether it considers itself a nation or not.

    To answer your question about immigration, Quebec should have 100% control over selection of immigrants who come to Quebec.

    If a person has met the stated criteria for study/work visas or to immigrate to Canada and become a permanent resident, she has an absolute right to settle in any part of the country. Do you disagree that immigrants - like all Canadians - enjoy fundamental mobility rights? Now, if you are not positing any kind of restriction, by all means indicate it.

    In most of the federal institutions in Gatineau (more than just a museum) the working environment is English, not French. Many federal institutions and federally regulated organisations in Quebec are in contravention of the Charter of the French Language. If Canada truly respects Quebec, then they should be willing to respect our laws.

    This is nonsense. Which federal institutions do you mean? At the Museum of Civilization, for example, I observe most if not all of the staff speaking with one another in French. As it stands, there exists a federal military college in Quebec which is entirely French-speaking, and you have not specified how post offices, to take one example, operate in English outside of areas with substantial numbers of English speakers.

    Perhaps you have missed the point that you are referring to federal institutions which are naturally regulated federally. The standing policy is to operate in the language which reflects the local demographics.

    All-or-nothing constitutional debates are necessary in this case, because if Quebec signs the constitution and receives only a part of what it demands, it won't be opened again and it will be too late. Levesque did the right thing by not signing, and I remind you that federalist leaders of Quebec from Bourassa to Johnson to Charest have never signed the constitution since.

    I fail to see your reasoning. Aside from the fact that no province "signed" the constitution (and, in this case, we are referring *only* to the Constitution Act, 1982, which you should realise is only one among many constitutional documents), one round of successful negotiations and amendments focussed on simpler, achievable changes is just as likely to spur future successful rounds of negotiations. Nothing spurs success better than past success - the current impasses is directly due to the colossal failures of Meech and Charlottetown.

    Anyhow, what part of the 1982 Act do you take issue with? The Charter? The amending formula? The entrenchment of equalization and bilingualism? The problem in the past has not been Quebec's demands per se, but with their vagueness - if Quebec is recognized as a distinct society constitutionally, what sort of legal consequences would this have? No one could provide a good answer to this in 1987 or in 1992.

    In the end, I invite you to consider the many examples of cooperation between the federal government and that of Quebec. Why, the Canada-Quebec Accord on immigration has existed for 17 years! It seems to be more or less what you've been calling for. I suspect you'll find (well I know you will) many other such examples, such as when reform of the Quebec school system to solely linguistic lines was constitutionally amended in 1997.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 8:45 PM  

  • Josh,

    On the contrary, the Commons motion merely recognized the "Quebecois nation", which is rather different from ascribing the qualities of nationhood to a government (impossible, since only people can be nations).

    When the House of Commons recognises that Quebecers form a nation, that necessarily means that Quebec itself forms a nation, because Quebecers are all of those from Quebec. And while this appelation hasn't been given to the government of Quebec, this is irrelevant. The government of Quebec is merely the democratic representation of the people of Quebec, and so it is the representation of the nation of Quebec.

    What's more, Quebec is not a sovereign entity now nor has it ever been.

    I do not see a relevance to this point. Quebec did not have the opportunity to be a sovereign entity because it was conquered. The United States had never been a sovereign entity before 1776 and neither was Canada before 1867.

    Indeed, its current borders are defined solely by the Constitution of Canada and associated Acts.

    Which was agreed upon by the representatives of the people of Quebec who decided to embark on this new course. As such, we have the moral right to opt out should the system no longer meet our standards.

    Furthermore, your assertion that the views of my family members and friends are irrelevant is appalling undemocratic - what gives you the right to assert how other people should identify themselves?

    I have been told here that my self-identity with Quebec is farcical because Quebec does not exist as a country. I am not saying your friends and family have to identify the way I tell them to, I am saying that anecdotal points of view are irrelevant in this argument.

    This is, incidentally, why a "clear majority" is an absolute necessity in a referendum - it flies in the face of all logic and reason to argue that 50%+1 can compel 50%-1 to relinquish their citizenship and accept forcible incorporation into a sovereign Quebec.

    How appallingly undemocratic.

    Regarding international law, you have failed to cite any actual precedents. Partition of territories on demographic lines has ample precedent. Some examples:
    1) The dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire


    We're reach into 1919, but fine. Austria-Hungary, however, was an Empire formed through military conquest. It is not a relevant precedent.

    2) The partition of India leading to the creation of Pakistan

    India was part of the British Empire formed through military conquest with arbitrary borders which suited the conquerors. It is not a relevant precedent.

    3) The secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan

    Bangladesh was part of the British Empire formed through military conquest with arbitrary borders which suited the conquerors. It is not a relevant precedent.

    4) The secession of Singapore from Malaysia (although, in this case, it was expelled!)

    Being expelled, this would seem to be not a relevant precedent.

    5) The creation of the Republic of Ireland

    Ireland was a part of the British Empire formed through military conquest and was then colonised by the conquerors. The partition of Ireland was the result of a war of independence, not a democratic vote. And thus is not a relevant precedent.

    6) The secession of Kosovo from Serbia (recall that Kosovo was a constituent part of Serbia, which was in turn a federal unit of Yugoslavia)

    But Kosovo was a province of Serbia, making it a perfect precedent for Quebec independence, as the international community recognised the secession of a province, despite unhappy minorities within that province and the hostility of the government of the former state. Thank you for helping my point.

    For that matter, if, as you say, "carving up a state along demographic lines is completely against international law and precedent", then you have just stated that Quebec secession is illegitimate.

    Not at all. Quebec's borders are not demographically set and never have been.

    Once again, if Canada is divisible on the basis of demographic lines, then so is Quebec.

    Canada is not, as I have pointed out. So Quebec is not either. Democracy reigns supreme. If the people of Quebec decide to become a country, then all of Quebec becomes a country. When Quebecers decided not to become a country in 1995, we didn't expell the Outaouais and then create the Republic of Quebec. Why does this standard not go both ways?

    If you were familiar with international law, you might consider that there exists no right under international law that affords statehood to any kind of "demographic", whether it considers itself a nation or not.

    I have not made this sort of argument. The people of the province of Quebec will democratically decide on independence, and the majority will have their way.

    a person has met the stated criteria for study/work visas or to immigrate to Canada and become a permanent resident, she has an absolute right to settle in any part of the country. Do you disagree that immigrants - like all Canadians - enjoy fundamental mobility rights? Now, if you are not positing any kind of restriction, by all means indicate it.

    Immigration is an incredibly important part of the future of a nation. And as we are in such a isolated position, doubly so. Quebec, as a nation, should have control over immigration within its own borders. Canada, respecting Quebec's nationhood, should allow Quebec to make its own decisions when it comes to immigrants settling in Quebec. Moving to another part of the country, becoming a citizen, and then moving to Quebec is a different matter entirely.

    This is nonsense. Which federal institutions do you mean?

    Government offices full of government employees. I am not talking about museums, which obviously have to be able to serve their clientele. But customer service is a completely different matter.

    Perhaps you have missed the point that you are referring to federal institutions which are naturally regulated federally. The standing policy is to operate in the language which reflects the local demographic

    In Quebec, this is in contravention of the Charter of the French Language. If the particular federal institution has more than 50 employees, the language of work must be French.

    I fail to see your reasoning. Aside from the fact that no province "signed" the constitution (and, in this case, we are referring *only* to the Constitution Act, 1982, which you should realise is only one among many constitutional documents), one round of successful negotiations and amendments focussed on simpler, achievable changes is just as likely to spur future successful rounds of negotiations. Nothing spurs success better than past success - the current impasses is directly due to the colossal failures of Meech and Charlottetown.

    I believe you are wrong. Some of Quebec's demands are virtually unmeetable by the rest of the country, no matter how much success has been achieved piecemeal. The current impasse is directly due to the decisions Pierre Trudeau made in 1981 and the flaws in the Constitution itself.

    In the end, I invite you to consider the many examples of cooperation between the federal government and that of Quebec.

    Alright, Quebec and Canada have co-operated on X, Y, and Z. But they haven't co-operated on A, B, C, and D. So?

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 3:45 PM  

  • "I don't want to argue semantics. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Quebec is my country, just as Ireland was the country of the Irish before independence. They felt it, what others thought didn't matter."

    Being of Irish descent I disagree with this comparison. One of the primary reasons for the wars that brought about the Irish Free State was that the Irish (Catholics in particular) were ruthlessly oppressed by the British. In Ireland, the British forcefully prevented any sort of Home Rule -- this is a completely different scenario than Quebec.

    "I didn't argue you on Bill 101 because your position is ridiculous. The law is not an oppressive law. And I haven't been complaining about 'oppression'."

    You'll have to excuse me for disagreeing with you. Any law that attempts to forcibly eliminate the use of minority languages is by definition oppressive. If French Quebecer's are concerned about the preservation of their own culture, they should first look at home and consider how they're trying to eliminate the culture if the minorities in their province.

    -Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • Mike,

    I am also of Irish descent, and I am aware of the history of Ireland. And I was not describing the political scenario, I was describing national allegiance and self-identity. Ireland was the country of the Irish, even if Ireland wasn't legally a country.

    The Charter of the French Language does not attempt to forcibly eliminate the use of minority languages, and Quebecers are not trying to eliminate the culture of minorities.

    And what minorities are you speaking about? Anglophones have Canada, how could their culture be eliminated? And immigrants decided to move to Quebec, why should it be our responsibility to ensure their culture survives? The culture of their homeland will always exist in their homeland. We shouldn't be trying to create a new China or Lebanon or Estonia in downtown Montreal.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 4:27 PM  

  • Eric:

    If you're aware of Irish history, than you're probably also aware that a big part of the reason for the unrest in Ireland was because there was a deliberate importation of an overlord class (the Scottish planters) to directly eliminate the Irish. Not such condition exists in Quebec.

    It's not your responsibility to 'ensure their culture survives'. However, if they wish to ensure that their culture survives, they have the right to do so. Bill 101 squashes that right. You seem to feel that your rights as a Francophone trump those of everyone who isn't a Francophone. I believe that you have the same rights as I do.

    -Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:00 AM  

  • than you're probably also aware that a big part of the reason for the unrest in Ireland was because there was a deliberate importation of an overlord class (the Scottish planters) to directly eliminate the Irish. Not such condition exists in Quebec.

    Um, and English/Scottish colonisation of Quebec and economic domination after the Conquest was what, exactly?

    However, if they wish to ensure that their culture survives, they have the right to do so. Bill 101 squashes that right.

    How does it squash that "right"? Bill 101 does not prohibit parents from sending their children to private schools that instruct in any language they choose. People have a right to education, and Bill 101 does not squash that right. People do not have the right to publically funded education in the language of their choice. I can't go to Italy and demand that the Italian government pay for an English-language school.

    By Blogger Éric Grenier, at 4:14 PM  

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