What's wrong?... are the Québécois ungrateful?... why aren't they receptive?
The fiscal imbalance is a discrepancy between means and responsibilities. This situation was particularly acute during Paul Martin's tenure as finance minister in the late 90s, while Ottawa experienced repeated surpluses and the province experienced repeated deficits. In March 2002, the Report of Commission on Fiscal Imbalance (a.k.a. the Séguin Report) recommended three steps for eliminating the fiscal imbalance:
- Stopping financial pressure by increasing transfer payments for health and education;
- Freeing a new tax room for the provinces;
- Restricting "federal spending powers" to prevent overlaps with provincial jurisdictions.
In November 2006, the Conservatives passed the Québécois nation motion (see The Québécois form a Nation). For many Canadians in other provinces, the motion is a major breakthrough for Québec. For the majority of Québécois, the motion simply is an acknowledgement of what they already know. French Canadian culture is a prominent defining characteristic of the Canadian identity and Québec is an important component of this culture. The Conservatives' motion is a step in the right direction for Canada, but what will come out of it in practical terms remains an unanswered question.
In May 2006, the Québec-Canada agreement on UNESCO entered into force. It gives the province permanent representation to Canada's mission to UNESCO. In practical terms, it guarantees access to all official documents and participation to internal efforts before Canada takes a position or votes.
The Canadian identity has been marked by French Canadian stubbornness (see The Québécois aren't truly Canadians). When it comes to popular culture, the Québécois watch and listen to more homegrown productions than other Canadians (see Canadian content, Part 2 and Part 3). With its rich production, Québec contributes more than its share to Canadian cultural exports. The province was also instrumental in UNESCO's 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (see Cultural diversity).
The Québec-Canada agreement on UNESCO now ensures that, before taking a stand on cultural issues, Canada will hear Québec's point of view. When it comes to asserting its own cultural distinctiveness, Canada doesn't have much to show off. Shouldn't one render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's?
The Québécois aren't being receptive. Is anyone wondering why?... and what are they doing about it?