Sovereignty on its death bed in Québec

The Bloc Québécois was nearly obliterated in the last federal elections. Support for the Parti Québécois keeps going down. Support for Québec independence has slipped as low as 33%, below the 40% long held as a floor. "The sovereignty movement is gravely ill and in the most unexpected places" states The Globe and Mail in a report published Saturday.

Building a rainbow coalition bringing together left-wing and right-wing proponents who shared a common interest for sovereignty was a good idea in the 70s. But 35 years of efforts by the Parti Québécois, internal quarrels and two referendums haven't yielded the expected result. While English-language media are celebrating the end of the sovereignty movement, the Québécois are now acknowledging that sovereignty can't be achieved through a structured movement.

Twice, the Québécois have shied away from their historic challenge, favoring Canada. In the mind of the average Canadian, these two missed opportunities took place in 1980 and 1995. I'm referring to the opportunities that took place in 1990 and 2005, in the aftermath of the Meech Lake Accord failure and the AdScam. Support for sovereignty then neared 70% the first time and broke through the 50% barrier the second time. On both occasions, a federalist party was at the helm.

The failed referendums were the result of the Parti Québécois' doing. The real missed opportunities were the result of Ottawa's doing. Had there been a provincial government sympathetic to sovereignty at the time, Québec would now be a country. In short, sovereignty can't be achieved on its own. It can only be achieved as a response to Ottawa's ill-advised initiatives. You think this is pathetic? I agree. The Québécois have expressed their support for Canada twice, in 1980 and 1995. But this support is not unconditional and Ottawa's doing nothing about it.

Now, everything is set for a repeat of the missed opportunities of 1990 and 2005. The average Canadian voter believes that the sovereignty movement is dying, seeing no sense in addressing the constitutional status quo. And a federal government in which the Québécois don't recognize themselves is promoting unpopular initiatives, alienating them further. This feeling can be observed among both French and English-speaking Québécois.

With the recent installment of a probe into corruption and collusion in the construction industry, the only provincial party capable of defending the merits of the federation is potentially facing the fate of its federal counterpart following the Adscam. This could open the way for a new, but nationalist, government [Google translation]. Should Ottawa continue on its way, a third opportunity may arise. Would the party at the helm take advantage of it?


adski said...

"Should Ottawa continue on its way, a third opportunity may arise."

Do you ever get tired of this line?

Michel Bolduc said...

I'm still hoping for an articulate challenge to my perspective.

adski said...

The choice Quebec faces is between accepting Canada as it is, or leaving it. Changing and reshaping of Canadian mentality, thinking, values, and attitudes is no longer on the table. The time of "challenges", "perspectives", "negotiations", "summits", "conventions", commissions", "forums", and "accords" is over. Now is the time to make a decision.

If your decision is for Quebec to separate, that's perfectly fine. But do it as an end in itself, not as a tool of blackmail and manipulation of the rest of the country.

Michel Bolduc said...

You're basically in tune with many high profile sovereigntists (Jacques Parizeau, Gilles Duceppe and Joseph Facal...). I must admit it's becoming increasingly difficult to not see the issue as a choice between black or white, but you can't expect all Québécois to suddenly accept Canada as their nation, nor can I expect all Canadians to spontaneously acknowledge that living in French without knowing English is perfectly acceptable.

All I see right now between Ottawa and Québec is a drift gaining speed. We're bound to witness situations in which actions will be interpreted as blackmail or manipulation and we won't agree whether they are or not. Most importantly, that's not the path I promote.

adski said...

Quebecois don't have to accept Canada as their nation. They have to accept it as it is. There is a big difference between the two.

Not accepting Canada as your nation is perfectly ok. All you need to do is separate and form a new nation (and ironically, deal with all those within the new nation who don't accept it as their nation). That is much different than not accepting Canada as it is, deciding to persist in it but hedging it in never ending conditions and ultimatums when it is painfully obvious that there is no interest for any of this in the rest of the country. That, in a way, is masochism, a self-imposed doctrine of permanent political warfare with a side that doesn't even register that there is a war going on.

And just because Quebec is within a construct called Canada, it does not mean that everyone in that construct will adapt to Quebec. It is preposterous to think this, especially within a huge federated state with regional variations. Quebec can learn to live with these variations, or leave. What it cannot do is to demand that the rest of the country adapts to Quebec. Canada cannot be negotiated into any more concessions for Quebec, nor can it be negotiated into being any more accommodating.

The time has come to take it, or leave it.

Michel Bolduc said...

I understood what you meant Adski. I'm simply saying I don't see it happening in the near future... ne t'en déplaise.

Ian Gillman said...

For Québec to fully take it's place in the Canadian federation and move on from the bickering of the last 30 years, Québecois must come to accept their place in the federation as a province amongst others.

Conversely, Canada must come recognize, PROTECT AND EMBRACE the continuing contribution of Québec's history, language and culture as a key defining characteristic of Canada.

For reasonable people who can forget or put aside everything between the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and return of the "Royal" branches of the Canadian Forces, this shouldn't seem so impossible. Unfortunately, just like the Israeli-Palestinian situation, this will never happen.

And so, we all are condemned to the status quo, where Québec complains and the ROC makes no effort to avoid poking the hornets nest, until the day Québecois decide to take on the full weight of true nationhood on their own.