Let the awakening begin?

Times are good for sovereigntists... sorry for repeating myself. A new survey found that 44.5 percent of Québécois would still support separating from Canada if the Constitution could not be changed enough to satisfy the majority of the province. What's wrong?

Following Parizeau's infamous speech in 1995, the PQ has been relatively quiet on the identity front. Since their arrival at the helm, the Liberals have been taking care of their English-speaking electorate. How shall I put this?... la nature a horreur du vide... nature abhors a vacuum?... not sure... but the government's negligence in regards to the linguistic situation in Montréal for the last couple of decades is fertile ground for the sovereignty movement. How so?

In his recent contribution to L'actualité, about the situation of French in Montréal [Google translation], Jack Jedwab points out that the majority of Québécois feels that French as a language would be better protected in a sovereign Québec than in the current federation. The director of the Association for Canadian Studies also points out that these conclusions don't only apply to French-speaking Québécois; the majority of Anglophones and Allophones feel the same way.

With the persistent signals the media has been sending in regards to linguistics incidents in Montréal, there's no doubt in my mind that the Québécois are concerned. Add a Conservative government who's alienating the province of Ottawa in the mix and you have... two... shall I call these?... winning conditions?

Apparently, all this comes as a surprise to many Canadians. Take a look at some of the reactions the report in The Globe and Mail has been prompting to see for yourself. One commentator asks (referring to the Québécois): "Are these people NUTS?" I reply: "Perhaps... but you haven't been following all this very closely... right?"


Ici, on parle English

As it is often the case when it comes to language perspectives in Montréal, the conclusion of a survey conducted by L'actualité magazine is stirring the pot. You can read it here [Google translation], but it's pretty much the usual stuff for those who mix with both English and French cultures on a regular basis. A lot of huff and puff... one side discovering the limited knowledge of the other for what they take for granted... etc.

One important thing that I'm pleased to put a number on is the proportion of Anglophones who consider themselves Québécois. Findings of the survey suggest that 80 percent of Anglophones identify themselves as such. A number that contrasts with results from other provinces where about two thirds of the residents see themselves as Ontarians, Albertans or others. A number that would have been even more surprising a few decades ago, but is somewhat consistent with testimonials and reactions The Gazette has been publishing once in a while.

One thing that I particularly liked about this survey is the contribution of Josh Freed. The man is, among other things, a well-known columnist, the creator of the word "neverendum", the co-author of The Anglo guide to survival in Québec and, above all, a true dyed-in-the-wool Montrealer... un vrai de vrai Montréalais pure laine... un Anglo-Québécois who loves his province with all its buoyancy and contradictions... I trust you get the picture.

In his recent column, Mr. Freed reflects on the limitations of the cover story published by L'actualité:
We Québec Anglos chose to stay here when hundreds of thousands of others left. We stayed through exhausting sign-law battles and two neverendums we didn't want.

We stayed because we're Québécois - and Montrealers, who love this city with a passion few Canadians have for theirs. We like the French language, French bistros, French wine, French food, French kissing and French's mustard.

We've stayed in Montréal while many Francophones have quit for the suburbs. And as I wrote in L'actualité: We may need a Bill 301 to save French in Montréal by forbidding more Francophones from moving off the island.
Click here to read his full reaction.


Québec voters

Yesterday, Lysiane Gagnon reported in The Globe and Mail that, according to a recent survey by Léger Marketing, the Bloc has the most support in Québec, at 31 percent, four points ahead of the NDP. The Liberals are lagging behind at 22 percent. And the Conservatives are at the bottom with a miserable 14 percent.

Since voters in my province are now back in the old fold of the Bloc Québécois, less than a year after giving 59 seats to the NDP, the columnist points out that "it is an understatement to say Québec voters are volatile".

Volatile?... let's check this out...
  • In 1993, 49% of the voters in Québec gave 56 seats the Bloc.
  • In 1997, 38% gave 44 seats.
  • In 2000, 40% gave 38 seats.
  • In 2004, 49% gave 54 seats.
  • In 2006, 42% gave 51 seats.
  • In 2008, 38% gave 49 seats.
  • In 2011, 23% gave 4 seats.
Hmmm... apart from the fling voters had with Jack last summer, results seem to revolve around the 44% mark (±6%). I don't see much volatility. Am I looking at this the right way? Or perhaps, Mrs Gagnon is referring to the fact that current support has yet to reach normal levels again... nah... that's not it.

Mrs Gagnon is denouncing the Québécois' short honeymoon with the federalist party as if it were some sort of surprise. How could that be? Another survey [in French] by Léger Marketing, found that 3 out of 4 Québécois are against the constitutional status quo. And guess what?... the only alternative on the table is the sovereigntists' proposal.

This looks like the slow, but steady, return to the previous equilibrium.


Halal meat and the federalists

The PQ feels that halal meat should be labeled for consumers to make an informed decision. Sounds reasonable... no issue here... next! The PQ claims the traditional religious ritual used to kill the animals hurts Québec values because it is inhumane... oops!

When I read about it [Google translation] in La presse, I thought: "wow!... this is great material for the federalist press". I was right. It didn't take very long for The Globe and Mail to write an editorial about it... headlining that "Québec's controversy over halal meat is another manifestation of politics of exclusion"... yep!... "another manifestation of politics of exclusion".

According to the editorial, if critics of the practice could show that animals are made to suffer more than those slaughtered by the usual methods, then the objections would have merit. To me, an exhaustive coverage of the controversy, even for an opinion piece, would also have merit.

Three things come to mind. First, the editorial barely touches the PQ's main point, i.e. that halal meat should be properly labeled for consumers to make an informed decision. Second, the editorial makes no mention of Charest supporting appropriate labeling of foods produced under religious rites. Third, it neglects to mention that the CAQ also shares the PQ's point of view. That's it... three simple items that could have been part of the editorial.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not defending the PQ's use of Québec's values to appeal to some while ostracizing others. I may not be convinced that religious rites in food distribution (click here for some real examples) are still as justified today as they were when devised, but I respect them. In contrast to the editorial's conclusion, and like the majority of Québécois, I easily find common ground with recently arrived immigrants, and don't particularly feel tempted by the politics of exclusion.

My point has more to do with the Globe's intent. As it is too often the case, this was too good an opportunity to not hit the nail of intolerance and demonize the sovereigntists again (click here for more)... especially in the favorable light the PQ has been recently looked at.

Still... it strikes me how quick federalists are to jump on such incidents. It's as if intolerance and exclusion were the only handles they had to counter the appeal for a sovereign Québec. I wish federalists spent half the efforts boasting the merit of our great country. Is this too much to ask?


Will Québec save Canada?

A recent article [Google translation] published in La Presse states that the Harper Government acknowledges the strategy the PQ has been using for the upcoming provincial election. In essence, Pauline Marois has been putting forward that the Conservatives' right-wing agenda is proof that their is no room in Canada for the distinct province (let it be noted that 60% of Canadians voted against Harper at the last federal election). How this recognition by the Conservatives will influence their actions remains to be seen. Still, the influence of Québec politics on Ottawa may not be dismissed altogether, despite the collapse of the Bloc.

Yesterday, the Conservatives managed to push their controversial omnibus crime bill through Parliament. The bill puts an onus on any province that favors rehabilitation over imprisonment of young offenders. Today, The Globe and Mail reports that "Québec refuses to implement Harper's crime bill".

What's next? With their interim leaders, both the Liberals and the NDP lack the full thrust of a solid opposition in Ottawa. Is Québec the only stakeholder bold enough to stand against the Harperites?


Canadians and Canadian movies

Last week was an important one for the Canadian movie industry. The 32nd Annual Genie Awards, honoring Canada's greatest, was held Thursday. As expected by many, Québécois movies did rather well.

Among the many recipients, one particularly caught my attention, Starbuck. It's the story of a perpetual adolescent who discovers that, as a sperm donor, he fathered 533 children. It won the Golden Reel Award, presented annually to the Canadian film that has earned the highest domestic box office. It won the same award last night at La soirée des Jutras [in French], the ceremony honoring Québec's greatest.

In the province, Starbuck raked in $3.4M. In the whole country, its box office performance totals a little more than $3.5M. You read this right... the Canadian film that earned the highest domestic box office sold for a little over $100,000 outside Québec! In other words, with a market more than three times the size of my province, the English language industry was not able to produce a movie as commercially successful as Québec did for itself.

What's wrong?... this is certainly not about lack of talent. Why aren't Canadians watching domestic movies? A recent survey [Google translation] found that 83% of the Québécois are favorably biased to Québec films. How do Canadians in other provinces feel about their own production? I mean... Uncle Sam produces some great flicks, but he's not the only one!

With theaters basically the property of American majors, can Canadians really watch movies produced outside the USA? Movies play an important part in a society's cultural fabric... how does this situation contribute to the Canadian psyche in terms of identity?

Some people probably think I don't get it... I wish they would explain.


Times are good for Sovereigntists - Part 2

Léger Marketing published the results of yet another survey concluding that the PQ is in majority territory [in French]. Overall, the CAQ is at 24%, the PLQ at 28% and the PQ at 33%. This lead may not seem important, but one has to keep in mind that support for the PQ among Francophones is at 40% and they basically determine the results in 100 of the province's 125 ridings.

It's still a bit early to qualify the trend as strong, but it adds an interesting variable to the possibility of an election prior to the public hearings of Quebec's commission of inquiry into construction corruption, a.k.a. the Commission Charbonneau.


Times are good for Sovereigntists

Three months ago, The Globe and Mail headlined: "Sovereignty on its death bed in Québec" (click here to read my reaction to it). The underlying premise to such a statement is the conclusion much of the English press has reached by equating support for sovereignty with the demise of the Bloc Québécois. This conclusion doesn't hold.

A CROP survey, conducted in the weeks that followed the Bloc's collapse, showed support for sovereignty at 43% [Google translation]. A more recent Léger Marketing survey (conducted in late January) also puts support for sovereignty at 43% [in French].

Had there been an election in Québec two weeks ago, yet another poll from CROP put the PQ in the driver's seat [Google translation]. Those who doubt the conclusions of a Québécois research firm may want to look at an Ontarian source; Forum Research saw a possible majority [Google translation].

Why?... the PQ hasn't made any drastic change to its offering... the PLQ is still plagued with the same problems... Harper!?... yep!

While most of English Canada has been busy celebrating the demise of the Bloc on the federal scene, the Québécois have been acknowledging what the Bloc contributed to shield them from:
  • Canada's withdrawal from Kyoto
  • Purchasing of F-35 fighters
  • The rise of the Monarchy in Canadian symbols
  • Military patriotism in general
  • Impact of C-30 on privacy
  • Using intelligence derived from torture
  • End of the long-gun registry
  • Fetal rights and their impact on abortion
  • Hints at death penalty under certain conditions
These initiatives have been so unpopular in Québec, and to many Canadians, that Justin Trudeau said he's enormously sad about where Canada is heading, and that if he ever believed Canada was Prime Minister "Stephen Harper's Canada," he would think about sovereignty."I always say that if ever I believed Canada was really Stephen Harper's Canada — that we were heading against abortion, against gay marriage, that we were going backwards 10,000 different ways — maybe I would think about wanting to make Quebec a country."Say whut Justin??... sovereigntists are carrying your father's vision of a progressive Canada?"No, absolutely, if I no longer recognized in Canada my values... But I believe deeply in Canada and I know that Quebec in Canada can put it back on the right path."Ah... Québec is an important contributor to progressive Canadian values. I see what you mean, but I doubt the average Canadian shares this vision.

At any rate... the Estates General on Sovereignty has now kicked into gear. And the PQ is seizing the opportunity by revamping some 148 sovereignty related studies. The plan is simple... if support for sovereignty is at 43%, they only need to convince everyone that the PQ is serious about it to harvest corresponding votes.

Now... what Harper could do to help the PQ further... is... tinker with the equalization program... reduce health transfers... legislate in a way that incurs higher provincial burden... or plain simply... anything that reduces financial benefits to the province.

Many of my sovereigntist friends would say: "Let the Reform perform."