Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is Quebec Separation Inevitable? I Think So

I remember back to the Quebec referendum of 1980, when Quebecers first had the opportunity to decide whether or not they wished to follow a sovereign path. The results strongly favoured the status-quo, with the "NO" side winning almost 60% of the vote. At the time I was only a teenager, but still I had a certain affinity for the separatist movement. Not because I disliked Quebec, in fact I've always loved it, but rather because the creation of a new nation state held a certain romantic appeal.

By the time the next referendum rolled around I was decidedly in favour of Quebec remaining as a province within a united Canada. I still had some empathy for the separatists, and had learned much more about Quebec's unique history. My change in attitude however was more a reflection of the cost that would accompany the break up of this country. I viewed it as being similar to a divorce, and I feared that a "YES" vote would bring incredible acrimony, and with acrimony comes both pettiness and spite. I could see English Canada trying to make separation as costly as possible for Quebec, with Quebecers doing the same to the rest of Canada.

The results of that second referendum were incredibly close, with the Federalists winning by less than one single percentage point. I had thought that after the first failure, that the separatist movement would lose a lot of people. How wrong that thinking was. I'd considered the separatist movement to be largely the domain of the young, unconcerned with the economic costs associated. I figured that as time marched on, with younger people making up a smaller and smaller percentage of the voting population, that the notion of a sovereign Quebec would fade to black.

I've since however changed my mind. I now view separation as merely a question of when, not if. Quebec is truly a unique province, with differences from the rest of the country that extend beyond mere language. Assuming separation does eventually come to pass, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to part as friends...and that we maintain friendly relations. Who knows, I might even move there at some point...there's a lot about Quebec's culture and society that I find preferable as compared to what exists in English Canada. Besides, I put a lot of time and effort into achieving a measure of bilingualism, so why not put it to good use and perfect it.

Our countrymen and women in la belle province are far more liberal than are people in any other part of the country by and large. Union membership is highest per-capita in Quebec, and their views on things like law and order are far more liberal as well. While most in English Canada hardly batted an eyelash when Stephen Harper's Conservatives cut funding to arts and culture, it was French Canada that got its back up and denied the Tories their coveted majority.

Change is typically something people tend to avoid, better the devil you know and all that. But Quebecers came within a whisker of endorsing a radical change back in 1995...making huge gains over the results from 1980. Obviously our Quebecois and Quebecoise friends are getting more comfortable with the notion of Quebec as a sovereign nation. Considering its geographic size, resources and population, Quebec obviously has all the necessary components for a successful country.

And if my prognostication proves accurate there will probably even be some celebrating in places like Calgary among die hard Conservative supporters. No longer having to focus on gaining votes among Quebecers, Tory prospects would skyrocket and totally change the dynamics of the political landscape in this country.

You know what...on more careful consideration I will almost certainly move to Quebec if they separate, especially if Stephen Harper and his ilk are still around. Or maybe those of us who are both progressive and more liberal in our attitudes...maybe we could join Quebec, then we could all separate together.

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