Friday, December 30, 2011

Maioni: Wish list from Quebec for 2012

By Antonia Maioni, Globe and Mail, December 28, 2011
Antonia Maioni is an associate professor of political science at McGill University.

Expect a government of grownups.
Reviewing the record on issues from climate change to gun control to Attawapiskat, many of us wonder what’s happening to our country.

And with the continued spectacle of ministerial blame avoidance on the one hand and sophomoric political high jinks on the other, we may also be wondering when Parliament will start behaving like the responsible institution we expect it to be.
Seek an opposition with a pulse: As a political scientist, I was intrigued to witness the election of Canada’s first social democratic opposition. As a Quebecker, I’m speechless at the weakness of the province’s voice in Ottawa.
Get more respect for the F-word: It’s incredible that, in an officially bilingual country, we now have open season on the French language. Bilingualism should be an opportunity that Canada offers to every Canadian; instead, it’s become the whipping child of anti-French sentiment across the land.

Get over 1812: Here’s the reality: that, in 2012, Canadians will face an economic situation that offers no measure of certainty for anyone, in an atmosphere of apprehension about the growing spectre of inequality – individual, generational, regional – and the costs associated with social programs that need revitalization.

Here’s the fantasy: that 1812 should be celebrated with pageants and parades as a monumental turning point in our collective lives. What we need are real-time nation-building projects that look to the future, not to the past, for inspiration.
Let God save the Queen: I’m about the closest thing Quebec has to a monarchist. As a child, I listened to the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts and, as a girl, I was entranced by Princess Diana. I remain a lifelong British history buff. But, like religion, an appreciation of the monarchy is best left to the personal sphere.

Canadians don’t need more superficial reminders of Her Majesty through colonial spectacles of pomp and circumstance. What we really need is to understand the relevance of the Crown to Canada’s history, and to think about whether this is still necessary to our political system in 2012 and beyond.
Thanks to Professor Maioni for a modest, yet penetrating piece from Quebec on our nation's "state of the union."
French is not as respected by this government as it once was, and one obvious reason is that they have garnered a majority without Quebec. The new Canadian political landscape says that with Ontario and the West, a majority is possible, and Quebec no longer commands the attention she once did. Hence, her linguistic and cultural aspirations are diminished on the national stage.
Replacing English-French relations with monarchy, the War of 1812 and ministerial "blame avoidance" or simply ministerial responsibility, in what was once called "responsible government"....these are the Harper answers.
And these public relations projects are surrogate for what others, including Ms Maioni and this scribe would call "nation-building" projects.
The nation, now conceived by Harper, is merely a reflection of his motivation to control through successive majority governments. It is a servant of his an his party's political ambitions, not a surge of truly national or even potentially national events, projects and aspirations that would see us build on our strengths and our tradition and our historical and cultural "compromises".
Micromanaging of the most basic political messages, and projects, by the PMO is merely short-term, narcissistic, power-seeking and power driven politics, certainly not nation building. Abandoning social policy, by arguing that the federal government can and will, for example, create the criminal code while the provinces will "pay for the administration of justice," as Finance Minister Flaherty did yesterday on CBC's Power and Politics, will not only enrage Quebec but all other provincial treasurers faced with mounting costs for the new "omnibus crime bill".
Once again, that is not nation building; it is more of the "pandering to the base" to ensure future electoral success.
As for an effective opposition "with a pulse," Canadians will have to await the selection of two party leaders, one for the NDP and the other for the Liberals to really be able to judge their potential to oppose, and to wrest political power from this government.

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