Saturday, September 8, 2012

Are Quebec election results brewing the "perfect storm" for sovereignists?

By Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press, in Maclean's.ca, September 4, 2012
The idea of confrontation with Ottawa is a central theme built into its (The Parti Quebecois) platform.

The party plans to either demand or create new provincial powers, including a “Quebec citizenship.” To get that document, future immigrants would have to prove they speak French, and the document would be a requirement to run for public office.
The party would also demand a transfer of powers from Ottawa that touch on domestic and international affairs. Targets include employment insurance, copyright policy and foreign-assistance funding.
Should the Supreme Court get in the way of any new language laws, or should Ottawa say no to any request, the PQ has a backup plan: use each defeat as kindling to stoke the embers of the independence movement.
“There are a multitude of examples where we can make the demonstration that we would be best served if we decided for ourselves,” the PQ’s Marois said during the campaign.
“It’s obvious that (each federal rejection) will demonstrate the impossibility that we will ever be recognized as a distinct society.”
In the past, support for independence hasn’t reached its highest peaks because of actions by a PQ government — but because of outside events.
Two examples are the early 1990s, when an attempt to get Quebec constitutionally recognized as a “distinct society” failed, and in 2004 at the height of the sponsorship scandal.
The PQ has its work cut out for it, if it hopes to revive the flames of independence.
A recent survey pegged support for sovereignty at 28 per cent — or roughly half the historic levels recorded in the early ’90s.
Marois has sought to reassure moderate voters that there will be no automatic referendum under her watch.
“I am a responsible woman,” said Marois, an experienced politician who held no less than 15 cabinet portfolios under Rene Levesque, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry.
“I have convictions and I am going to defend them. There will be a referendum when the Quebec population wants a referendum.”
While most accounts of the PQ minority government win on Tuesday, September 4, point to the hurdles of Marois' government achieving the conditions "ripe" for a referendum, there are some serious clouds in that perspective.
First, Francois Legault, the leader of the CAQ, the third party which won the smallest number of seats, but, when combined with the votes of the PQ, certainly would constitute a majority, is a former member of the PQ itself. And, while it may seem too cynical to say it, nevertheless, "once a sovereignist, always a sovereignist". Or as we say in Enlish, "the leopard does not change his spots!"
It is certainly not rocket science to intuit and even to anticipate a unified mind set emerging between Marois and Legault, no matter the state of their current nuanced differences, in order to provide the kind of leadership that would be necessary to shape public opinion in favour of a referendum and the ensuing "talks" toward independence.
We have already heard the federal government's response to the election of a minority PQ government: "We will be there to talk about jobs and the economy, but we will not be there to talk about anything else." (Minister Christian Paradis, on CBC television, September 5, 2012)
Harper put it this way, in his interview with CBC, September 4, following the results of the vote:
"We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past," he said.

"We believe that economic issues and jobs are also the priorities of the people of Quebec."
Only yesterday, a reporter from Le Devoir, a highly respected Quebec newspaper, commented on CBC's Power and Politics, "The federal government does not have the same values as the people of Quebec!"
While other Canadian leaders, Liberal interim leader, Bob Rae, among them, focus on the failure of the PQ to achieve a majority as a sign of the rejection of the sovereignist option and referendum by the Quebec voters, those voices could and likely will easily recede once the full force of the political leadership (Marois-Legault) is armed with additional evidence of 'non-compliance' from the Harper government. The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson's claim that Harper now has the opportunity to "smother" the sovereignist movement through such 'non-compliance' because his majority is not dependent on Quebec voters is the voice of an ostrich crying from beneath the beaches, should the Marois-Legault coalition emerge with the full force of its commitment, and the reservoir of sovereignist energy and commitment among the Quebecois join the only flickering embers of that fire today.
Marois proudly states that she has been preparing for the job of premier for thirty years, and the patience and resolve of the sovereignists, Marois included, must not and cannot be underestimated, no matter the numbers in the voting booths this week.


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