They won. Sort of.
Pauline Marois’ PQs will form the new government of Quebec. A minority government.
It’s a big distinction, an important distinction. A majority government would have given Marois license not only to push for a referendum, but to enact a host of nutty big government, xenophobic policies with no place in modern Canada: bans on religious symbols, increasing the mandate of Bill 101, and impinging on the right of citizens to choose the language in which they want to pursue education. Instead of being able to rubber stamp those plans, she’ll need to barter and, hopefully, water down their provisions.
Where I will probably veer away from most of you is in my feelings about sovereignty. I’m actually somewhat sympathetic towards the desire of some Quebecers to have more autonomy, even their own nation (although the thought of the PQ’s narrow vision of Quebec leading that movement is disquieting).
I know, what I’m saying is treasonous. Some of you won’t want to be my friends. Listen, I’m a transplanted Ontarian who chose to put down roots in Nova Scotia. I like this province more than where I came from. In fact, I like this province, and the Maritimes generally, more than I like Canada.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Canada just fine. Beautiful real estate, for sure. But the political entity of the Ottawa-centric nation state Canada doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. When it comes to nations, I like small more than far-flung. I like policy made close, not a third of the way across a continent.
But to address the current issue, I’m not sure why English Canadians would expect Quebeckers to be more passionate about Canada than they are about Quebec. They really are a fairly distinct society. They were a defeated people that have created their own little corner of unique Frenchness in the world – none of which justifies the ugly policies of the PQ, of course, but is it really so hard to think, if you were in their shoes, you might want to create your own country, too?
I’m not talking about separation, not really. Separation wouldn’t turn out well. Civil war would be a real possibility. But a gradual passage of power from the federal government to regional authorities – Quebec, a Maritime union, etc – is something I’d probably get behind. My vote would be to retain Confederation, yes, but make it a Confederation of semi-autonomous nations, not of dependent provinces.
Idle talk, of course. I have no illusions this will happen any time soon – or even in my lifetime. I know I’m in a small minority. Sovereignty has limited support in Quebec, even more limited support in Alberta, and virtually none anywhere else in the country. Few if any of you will agree with this post.
I guess I just think Joe Howe might have had it right (treason here in the land of Tupper!). Nova Scotia was dragged into Confederation against the will of the people. In the provincial election on the heels of Confederation, Nova Scotians voted overwhelmingly for Howe and his plan to secede from the newly formed nation. And in the first federal election, the same thing: Nova Scotians overwhelmingly elected separatists. But the British monarch said no, and that was it.
I’m from Ontario and I’ve lived in B.C. Both feel far away from Nova Scotia. Maybe our interests really are distinct. Sure, we have lots in common. But we have lots in common with the Scottish, Bostonians, Australians and every other place settled largely by the English.
Keep Canada. Celebrate it. But the Maritimes come first for me, and I won’t fault a Quebecker for having the same sentiment about his or her own place in this world.