Mandos

Learning to love Harper Canada and other costly pursuits

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In my bloggy past, I’ve viewed the interpretation of Québec politics for the anglophone blogosphere as part of my “beat”, so to speak, so it was a little disappointing for me to be far too occupied in Imaginary Life (the life in which fantastical, improbably named places like “China” and “Albuquerque” exist) not to cover the drama of the no-longer-so-recent provincial election. Nevertheless, I followed it as avidly as I could, principally though the (likewise imaginary) online editorial pages of Le Devoir and La Presse and so on.

As we all know now, Pauline Marois’ PQ suffered a crushing defeat, blowing a lead and potential majority in one ill-timed election call, and now, even now, scraping the bottom of the barrel in unpopularity. With the exception of the likely failure of the ban on “ostentatious religious clothing” (the PLQ plans to pass a more modest “limits on reasonable accommodations bill”) and putting referendary politics in abeyance for a while, this is not entirely something to be happy about, to put it mildly. Couillard’s PLQ plans a big bout of getting the fiscal house in order, and y’all know what that means. (Note to world: government fiscs are not actually houses.)

The PQ went down about as soon as their erstwhile “star candidate” Pierre Karl Péladeau was so foolish as to name the elephant in the room: the PQ’s plans to bring about sovereignty. The truth is that even if Quebecers feel “distinct” from the RoC, it’s really hard to build a drive for independence unless there is a widespread feeling of being put upon, discriminated, oppressed, and the 1982 Constitution is a little too much like old news, even if Québec’s leadership has seen fit to hold back their endorsement like an eternal bargaining chip. The only way the sovereignty movement has a snowball’s chance in Mordor is if it can present a positive vision for what an independent Québec can accomplish for its residents that it cannot under the present order.

Unfortunately for her, that is not what Marois decided to do. Instead, she decided mostly to learn to love Harper Canada. The ill-advised recruitment of a right-wing media mogul. The move to support shale oil exploitation. That biz with the Enbridge pipeline. Somehow, at some point, the PQ got ethically oiled. And, adding it all up, a general rupture with the kind of social-democratic and pro-labour attitude that has been the mainstay of the sovereignty movement for so long. If people wanted that, they could just get it without referendum dramas, honestly.

A note on the whole hijab ban Charter of Values issue: this chapter is not quite closed yet, as the PQ struggles to assess the actual damage done by the Charter and its principal exponent, Bernard Drainville. This really requires reams and reams of text to analyse properly.

Values Charter-supporters say that the Charter is not to blame for the defeat because it was more popular than the PQ was, particularly with francophone votes. Alas, this is a very typical misunderstanding of voter psychology. The popularity of the Charter was on the level of popularity of more visits by by-law enforcement officers to the messy neighbour down the street. However, the Charter was an attempt by Marois to compensate for the abandonment of a “visionary” sovereigntism by conjuring up an unkind spirit. It turned out that this spirit was more of a bad-smelling miasma, and it took PKP to give it a name. The name of the Great Beast Referendum.

One should not also underestimate the appeal the Charter had to die-hard sovereigntists. That’s one reason why it was so hard for them to back down, especially on the hijab/kippa/turban ban part of it. As I said, it needs reams and reams of paper to analyse. But the point is, what’s the point of nationalism as a cultural defense strategy if you can’t tell people to comply with your culture? It turns out that, according to some, language policy is not enough to exorcise the spirit of multiculturalism, since lots of Those People speak French. (I recommend Mathieu Bock-Côté’s entire blog, actually, for a relatively complete exegesis of the perspective. My only comment for now is that it seems a little rich for a sovereigntist to complain that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms encourages every minority to assign itself victim status…)

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on May 10, 2014 11:45 AM.

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