Monday, June 08, 2009

A Newer, More Dangerous Parti Quebecois

"Incremental" separatism on PQ agenda

In its fight to cleave Quebec loose from the rest of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois and Parti Quebecois have often shot themselves in the foot by relentlessly pursuing the goal of separating from Canada in one fell swoop.

Quebeckers have proven themselves on two previous occasions -- in 1980 and again in 1995 -- unwilling to opt in to abruptly leaving the country.

After years of following an all-or-nothing approach, the Parti Quebecois has finally decided to pursue an incremental sovereigntist agenda.

PQ leader Pauline Marois outlined a four-point plan to incrementally pursue Quebec sovereignty. That plan called for minimalizing the federal government's involvement in areas of provincial jurisdiction -- such as education and health care -- exercising more authority over issues related to culture and language, extend the power of the French Language Charter, and continue to "encourage" immigrants to Quebec to speak French.

"It shows our resolution to take up the fight and focus on Quebec sovereignty," Marois said of the plan. "We will use all of our abilities to advance the interests of Quebec."

"There are great things we can do right now," Marois added. "And I hope this dynamism will help revive the flame of sovereignty so we can hold a referendum as soon as possible."

Portions of this plan are already in play. Some may recall that Marlene Jennings, one of the Liberal negotiators of the Liberal-NDP-BQ coalition government -- had previously spilled the beans that strengthening Bill 101 to apply to federally-regulated firms in Quebec had been rejected in the course of those negotiations.

(Canadians still don't know what Jennings and her fellow Liberals had given the BQ in exchange for their support, but that is another matter entirely.)

Yet it seems that Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has not seen fit to let that particular issue go. Duceppe has been campaigning to strengthen Bill 101 so it will apply to industries regulated by federal labour laws in Quebec, something that the Liberal party has steadfastly refused to support.

"[Michael Ignatieff] said it would impede business," Duceppe complained. "There's no justification for him saying this. The fact [the Liberals] voted against Bill 101 being applied to the Canadian Labour Code is a clear illustration that recognizing Quebec as a nation is nothing more than a symbol."

The extent to which Ignatieff is embracing Quebec nationhood -- and one should add that recognizing Quebec as a nation is not the same as recognizing it as a nation-state -- aside, one thing Ignatieff is certainly doing is something that his predecessor wouldn't when it really mattered: fight separatists.

Rather, Stephane Dion was more than willing to hatch a secret deal with the Bloc when it would deliver him a government -- and certainly saw fit not to tell Canadians what he had given the Bloc in return.

Michael Ignatieff, at least, isn't playing into the hands of the PQ and BQ on their new four-point plan on Quebec sovereignty -- one that will certainly make for a more dangerous Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois.

Quebeckers have proven unwilling to separate from Canada in a single spasm of nationalistic fervour. A slower, more deliberate process of seeking sovereignty will likely yield better results for Quebec's sovereigntist movement, and will require all Canadian federalists -- Liberal and Conservative alike -- to be much more careful in how they handle the issue of Quebec separatism.

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