Monday, October 30, 2006

Quebec as a Nation, time to move on

I had resolved to wash my hands of the Liberal leadership race. All I saw were the different camps tearing into each other creating a great deal of bitterness and no real debate on policy or vision.

It was really starting to irritate me because it was creating the same conditions that existed after the Chretien/Martin fiasco of 1990. I would have thought Liberals would have learned from that. So I said to hell with it. Liberals deserve their fate for being such short sighted idiots.

However, the whole Quebec Nation Resolution came up and I found it too compelling to ignore.

I decided to attempt to find a different perspective than what I was mostly finding on Liblogs. I decided to learn the perspective of Quebecers themselves. Antonio at Fuddle Duddle was a good source as were the Quebec papers but I also asked many of my francophone colleagues about it. Their response was the resolution is just a statement of fact. It is a non-issue. However, what really floored me was I received the same response from my Anglophone friends in Montreal who from time to time have involved themselves in the English rights movement in Quebec over the last 25 years.

I have seen all of the arguments against why Quebec is not a nation. They are intelligent, cogent and logical and I agree with them 100%. However, I would submit that when there is a consensus amongst Quebecers of all political and linguistic stripes that Quebec is a nation the argument is over and we have lost it. No amount of logic will change that so we might just as well accept it and move on to the next step.

That is, how are we going to deal with it?

Unfortunately, our main political opponents, the Conservatives, have stumbled upon an answer, which is to divest pretty well all Federal powers to the provinces and leave the Federal Government as an empty shell.

I believe that this is completely unacceptable to most Liberals but unfortunately it does resonate with a sizable part of the Quebec population, and not just amongst separatists. So Liberals are going to have to come up with a viable alternative to the Conservative model and it seems to me that a necessary first step would be to acknowledge something Quebecers already take for granted as fact, namely acknowledging Quebec is a nation. It pains me to write that but it will not do me any good to remain in denial about this and I don't think it will do the country any good if Liberals also remain in denial.

Of course what happens after that acknowledgement is critical and I am not certain that I trust Dr. Ignatieff on this.

However, none of his opponents have been particularly effective on handling the issue. I am particularly disappointed in Mr. Rae. He supported both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and he was at the table for both so he has some experience in this. He has first hand experience of what does not work. I would have thought that experience would have resulted in a much more nuanced response to Dr. Ignatieff's position. Instead he resorts to cheap politicking.

I hope that Liberals will see this as more than just a Liberal leadership issue and that they will really engage in debate on how to deal with the fact of Quebec nationhood. We have a lot of smart people in the Party, and several of them are vying for its leadership, and I would hope that they will put their collective heads together to develop an alternative to what the Conservatives are peddling.

The alternative is not Quebec separation but it is Stephen Harper being given a free hand to disembowel the Federal Government and transform this great country into a disunited gaggle of faux provinces, something I think most of us can agree is a much bigger issue than who will lead the Liberal Party.

8 Comments:

Blogger Jason Bo Green said...

Quebec is not a nation and it never will be. I've lived in Ontario, Quebec, and BC, and they're each unique and individual. Quebec is a province. The Quebecois are a nation, but the province is a province. There is a difference between "a people" and "a set of borders", and my vote will always go against a candidate who wishes to designate any province a "nation". Quebec can separate or it can stay and be a province with the other provinces. My Canada does not include 9 provinces and 1 nation. I would vote George Bush for PM before Michael Ignatieff, no contest.

October 30, 2006 11:23 PM  
Blogger Red Tory said...

I have to agree with Justin Trudeau on this one in that the concept of “nationhood” represents a “smallness of thought” that we need to move beyond. Yes, it may represent a fact in the minds of some, but opening up the constitution to all sorts of debate and discussion in order to accomplish this symbolic gesture is an exercise fraught with peril that will be divisive to the country. I just can’t see it as being a positive thing at all. I cannot help but regard it as pandering on the part of Ignatieff and Rae’s flip-flopping has not advanced his cause on this matter either. The Conservatives will, as you rightly noted use it as an excuse to devolve power to the provinces which also is a dubious notion, but one they firmly believe in. (I wonder how many people actually realize that?)

October 31, 2006 6:14 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Jason:

With all due respect, your opinion really is not worth a hill of beans.

Quebecers believe they are a nation and that is not going to change. They do not believe they are just "another province" in the federation and you wishing it were so will not change that.

So we have a choice. We can either find a way to deal with it in a constuctive matter or we can continue to deny it and watch helplessly as Stephen Harper exploits the situation to destroy Canada more thoroughly than the Quebec separatists would ever be able to do.

Make no mistake, there is no politician on the scene today with the ability to turn this clock back!

October 31, 2006 8:29 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 31, 2006 8:30 AM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Red:

I agree with Justin Trudeau and I agree that Quebec is not a nation.

However, I don't think that my opinion is worth much any more on this issue.

Quebecers appear to have made up their collective mind and I don't believe they are going to change it. So we will have to find a way to deal with this reality.

I agree with you that Dr. Ignatieff's approach is the wrong one and that Mr. Rae and the others in this race have not been any better.

This whole issue has made my disappointment in the leadership race complete. This issue is bigger than any one candidate and they could have used it as an opportunity to develop a new "Quebec policy" that could have been used to reconnect with Quebecers after Adscam.

Instead it degenerated into partisan BS and the opportunity has been lost.

My feeling is we have ceded the ground to the Conservatives who will exploit it to the great disadvantage of Canada.

October 31, 2006 8:44 AM  
Blogger canuckistanian said...

ottlib:
i have found your analyses to be nuanced and not polarizing, a refreshing thing on these libblogs. however, after your comment that fuddle duddle was a good source, your credibility took a nosedive in my opinion. also, that quebeckers feel they are a nation is fine. good for them, a little solidarity can be a positive. however, how do we go from there to changing the constitution? do quebeckers really have such a victimized mentality that they need the constitution to recognize their distinctiveness? since you agree that nationalism is based on a smallness of thought, i wonder why we should be having our federal policies dictated by a regional smallness of thought? we should be looking forward not backward. this constitutional navel gazing is a quagmire. does anyone think that amending the contitution to recognize quebec is feasible? if not, why are we wasting our breath and the resources of the gov't on such a colossal distraction from the REAL issues affecting our country? i don't get it. this is insanity, and the most disgusting political pandering that in the end can only achieve negative results for the country. if it sweeps iggy to the top job in the libs, good for him. what about the other 33 million canadians? is iggy's little ego trip more important than the interests of the polity? i'll end here b4 i pull the rest of my hair out.

October 31, 2006 2:22 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

canuckistanian:

Where in my post did I mention that I agree with opening up the constitution in this matter?

My argument is simple. It is time for the ROC to realize that Quebecers believe they are a nation. It is a done deal, it will not be reversed and no amount of wishful thinking on our parts will change that.

So what the ROC has to do is find a way to deal with that fact.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives have stumbled on a way but for me that solution is more harmful than the actual problem.

So it is left up to the Liberals to come up with a viable alternative to the Conservative solution.

What that is I do not know. However, as I stated in my post I do not believe that Dr. Ignatieff has the answers either.

As for Fuddle Duddle, it was there that I noticed a fundamental differences in attitudes to the "Nation Question". Most Liberal bloggers presented well thought out arguments as to why Quebec is not a nation. However, Antonio's reaction was more like confusion as to why this was even an issue. That reaction got me asking questions as to whether he was a typical example so I began asking questions of other Quebecers, my co-workers and some anglophone friends in Montreal. The answers to those questions are the reason I wrote this blog.

November 01, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger propatria said...

You say that quebecers you talked to agree that quebec is a nation. Did you also all ask them to define what that means exactly? Ask a federalist quebecer and a seperatist quebecer, you will get two different answers. And thats the point. Stating "quebec is a nation" without defining exactly it means is harmless for you and me, but as a political platform it is potentially dangerous.

November 05, 2006 4:05 PM  

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