Sunday, November 12, 2006

If acknowledging Quebec as a nation is not the answer, what is the alternative?

Alot has been said about the Quebec Nation Resolution that will be put forward during the convention. Many folks have come out against it and against those who would promote it.

Something has been nibbling at the back of my mind about its detractors for some time and I could never put my finger on what it was. It finally came to me about 1:30 this morning. The opponents of acknowledging Quebec as a nation are long on opposing it but they have not put forward any alternatives to it.

The 1995 Referendum made the status quo untenable and unsustainable. The results of that event made it inevitable that the Canadian federation was going to change. The question has always been how.

For the Separatists, their answer has always been same. Fortunately for Canada not enough Quebecers agree with them for a long enough time for them to be a real threat. Quebec separatists are constantly trying to goad Quebecers into being angry at English Canada because they know that when Quebecers are calm Quebecers realize that they have it pretty sweet in Canada.

For the Conservatives the answer is to devolve most of the powers of the Federal government to the provinces. Indeed, now that they are in power they seem to be working on doing just that if the news stories of the past week are to be believed. This is a much greater threat to Canada than anything the separatists can throw at us because it resonates well in many parts of the country, including in Quebec and it can be done without going through the nasty business of having a referendum. Fortunately for Canada the Conservatives are only in a weak and increasingly fragile minority government so maybe this threat can be averted.

For the Liberals, they have had the deer in the headlights look in their eyes since that night in 1995. They came up with some stop gap measures in the interim, such as the Clarity Act, but they had never put forward a proposal on how to deal with the fundamental changes that came about as a result of 1995. That seemed to have changed with the Quebec Nation Resolution.

Now I have read and heard all of the arguments against acknowledging Quebec as a nation but I would ask its opponents these questions:

What would you propose as an alternative to it?

How would you propose Liberals deal with the changes to our Federation?

What would you propose as an alternative to the proposals put forward by the Conservatives and the Separatists?

If acknowledging Quebec is a nation is not the answer then Liberals had better come up with something quick or we will have ceded this ground to both the Conservatives and the Separatists to the detriment of this country.


Blogger Mark said...

I reject the premise of your question. The question presumes that the country is broken, and in need of "an alternative".

If you don't believe it's broken (as I don't) then defending the status quo isn't really all that bad of an idea.

November 12, 2006 3:42 PM  
Blogger Eddie E. said...

would you like to know what's been nibbling at the back of MY mind regarding its detractors???

well, this:

the whole debate is a farce.

From the Globe & Mail:

"Bob Rae is misleading Canadians on this issue. All four of the front-runners [in the Liberal leader ship race] have said that they recognize Quebec as a nation . . . including Bob himself."

though that statement comes from ignatieff, it doesn't matter who says it - the facts speak for themselves. better yet, bob does.

warren kinsella/paul wells have identified the following rae dialogue (2006), further clarifying the fact that popular disagreement on the quebec acknowledgement issue is a construct to advance rae. he believes it's working in his favour, and so on it goes....

Question: Do you think that Quebec constitutes a nation?

Bob Rae: Yeah. Nation, people, distinct society. It's all the same. It's just words. It's a set of words. It means that you recognize the distinctiveness of the collectivity of Quebec. It is something we should have done in 1985 in Meech and in 1992 with Charlottetown. And something we should be doing.

Question: Would a Rae government reopen the constitution?

Answer: I'd answer that this way. I would say that the file is always open because we still have unfinished business..

Dion, too:

"If one day we are ready, especially if there is a premier in Quebec who believes in Canada, we will see if there is still support among the people for something that would be a more legal to document [a recognition of 'Quebec's distinctiveness as a fundamental characteristic of our country'] we may consider putting in the Constitution." (Nov. 1997)

the present discussion COULD do wonders for full (yet distinct) inclusion of Quebecers into Canadian society, but rae's flip-flopping is motivated by ill will and ambition. in the end - you said it - he will only advance Conservative and Separatist interests at liberal/Liberal expense.

poor, poor strategy.

November 12, 2006 4:10 PM  
Blogger Kyle G. Olsen said...

Eddie E, you assume that if Bob Rae supported this, it would pass, thats nonsense.

Mark, I agree the country isn't broken. The 1982 constitution was put together in response to the first referendum, and was supported by everyone but the PQ.

There was no double cross, the other provinces agreed to the constitution after Quebec had agreed to put all the provisions to a referendum. They accepted that if the constitution was ratified, that it was valid. They accepted the amendment formula.

The constitution was then passed by the other provinces using the amendment formula. It was passed by the vast majority (or even totality) of Quebecs MPs and Senators.

If the changes are indeed symbolic why do they need to be made?

"For us, Quebec is a nation," Charest told reporters after a regional meeting of his Quebec Liberals to prepare for a party convention next March.

"There has never been any doubt in my mind," he added. "And by the way, neither do I believe that Quebecers have any permission to ask from anyone to be who they are. Period."

November 12, 2006 4:25 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Mark, thanks for answering my question. You are still one of those looking helplessly at the oncoming headlights.

The country is not broken it is just changing as all countries do.

The question is how are Liberals going to deal with it?

Before Stephen Harper they could safely defend the status quo because they knew the Progressive Conservatives would not offer much of an alternative to it either. That is not the case any more so what alternative are Liberals going to offer to counter what the Conservatives are proposing.

November 12, 2006 4:51 PM  
Blogger In_The_Centre said...

Hmm, facing a threat of referendum every decade sure seems like symptomatic of a bigger problem with this country.

There are several strong federalist Quebec Liberals (not mp's, but everyday average individuals like you and me) who [i]really do [/i] believe passionately that symbolic recognition would permanently make the sovereignist threat a minor nuisance once and for all.

Since they are actually on the ground listening to there fellow neighbors, I would trust their opinions above any politician or mp or elitist etc..

The Rememberance day ceromonies should remind us of the absolute power of symbols. (Poppies, tombs, wreaths, a veteran crying, freedom etc..)

I dont know if this is the right way to go, but Im glad the Conservatives are waying into this debate.

I would be very interested to see how the Quebec vote turns out if the Conservatives offered what they are talking about in their next platform (Re: Federal spending limits in the cons.), the Liberals offered what this resolution is offering in their next platform..

November 12, 2006 5:05 PM  
Blogger anybody but iggy said...

How is our federation any different?
Why do we need an alternative?
I am sorry, but I dsiagree with you strongly here - like I've said before, everything was hunky-dory until this nation thing got submitted by the Iggys - now suddenly Quebec is in crisis, our party's in crisis, we are going to lose a referendum - even though there is a federalist party in provincial government and the BQ lost seats in the last election???
Relax, people.

November 12, 2006 6:18 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Anybody but Iggy:

This issue goes way beyond leadership politics.

The Bloc and the Separatists are not a threat to Canada right now.


Such a strategy appeals to the separatists AND the soft nationalists and it is the only option being presented by a national federalist party as an alternative to the separatist option.

Liberals have to come up with another option and quickly. Otherwise, Quebecers are going to have only two options, neither of which will do Canada any good.

Liberals have to understand that Stephen Harper is in the position to dismantle the Federal government and its unifying influence along with it. He can do it and the Bloc and Mr. Charest will help him along quite nicely unless Liberals begin to look past their own navels and find a way to convince Quebecers that such a step is not in their interests.

November 12, 2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger SUZANNE said...

Why open up this issue at all? Is there a significant body of Quebeckers crying out "Please please please puhleeeeez open the Constitution! "

As far as I can tell: no.

This is an academic discussion. Let sleeping dogs lie. Jean Chr├ętien was right: leave this issue alone. Sometimes the best thing to do with a scab is just leave it alone. It'll fix itself.

November 12, 2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger robedger said...

I don't think that it is one bold swift move that is needed. I think it will be the combination of many smaller steps.

November 12, 2006 9:10 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Very true Rob but you have to start somewhere and a simple acknowledgement of what Quebecers already believe could be that starting point.

Listen to Mr. Charest's statements today. He sounded bewildered, as if he could not figure out why this whole topic was open to debate. For him an most Quebecers it is a simple fact, like gravity and the fact the earth is round, so they cannot understand why people are even debating it let alone why anybody would deny it.

November 12, 2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger Altavistagoogle said...

Some people are in favour of the status quo. A status quo that would allow Gerard Kennedy to impose national education standards.

As long as people like Gerard Kennedy do not get elected, no problem. However, many people, myself included, think that people like Gerard Kennedy could get into power and therefore constitutional change is required to formaly protect Quebec from "its OK my wife speeks French" Gerard Kennedy.

November 12, 2006 10:23 PM  
Blogger propatria said...

Do you believe most quebecers who believe quebec is a nation have the same definition of nation? I dont. i think its all over the map when you ask them what quebec being a nation means, what it can and cant do, what it should and shouldnt do.

I can agree there is a common culture to quebec, but even then montreal and chicoutimi are worlds apart.

I think this nation buisness is purposely being fudged by separatists, because they want a civic entity based around the protection of ethnicity. You think separatists think a future quebec with a majority made up of sanchez's, nguyens, smiths, chans, patels, and ali's is acceptable? Ask a group of francophones outside of montreal what they think of montreal, and you will hear a lot of "its too ethnic."

Im all for reaching out to francophones and giving them concrete assurances (money)their language and institutions will be safe guarded, as i believe that was part of the spirit behind Confederation. But this idea of quebec being some sort of founding nation of canada is for the birds. Francophones, french-canadians, the previous subjects of the french crown within canada being a founding people, absolutely.

November 12, 2006 11:59 PM  
Blogger CuriosityCat said...

The answer is not to be bloody stupid.

November 13, 2006 8:34 AM  

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