It is a question that I get asked all the time and one that I often ask of myself. Why do the politics of Quebec ignite such a fire in my soul? I'm not a poli-sci student and I've never been elected to any level of government. But I've always been vocal on the topic and sometimes feel as if certain political issues become somewhat of an obsession, especially these days, when the political climate in Quebec is overheated to say the least. Even when I lived outside of the province, I often found myself trying to keep up with the political news from back home.
I suppose that the short answer would be that I've always been a proud Canadian and have always found it deeply disturbing that some people want to dismantle my country. But I think that it goes deeper than that. As a child born to both anglo and franco parents and having been raised in both languages and cultures, I have never found that there was much of a difference between the cultural values and practices between the two sides of my family.
Sunday dinner as a family was a tradition on both sides and although the conversation was in a different language, the foods were mostly the same, the men would leave the table after supper to watch the game or to play crib, the women would sit and talk in the kitchen and us children would play outside until it was time to go home.
I suppose that this could be because both families were working class, catholic and urban dwellers with the french side living in the shadow of the big "O" and the english side living in Montreal-North. But I would also like to believe that as Canadians, we all share similar family and cultural values. It irks me when I hear people speak of distinct society and how Quebec is so different from the Rest of Canada (ROC). I just don't see it.
The woman I married is from B.C. and her folks were raised in Saskatchewan. Other than the fact that they prefer to vacation in Mexico whereas the french side of my family would go to Florida, everything else was more or less the same. The media tries to play on it and so do the politicians. I guess that it's easier to try to sell the idea of sovereignty to someone if you first convince them that you have nothing in common. I believe that my upbringing has given me somewhat of a unique perspective towards Quebec politics, both at the federal and provincial levels.
The recent protest movement in Quebec has given new life to old causes. What started as a fight over tuition fees now seems to encompass everything from Quebec sovereignty and social injustice to accusing the PLQ of neo-liberalism and tyranny. In a way, I feel some degree of sympathy for the student groups, since their cause has been hijacked by so many others, including those who were just waiting for the next opportunity to try and force an early election. But do I support their fight against tuition increases? No.
I believe that a taxpayer funded higher education would be a great thing for all Canadians, but we aren't in a position to pay for it yet. There are so many other urgent problems in our country and in our provinces that need to be fixed first. Our infrastructures are in shambles, our healthcare system is top heavy and needs a serious overhaul, our constitution needs to be updated and accepted by everyone and our electoral system needs to be redesigned so that the results are a truer representation of the will of Canadians. Perhaps once we are able to resolve these issues and control how we spend our tax dollars, there will be enough money to extend taxpayer funded tuition by another four years.
My suggestion to those protesting: Start up a political party and work to address these problems. Given what my options are right now, you'll get my vote as long as sovereignty isn't part of your platform. If we could get a government in Quebec that can get our finances under control, it might become an example for the rest to follow. All I ask is that this be done through the democratic process, and not by disrupting the lives of normal, everyday people.