I'm not a political commentator. I don't even play one on TV. Instead, I'm an average Canadian citizen and that's why you may want to hear what I have to say about the current possibility of a separation referendum in Quebec.
I can't speak to the mood in Quebec regarding such a possibility but I'm pretty sure the rest of Canada will react with a feeling somewhere between apathy and annoyance. You see, we've suffered though two of these disruptive procedures and there's little patience or tolerance for a third.
Now I'm not going to beg you to stay in Canada with expressions of my love for Quebec and Quebeckers. I'm not going to try to dissuade you with more emotional pleas. Been there; done that.
But there are perfectly good and rational arguments that you might want to consider before pulling the plug on Canada, which is exactly what you'd be doing. If Quebec becomes a separate nation than the ROC is likely doomed. Just as East and West Pakistan didn't last long, the Maritimes and EWOQ, viz. everything west of Quebec, wouldn't survive as one country for more than a decade.
The rest of Canada would quickly disintegrate into regional fiefdoms which, in all likelihood, would end up becoming part of the United States. So you're probably thinking why should we care what happens to all those maudits anglais, viz. nice English Canadians, once we leave Canada.
But if you think about it for a minute or two you'll see where that trend will leave you. Instead of being an equal partner in the Canadian confederation, you'll be a tiny intolerant francophone island lost in an unsympathetic jingoistic American-dominated continent. Is that what you really want?
Currently you have the distinct advantages of sharing in the Canadian experiment. That means you have healthcare, employment and mobility rights that span from coast to coast to coast. Once you separate, all that is lost. No moving east or west in a tough economy to find a job elsewhere in Canada.
There will also be no more annual equalization payments going to Quebec as a have-not province. That means upwards of $10 billion a year. With $10 billion less per year in the pot, imagine how many more overpasses, bridges and tunnels are going to collapse.
I know there are emotional reasons to vote for independence/separation but there are lots more practical reasons not to do so. First there's The Clarity Act which requires a clear question on the issue and a clear majority of voters in favor. I suspect you're still operating under the assumption that fifty per cent plus one on a fuzzy proposal like sovereignty-association would be good enough.
Not this time. The question better say do you want Quebec to separate from Canada and the result better be something on the order of two-thirds of voters saying yes before we start negotiating. A province doesn't get to break away unless the vast majority of residents feel sufficiently aggrieved to force all of us to go through such an incredibly disruptive process.
Let's say we get to that point, viz. the point of negotiation. What then? Well, for starters, we've got to divvy up assets and liabilities. That means you folks will be on the hook for your share of the national debt currently pegged at somewhere north of $600 billion. Plus you'll have to pay for federal assets situated in the province. None of that comes cheaply, especially when your economy will be in a tailspin from the whole separation process.
Then there are the claims of natives and aboriginals. At the very least, that means hiving off big chunks of Quebec from what most of you view as its iconic geographic shape. And if Canada is severable, so, too, is Quebec with the likelihood that west Quebec and possibly the island of Montreal will join Ontario thereby further disrupting your geographic vision of Quebec.
So think twice or maybe even three times before you enter again on the referendum path. I sure hope you don't since it's likely going to spell the end of Canada and, ultimately, even Quebec. I'm not asking you to avoid this path out of love for Canada because I know that's a non-starter but to do so based solely on your own self-interest.
Heck, you already have a National Assembly, a national police force, a separate tax system, a separate pension system and enough linguistic and cultural protections to choke a horse. Is it really worth all the economic loss you'll experience just to see your flag flying at the next Olympic Games? I know what my answer would be.
Ton ami, viz. your pal,