Former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau passed away this week, inspiring many to comment on the life and legacy of the iconic Parti Quebecois leader.
From the bevy of opinions on this controversial political figure, two struck a stronger cord and gave me pause for reflection. One was by my colleague, Toula Drimonis, whose piece went slightly viral as she called on people to see the bigger picture and realize that the man was more than a few infamous quips against anglos or "ethnics". The other was by Andrew Coyne of the National Post, who reminded that brilliant icon or not, Parizeau was a man obsessed by an idea, and that it was this obsession that drove him above all else.
That idea was of course separation. And this is where my part in the story comes in, because even saying the word makes me feel a bit ridiculous.
Over the last two years I have had the good fortune of travelling and living abroad, spending time in different countries and continents. Like all non-separatist Quebecers, I have lived and suffered through a lifetime of sovereignty-fatigue. You know what I'm talking about. You come back from a few weeks in Florida or an all-inclusive in Punta Cana and are immediately hit by the same harsh winter and the same dilapidated roads, and pulling up your collar while exiting Trudeau airport, shrug your shoulders and resign yourself to the fact that, frustratingly glorious, life in Quebec simply doesn't change.
The interminable issue of independence is also and has always been a part of a Quebecer's reality, permanently sitting itself beside high taxes like the one fault that drives you crazy about an otherwise great lover.
And so, like every Quebecer, I too have learned to accept the endless separation debate as a part of life here. Broader perspective on Parizeau's legacy? On life here in La Belle Province? Of course, taking a wider view is my default setting and goal of most of my work. And so I nod in agreement.
But then the point on obsession. The obsession of that particular idea. Mix that with time away from Quebec, time outside of this crazy lovely bubble, and you indeed get some broader perspective.
A lifetime of work by a passionate and respected public figure, driving the public discourse and influencing policy; decades upon decades partially devoted to the general amelioration of daily life for Quebec residents, but, because of a fixation on a singular idea, also decades upon decades of waste.
How many elections and debates? How much time and tax payer's money? How often commandeering and recalculating the direction and priorities of an entire population?
To live elsewhere is to see the possibility of life devoid of this pulsing distraction. One wonders, and cringes, at all that could have been done for this province had that energy been focused elsewhere.
So at what point of obsession, at what level of almost complete disregard, are you obliged to say, unequivocally and without apology, that what was done was wasteful and therefore unacceptable?
I suppose it helps to take a step outside. See something else. Come back and realize, hey, wait a second, it's pretty messed up that this is still going on.
We Quebecers are very in love with our home. And like any passionate yet dysfunctional relationship, it is often difficult to be see how bad things actually have been.
This piece originally appeared on Head Space
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