One could wonder how the 1980 and 1995 referendums would have turned out with a Joe Clark or a Preston Manning as Prime Minister rather than Pierre Trudeau or Jean Chrétien. One could point out that Madame Marois was elected in 2012 through denouncing the Harper government's ultraconservative policies. One could well denounce the unilateralism, lack of dialogue and boondoggles that marked federal-provincial relations under Harper, as well as the Conservative government's hodge-podge of ill-advised political decisions with respect to health, justice, training, old age security, immigration... decisions which are proving costly to the provinces.
As a proud Canadian, it bothers me that NDP leader Tom Mulcair -- who had no qualms about interfering in previous Ontario by-elections on the side of NDP candidates -- refused to take a side in the Québec election. The NDP dodged a bullet this time -- fortunately! -- but such an irresponsible position should not be rewarded in 2015.
In the aftermath of the publication of my most recent editorial -- "Let Them Learn French": Canada's Bilingual Elite Hold All the Power" -- I've been widely denounced by all manner of pundit, much of Quebec, and even our old pal Gilles Duceppe. On the other hand, I've also heard from numerous Canadians applauding me for finally confronting one of this country's most sacred taboos head-on.
On October 30, 1995, I was in downtown Montreal, where many of the shopkeepers are immigrants. Rue Ste Catherine; St. Dennis: I wandered these streets and others whose names I was too upset to notice. It was Referendum Day. Quebeckers were voting. By day's end, Canadians would know if we were still a country. The streets were almost deserted that day, the shopkeepers downcast. It was as if the mourning for Canada had already begun. Surprisingly, the separatists were defeated. Narrowly. Some blamed Quebec's immigrants for the loss. They'd voted overwhelmingly against separation.
With Quebec now facing an election where it looks increasingly likely that the separatist party will not only win a second term, but a majority government to boot, Anglo and Franco relations are being strained like never before. Separatism is poised to make its third great comeback. The question is whether any Canadians will be willing to carry the flag this time.
The PQ should focus on using education to preserve its culture and language. Almost 80 per cent of Quebecers identify themselves as Francophone. Thus, it's a failure of education when someone who was born, raised and educated in Montreal tells you that he moved to Toronto because it's impossible to find a job in Montreal. The issue should not be that French was required of them but that, over the course of their educational career, they were not properly taught the language and its value -- economic and cultural. The new Ontarians will not phrase it this way, of course.
Actually, maybe Pauline Marois' motivation in pushing a religious headgear ban isn't that mysterious after all. If we presume Quebeckers vote separatist because they genuinely believe their province is getting a raw deal staying in Canada, with part of that raw deal being the fact that the mean ol' Canadian government won't let them have the things they want -- like, say, a religious headgear ban backed by 69 per cent of the public -- then a heavy-handed federal lawsuit reenforcing this storyline might actually be in the Parti Quebecois' long-term partisan self-interest.
When the state takes an interest in regulating religious expression, it invites religious institutions to reply by using their force of numbers to remake government policy. More seriously still, excluding people of faith from the mass of society is the surest way to isolate and drive them into the arms of radicalism.