No More Quebec Separation Anxiety.

Mar 15

In April 2014 Quebecers are slated to go to the polls, where it’s expected they’ll elected the separatist Parti Quebecois to a majority. That prospect has some Canadian pundits already cranking up the hand-wringing over the country’s future if the PQ should stage another referendum on separatism, or sovereignty-association, or whatever the hell they intend to call it to fulfil their silly fantasy of becoming an independent nation.

I don’t pretend to speak for my fellow Canadians outside Quebec, but I don’t give a shit about the so-called “threat” of Quebec separatism.

The dying dream of Quebec separatism won't fly this time.

The dying dream of Quebec separatism won’t be reborn this time.

We’ve been down this road twice before, in 1981 and 1995, and the end result was Quebecers voting to reject the separatist siren song.

Since the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s, through the FLQ crisis, the rise of the PQ in the 1970s, the ’81 referendum, the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords to bring Quebec into the Canadian constitution and the ’95 referendum, there was a generation of Quebecers who seriously pursued the foolish dream of being a French state within North America.

However, it’s been nearly 20 years since the 1995 referendum. Much has changed since then. The generation which dream of separatism is fading away, replaced by a more ethnically diverse one (largely in and around Montreal) which sees Quebec as a vibrant province within a robust Canada. Polls show over 60 percent of Quebecers reject the notion of becoming their own nation.

There’s a good reason for that. Most Quebecers under 40 have little or no memory of the 1995 referendum fight, let alone the years and decades of debate and discord which proceeded it. For them, the fight for sovereignty is a relic of a bygone era.

Given the nature of today’s global economy, most Quebecers understand it is far better to be part of a stable nation like Canada than to attempt to strike out on its own as a small nation within North America. They look at the province’s debt, the corruption at many municipal levels and understand there are bigger issues to grapple with than their place within Canada. Quebecers today are far more the master of their own home than at any point in their history, without the need of a messy, expensive and uncertain divorce from Canada.

Even the PQ isn’t rattling the separatist sabre as loudly as it once did, probably because because they understand it’s a losing fight. Quebecers will give the PQ a majority government not because they hunger for their own nation, but because they’re currently seen as the better option of three parties to best govern the province.

Sure, it’s possible once in a majority government the PQ could once again try to spring another referendum, but their attempts would be more quixotic than the previous two attempts. They could try to woo a majority of Quebecers into believing they’re better off without being under the heel of the rest of Canada, even though Quebec is now far more a distinct society than at any time in its history. They’ll try to convince Quebecers that nothing will really change, other than they can now be their own country and be in charge of themselves as a nation instead of as a province.

Twenty years ago, a number of Quebecers nearly bought into the fantasy. They won’t now. Separatism had its high tide in the first half of the 1990s. That ship has now sailed and will never return.

Besides, if the PQ were willing to try to play the separatist card again, they’ll find the rest of Canada far less willing to bargain with them than in 1981 and 1995. For most Canadians now, the possibility of a PQ majority and another referendum scarcely registers. Those who do acknowledge it see it as little more than bluff on the PQ’s part to try to squeeze the Canadian government for more federal money. Rather than concession, the PQ will find a Canadian government, buoyed by the support of most Canadians, unwilling to bargain and fully prepared to demonstrate to Quebecers how difficult life will be for them as a separate nation.

Ageing separatists like Premier Marois may still harbor the secret dream of separatism, but it won’t garner much traction among Quebecers more concerned with the economy, government corruption, health care and other issues which they share with their fellow Canadians.

So go ahead, Parti Quebecois. Stage another referendum. Good luck getting a majority of Quebecers to buy into your fading, foolish separatist dreams. But if by some chance you pull it off, remember the Chinese proverb about being careful for what you wish for because you might just get it.


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