Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sovereignty - Part 3 - The Current State

To start this part, in addition to the reasons mentioned in the previous two posts on sovereignty, there are two major reasons for this series. First, along with language, this issue is a major part of living in Quebec. The results have a major bearing on what will become of the province and it's culture. Second, the recent events that follow have brought this topic to the forefront. Again, this is not news to anyone who has been here for at least a few years. Parts 1 & 3 are primarily for those outside Quebec (maybe more Canada), Part 2 was for everyone.

I left off at the 1995 Referendum in Part 1. It has now been 10 years. The push for sovereignty in the years after the referendum was not strong enough to propose another. In 1999, the federal government passed the 'Clarity Act' which proported to make sure any referendum questions would be clear. Some felt the referendum question was ambiguous.

The Parti Quebecois lost power to the Liberal Party in the 2003 elections. If I understand correctly, this was due to their heavy handed move of conglomerating the suburbs around the major cities. All of the municipalities on the island of Montreal were combined with the city of Montreal. The south suburbs were all combined into the city of Longueuil and the north suburbs became Laval. Many suburbs like the one I now live in have since voted to separate. But in 2004, the Liberal government came under fire in a sponsorship scandal. The Liberal government sponsored activities in order to promote being Canadian inside Quebec. The intent was to disuade Quebecers from secession and persuade them to be proud to be Canadian. Apparently, some of the money that was spent on this program was either for work not actually done, or it made it's way back into the Liberal Party. The irony is that the program was done to prevent another referendum, but now the scandal has made sovereigntist interested in having another referendum. This scandal has hurt the image of the Liberal Party in control here. It will likely put the Parti Quebecois in power at the next election likely in 2006. Many candidates for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois have campaigned that a referendum will be called a year or two after they come into power.

My hope is that when this new referendum comes to vote, everyone will consider the implications and really what is at stake when they vote. Have negotiations with Canada really have been exhausted or is everyone considering the past failed attempts enough? Does everyone understand what could become of Quebec if it were to secede? Yes, we pay double taxes (federal & provincial), but how much will that change? There has been animosity in the past, but could that be placated in order to clearly see what the solutions are? Could the solution be an even weaker federal government and stronger provincial governments?

My fear is similar to what happened in the last US Presidential election. What some people feel is important will make them overlook other important issues. Or people will not have knowledge of all the important issues. I feel that in the US election, people voted for Bush because of the likely upcoming Supreme Court vacancies. They wanted a president that would nominate conservative members. While I felt the election was a judgement on the act of going to war and the character of the person in charge, not only his beliefs. It seems all too often that people vote in reaction to events instead of the overal picture. The anti-megacity vote was one. The vote against the liberal scandal will be another. I still don't understand how Bush got reelected though. I also hope it is not a matter of who has the more charasmatic advocate or what irrelevant minor scandal comes about close to the vote. This is an issue more important than anyone you could elect to office. This will be around a long time and touch every aspect of the world around us. It should not be taken lightly.


Anonymous said...

It's a bit late to elaborate tonight, but I may be back since I -- as another foreigner living in Montreal since 1989 -- don't share your concerned vision about this issue at all. In short:

1) Small is beautiful. Why a smaller country should not succeed? Look at northern European countries. Aren't they good places to live?

2) Being separated does not necessarily mean yelling, cries and suffering. Many spouses split in dramatic circumstances, and many other split in quiet emotions, sense of justice and mutual respect. Why should not that happen for countries too?

3) The growth and globalization models we use to stick to now are a dying race. Soon now, we'll have to face downsizing in many fields -- economic downsizing, material consumption downsizing, corporate downsizing, car downsizing, house downsizing, community downsizing... by human happiness growth if Mother Nature still allows it, where these downsizings will succeed. In fact, Quebec is in advance, that's all.

You live in Montreal but do you think, as a Chicagoan mainly dealing with the English community, that you know French Quebecers very well? Believe the French man. This people here is one of the most pacific, respectful, and justice-caring that I ever met -- and I've travelled during decades for my job so I know what I am talking about. This will not change with or without sovereignty and Montreal will remain a great city to live and visit whatever background you have or language you speak! So don't worry and take care of your kids ;)

Ami Calmant,

Anonymous said...

Not to nit pick, but the all the cities on Île-Jesus (Laval) were fused together in the '70s, so Laval was not affected by the municipal fusion.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your viewpoint and comments. You make some very good points. I may be giving the impression either that I am for one side or the other, but to tell the truth, I am on the fence slightly leaning one way or the other. As I gather viewpoints from all the people I have been talking to lately, I may sway one way or the other. But it will take a while to synthesize all this info and have a stronger opinion one way or the other. I am surprised at the complexity of it all and the variety of opinions and viewpoints. Yes, currently I may be flip-flopping like John Kerry was accused of doing. But as new information presents itself positions should be reanalyzed.

I agree that Quebec could survive on it’s own. It is a well organized community that rivals the better ones in today’s world. An example is that I now work at a company that has talented people who rival my former co-workers at the world renowned company I worked at in Chicago. That is partly a function of having ‘Harvard of the North’ downtown.

When I mentioned that I was worried about possible turmoil from a separation, I was referring more to economic than physical. I have been very impressed with the civility with which this process has taken place. It should stand up as a model for other places where people are in disagreement like Israel and Iraq. The separation of Czechslovakia and the Velvet Divorce is a good example.

I really like the point of getting away from globalization. I think globalization has been more like quiet global domination. Making money on the backs of other at home and in the far reaches of the world. I think it has been a major cause of despair around the globe. It is too easy for those in power to control over others when the numbers are countless and many times far away. I’ll probably cover this point more deeply in a later post as it relates to the energy crisis. As I mentioned at the beginning of Part 2, if people feel they must separate due to distinct differences, then more power to them.

As far as my experiences thus far in Quebec, I have been primarily in contact with the francophone community. This blog has been an effort to reach out to the Anglophone side. I have been very pleasantly surprised at how open and welcome people have been. Especially since I am a foreigner learning their language. That is why I am surprised when I hear very angry words from people second-hand. You’re the third person who has reassured me that the environment here will change very little after a succession. I really hope you are correct.

Thank you again. I am very impressed with your command of English. I hope my command of French will one day reach that level.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, Thanks. I didn't really research that before putting it in. It was from my recollection.