Over There (in the UK)

January 11, 2001 at 5 PM

Last month, I wrote about

Last month, I wrote about how Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard was risking his career over an internal struggle with Parti Québécois hardliners.

Today, Bouchard announced his resignation (read the news report), in a teary farewell speech. In it, he spoke of his failure to bring about Quebec sovereignty, essentially saying he was too busy running the affairs of the province. He decried the intolerance of some members of the PQ, and spoke directly about the incomparable tragedy of the Holocaust. I may disagree with Bouchard's stance on political sovereignty, but it is nonetheless a shame that more Quebecers don't share his belief in accepting cultural diversity and deriding anti-Semitism. Bouchard rightly points out that the sovereignty project is impossible without the support of at least some of those who don't consider themselves ethnically French-Canadian.

All in all, the future seems a bit bleek for the péquistes. Whoever replaces Bouchard cannot hope to replace his charisma, or even his level of sincerity and intelligence. He is the most popular politician in Quebec since René Lévesque, and it was only after his intervention during the 1995 referendum that Quebecers came a few unlawfully rejected ballots from rejecting Canada. Federalists are likely to see his resignation as a blessing to Canadian unity. I, however, am not so sure.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, Ottawa is more likely to shower Quebec with bribes with a federalist party in provincial power. And, believe it or not, most of the controversial language laws implemented in Quebec were a product of the federalist Quebec Liberals, not the PQ. Bouchard's administration has governed over an improving economy and the revitalization of Montreal. Ottawa's Clarity Bill, a source of much angst to Bouchard, would never have been adopted with Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberals in power. In a way, the harshness of the PQ rhetoric forced the rest of Canada to smell the proverbial coffee.

Ontario-style federalists have for years scratched their head and said with exasperation, "What do you want?!" while tossing cabinet posts and federal cultural funding and lavish Canada Day festivities at Quebec. But Quebecers don't want to be bribed, they don't want to celebrate Canada Day, and they don't really want to separate, not the majority anyhow. Bouchard understands that better, I think, than just about anyone in the rest of Canada, or even in Quebec. Unlike most sovereigntists, he has also been willing to look beyond the borders of Quebec to comprehend how silly some of the nationalist argument seem to the rest of the world, especially international business interests.

As he departed, he said he hoped someone else could come forward to lead Quebec to sovereignty, calling it "the only future." One wonders if rather he has realized that in a world of free trade agreements and the European Union, Quebec sovereignty is illogical unless based on the idea of ethnic nationalism. Since Bouchard has proven he is no fan of that ideology, it follows that he is not the best person to lead the charge, even though paradoxically, he is precisely the person in Quebec who could achieve the ends. Hey. No one ever said it made sense.



Previously: A successful workers’ enterprise comes

Subsequently: One more thing. You might

January 2001
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