Breaking up is hard to do


First, a challenge: Name three things a sovereignist likes to do more than embarassing their counterparts at inopportune moments.

The reason I ask is the not-so-coincidental timing of a column by former PQ minister Jacques Brassard for his local rag in Chicout’ (reprinted, along with an interview, in this morning’s La Presse). In it, Brassard writes that Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Québécois have become nothing more than a French-speaking clone of that “archaic Canadian socialist party, the NDP” and suggests it should re-evaluate its very presence in Ottawa.

For example, how is it an abandonment of “the defense of Quebec’s interests” [the Bloc’s supposed mandate] to believe the gun registry is a scandalously expensive and useless bureaucratic monster? And how, for another example, does “the defense of Quebec’s interests” require that you consider the Kyoto Protocol a sacred text and an unimpeachable catechism?

There was a time when the sponsorship scandal and the fiscal imbalance automatically made the Bloc credible as an appointed defender of Quebec’s vital interests. But with memories of the sponsorship scandal  fading and the fiscal imbalance, rightly or wrongly, largely perceived as having been solved, we begin understand that the Bloc is struggling to revisit its mission and even its raison d’être.

Now, there’s not much new to the criticism. In fact, it’s little more than a re-hash of what came out Héléne Alarie’s report to Duceppe after the Bloc’s lackluster performance in the 2006 election. Alarie’s report had found that the “Montrealization” of the party had badly damaged its reputation in the more rural and conservative parts of the province—areas that may, in some cases, be decidedly sovereignist, but were nonetheless turned off by the Bloc’s cosmopolitan politics. Recall too that small-town Quebec wasn’t exactly smitten with the PQ when it decided to go all urban with a coke-snorting gay dude from Montreal as party leader, a malaise perhaps best expressed by the Saguenay shock-jock who asked André Boisclair whether his party was becoming a “club of faggots.”

The Bloc’s response to Brassard, posted here, notes that both the gun registry and Kyoto were unanimously endorsed by the National Assembly, and argues that Mario Dumont’s intergovernmental policies are the same as the Bloc’s. “Do you consider Mario Dumont to be left-wing?” asks party VP Jacques Léonard.

But, while Léonard may be right on the details, with the grand sovereignist coalition splintering along urban/rural, Lucides/Solidaires, péquistes/indépendantistes lines all at once, do the details really matter? And, more importantly, is there anyone at the Bloc (or the PQ, for that matter) that looks like he or she is capable of glueing the coalition back together?


Breaking up is hard to do

  1. I think groups on the left have a long history of fighting like cats in a sack. The most mundane of minutiae can send them off splintering from their original group and forming a whole new one. I have never understood why.

    The separatist passion is slowly dying off, never to return. It seems to me Quebec has a pretty comfortable position within Canada and they have no reason to separate. Society was entirely different when PQ was formed compared to now and I don’t see burning desire for separation from Generation X cohort and younger.

  2. Yes, a phenomenon exclusively limited to the left. Remind me again why McCain couldn’t have Lieberman or Ridge on his ticket?

  3. You mean the 2007 provincial election Philippe. What’s happened to the PQ last year appears to be happening to the BQ in this election cycle.

    The separatists are trending downwards although JWL I rather doubt they’re gone foreover.

    Duceppe’s strategy of painting Harper as hard-right is risky. First of all it won’t likely stick because he’s governed center-right over the last two and half-years. Secondly, it risks excacerbating the left/right split in the sovereignist movement, which caused the PQ to lose it’s right flank to the ADQ in 2007.

    It does not help that Duceppe is a hard-core leftist, and was actually a maoist as late as in the 1980’s if you can beleive it. Boisclair was similarly seen as left-leaning and it cost the PQ big time. They will keep there bedrock support but probably not a whole lot more.

  4. Oops, I stand corrected, Phillipe’s right, Alarie’s report was after the 2006 federal election.

  5. Not nearly as interesting (to me) as what Danny Williams is saying about Ol’ Shark Eyes today.
    Of course,that’s happening out in some warp in the space/time continuum east of Montreal. Not really real.
    Oh,and Politburo slotted in another giant in the Halifax riding – after they had to “disappear” their first one.
    And then,the husband of another appointee (in Scott Brison’s riding)had recently accused Stevie of having -I paraphrase- the soul of a dictator.
    And you thought we weren’t having any fun out here.

  6. Jarrid and jwl: I’m not actually convinced the sovereignist movement is dying off at all. (Support for independence rarely dips below 35% in Quebec, and, aside from a few spikes here and there, is generally pretty steady.) It just seems to be in the same sort of trouble the conservative movement was in during the PC/Reform years, with no one there to heal the rift the way the Reformers stepped up.

  7. jwl – “The most mundane of minutiae can send them off splintering from their original group and forming a whole new one. I have never understood why.”

    I’m pretty sure the current ruling party is also the youngest party with any MPs, elected or otherwise, running Federally. By a few decades.

    But I do agree that I also perceive the separatist movement as losing steam. Both the BQ and PQ are in trouble and the ADQ provincially may not be able to repeat their seat count.

    I can see the Bloc losing enough seats this election to have Duceppe step aside. Which is too bad, as I find him to be the most honest and sincere of the ‘Federal’ leaders.

  8. Phillipe, Dije

    Who are the people that support independence? Is it a core 35% who are getting older every year or are new Levesque’s and Bourgault’s being brought into the party.

    And I also wonder how much they actually support independence as opposed to using it as a wedge to get more laws and money favourable to Quebec. It’s hard to imagine the independence movement having more favourable conditions than they had in past but we never know what will happen in the future.

  9. jwl – I’d say independence is slowly giving way to autonomy. As an Anglo living in Ottawa, I can’t really back up what I think on the subject too smoothly however.

    I don’t think it’s about money or monetary goodies. It’s more about cultural preservation, self determination and having more control over the levers of power.

    The older I get the more I realize Quebec is very different from the rest of the country while at the same time realizing regional differences are a Canadian reality. And the differences are growing, which seems to be the trend for most states that are made up of many nations (USSR, UK, Phillipines, Kosovo, Georgia, Basque, Kurdistan, etc).

  10. Unfortunately, I don’t really know who still supports independence. But the last poll that was taken (at least, that I know of) pegged support for the ‘yes’ side on the same question that was asked in 1995 at 42%. (http://legermarketing.com/documents/POL/080425FR.pdf) And, when asked whether they want Quebec to one day be independent, 43% said ‘yes’.

    Interestingly, of the 42% who said they would vote ‘yes’ in referendum, 14% identified themselves as provincial Liberals, and of the 58% who would vote ‘no’, 24% were péquistes. It’s just a poll, but I do think it shows that the dismal state of the sovereignist parties doesn’t necessarily reflect the state of the idea itself.

  11. Thanks Philippe, those numbers in the second paragraph are interesting.

  12. I found this blog post quite stirring – it’s absolutely a blog I’ll come back to.

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