Try as I might, I simply can’t get outraged at Michael Ignatieff’s pensées on the inevitability of Quebec’s independence. Safely ensconced in the fragrant embrace of academia, Mike has every right in the world to wax whatever about Quebec and its future in this “very strange hybrid called Canada”, and how one day, Quebec may well exclude itself from… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
Sorry, dozed off there for a sec. Let’s try that again.
As I said, Ignatieff has every right to say what he wants about Quebec to whatever television crew shows up at his door. He’s even allowed to get many, many things wrong, as he did in the BBC interview. “Quebec is master of its own house,” he said. “They run their own immigration policy.” [not really: Quebec has say over the selection of immigrants, but the overall policy is set by Canada. From the 1991 Canada-Quebec Act: “Canada shall establish annually the total number of immigrants for the country as a whole, taking into consideration Québec’s advice on the number of immigrants that it wishes to receive.”]
“They run their own natural resources development policy.” [True, but so does every other province, for the simple fact that natural resources is a provincial jurisdiction.]
“They run their own education…” [Ditto. See above.]
“…and health care system.” [Ditto. See above. This stuff is on Wikipedia, for chrissakes.]
And remember kids: this guy ran for Prime Minister. It makes me think that maybe his vision of Quebec separating itself from the Canadian dream is something of a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
Sorry, there I go again. Stupid independence chatter-related narcolepsy!
Anyway. Iggy’s biggest whopper came courtesy of his misty-eyed take on his generation. “Je parle français,” he said with a straight face, “and when I think about being Canadian, speaking French is part of it. But that’s not the way most English Canadians now think of their country. They might have 30 to 40 years ago when we thought we could live together in this very strange hybrid called Canada.”
Er, whah? Thirty to 40 years ago, many, many people were busy bitching and moaning about official bilingualism—Calgary Herald, circa 1970: Canada will be led “by a small cohort of bilingual technocrats [and] elite[s] running everything from defence to letter carrying”—and the indignity of having to eat French Corn Flakes and the like. And he’s got it backward: while the numbers certainly haven’t exploded, the percentage of bilingual Canadians continues to rise—and is higher today than Ignatieff’s supposed bilingual paradise of 30 to 40 years ago.
But what I’m really non-outraged about is how out of touch Ignatieff is on the current state of the Quebec nationalist movement. He seeems to think there’s a broad collective will behind the project, when there simply isn’t. Conveniently enough, Iggy’s comments surfaced on a day when La Presse released a poll noting how the Liberals are ahead of the sovereignist opposition Parti Québécois. Let’s put that into perspective: even though the Liberals have been carpet bombed with allegations of corruption, collusion and shady business over the last three years, and even though upwards of 75 per cent of Quebecers are dissatisfied with the current provincial government, the Parti Québécois still languishes behind. Pauline Marois’s party simply can’t capitalize, either because people aren’t buying, or simply don’t care about, what the PQ is peddling. Indeed, even with a supremely unpopular federalist government, only 36 per cent of Quebecers support the option. You might say that sovereignists are so desperate for fuel these day that they actually take comfort in the detached, demonstrably incorrect dribblings of a failed politician. It’s enough to put you to sleep.