We can’t do much about the Bloc - Macleans.ca

We can’t do much about the Bloc

COYNE: But we can stop trying to ‘fix’ the Quebec issue



It is a common fallacy to suppose that what is must be: that human events unfold as they do not by accident or chance, but impelled by logical necessity, even inevitability.
We should beware, then, the tendency to attach some rational explanation to the continued existence of the Bloc Québécois, 20 years after its origins in the tumultuous final weeks of the Meech Lake accord, as if it were the natural product of some latent historical dynamic, or even served some useful purpose. Some things just are.

Or if there is a reason for the Bloc’s existence, it has more to do with the errors of its opponents than with the intentions of its founders, still less with Quebec’s—inevitable!—rendezvous with its separatist destiny. The Bloc has made no more contribution to that particular enterprise in the 20 years since it first set up shop than it has to the better governance of Canada. It has for most of its history been a declining political force, and would have been spent long ago but for periodic injections of adrenalin by the federalist parties.

Just how frivolous the whole project was can be seen in the events leading up to Lucien Bouchard’s break with Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government, in which he had been a minister—the Bloc’s effective, if not literal founding. Even the purported reason for the rupture, signalled with typically melodramatic flourish in the form of a congratulatory telegram to the Parti Québécois on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the 1980 referendum—recalling “the sincerity, the pride and the generosity of the ‘Yes’ we defended at the time”—seems, in retrospect, almost embarrassingly trivial. Word had reached Bouchard that a parliamentary committee chaired by Jean Charest was preparing to recommend an amendment to Meech committing the federal government to preserve and promote official language minorities across the country—including the English minority in Quebec.

That this was only a committee, that it had not yet reported, that its recommendations might not have been adopted, that if the accord had been so amended it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to Quebec or its anglophone population, whose respective fates will be determined by forces much larger than sub-clauses to sub-clauses of constitutional accords—none of this mattered to Bouchard, who had by then gone supernova at this “betrayal.” In a speech the day after his resignation from cabinet, Bouchard raged that “Quebec has compromised. It has stripped itself naked. It has nothing more to give but still it is being asked to give. What more could we give up if not our honour and what’s left of our pride.”

But then, as was clear even then, Bouchard’s resignation had nothing do with the committee’s report. As environment minister, Bouchard had set out a vastly interventionist agenda—described by more than one critic as the most centralizing in the country’s history—but had found his ambitions thwarted, in a way that ambitious ministers often do. He began to suspect plots against him: in particular, someone had leaked word that Bouchard would side with the Americans at an international conference on global warming (oh God, plus ça change) in Bergen, Norway. Infuriated, frustrated, bored, Bouchard began sending increasingly overt signals, from various European centres, of his unhappiness. But what really seems to have set him off is that, rather than phone him himself, Mulroney had Charest call him. On this slight has the last two decades depended.

What was true of the man is true of the cause. Meech itself, whose acrimonious end precipitated the departure of several more Conservative and Liberal MPs from Quebec and eventually led to the Bloc’s formation, was built on just such invented grievances: notably, the patriation of the Constitution in 1982, which allegedly reduced the powers of the Quebec government, allegedly over Quebec’s objections, with much alleged damage to the federalist cause. In fact it did none of those things (as Mulroney himself argued at the time). Far from the centralizing document of myth, the 1982 Constitution gave an enormous range of powers to the provinces in general, and to Quebec in particular. It strengthened provincial control over natural resources, on which Quebec’s economy is especially dependent. It entrenched a federal obligation to provide equalization payments, of which Quebec is the largest recipient. It gave the provinces control of the amending formula, together with the right to opt out of any amendments that reduced their powers—with compensation, in matters of education or culture. It entrenched French as an official language, along with Quebec’s one-third representation on the Supreme Court.

The only conceivable way in which it reduced Quebec’s powers was through the Charter of Rights. But it also provided an out, in the form of the notwithstanding clause, which Quebec has invoked repeatedly. And, while other provinces had recourse to the same override, only Quebec was allowed to opt out of the general obligation to provide minority-language schooling to the children of parents educated in the same tongue. In any event, Quebecers themselves did not regard this an imposition: the Charter was massively popular in the province. The legislation itself passed with the support of 72 of 75 Quebec MPs. True, a majority of the Quebec national assembly, then governed by the PQ, supported a motion to oppose it. But to accept that vote as legitimate, while ignoring the votes of Quebec’s federal MPs, is simply to restate the separatist argument: that the only true representatives of the people of Quebec are the members of the national assembly. That’s an odd thing for federalists to concede. But it’s odder still of the Bloc: if that’s the case, what are they doing in Ottawa?

That there would be a surge of support for the Bloc was understandable, in the immediate aftermath of Meech’s collapse: as 1982 was the pretext for Meech, so the failure of the accord, and of its Charlottetown sequel, became the main argument for separation. In 1993, its first general election, the Bloc won 49 per cent of the vote in Quebec, nearly level with what the Yes side would obtain in the referendum two years later. Yet no sooner had the referendum been defeated than support for separation, and the Bloc, began to fall: in the 1997 election, the Bloc won just 38 per cent of the vote. And, just as patriation did not result in the predicted surge of nationalist outrage, neither did the 1998 Supreme Court reference on secession, or the Clarity Act of the following year: in 2000, the Bloc obtained just under 40 per cent of the vote—to 44 per cent for the Liberals.

What revived the Bloc? Two things: the civil war that erupted shortly afterward within the federal Liberal party, with its unpleasant echoes of the Meech fracas, and the sponsorship scandal. In the 2004 election, the BQ again won 49 per cent of the vote. But soon after it resumed its slide: to 42 per cent in 2006, and 38 per cent in 2008. To be sure, it is troubling that, 20 years after Meech, upward of three in eight Quebecers should continue to feel so disconnected from Canada that they are prepared to support a party of, in effect, placeholders, whatever good offices its members may perform individually. But it’s as significant that the Bloc, despite its self-assigned mandate to “prepare the ground for sovereignty,” is itself constrained to behave in a respectful, constructive fashion.  This is no Sinn Fein, refusing to take its seats, or disrupting Parliamentary proceedings a la Charles Parnell, and it would not get elected if it did. All it can do is occupy seats that would otherwise go to federalist parties, thus making it less likely any of them can win a majority (though not impossible: Jean Chrétien did it three times, the first prime minister in 60 years to carry the country without carrying Quebec). It is a kind of nullity, perfectly expressing the ambivalence of nationalist voters in Quebec: neither loyal to Canada nor too much exercised to get out of it.

What can the rest of us do about the Bloc? In the short term, not much. At some point, some issue will arise that will excite disaffected Quebecers to want to participate in the government of Canada again; until such time, there is nothing we can do to prevent them from expressing their anomie via the Bloc. But we can at least stop actively propping it up. We could, first of all, reform our system of party financing, removing the public subsidy that now provides nearly 90 per cent of the Bloc’s funding. Second, we could make the televised election debates bilingual, rather than segregating them by language: the French debate has tended de facto to become the Quebec debate, giving unwonted prestige and prominence to the Bloc leader. (Indeed, on some occasions he has seemed almost to be playing host to his rivals.) Last, we could change our electoral system, with its bias to parties that, like the Bloc, have a concentrated geographic base. Through six elections, the Bloc has averaged in the low 40s in the popular vote in Quebec, yet has routinely taken upward of two-thirds of the seats. In a more proportional system, it would win 25 to 30 seats, not 45 or 50.

Mostly, however, we can stop trying to “solve” the Quebec question. Every time we do, from Meech to Charlottetown to the fiscal imbalance to the Québécois-nation resolution, we simply inflame passions, raise expectations, and set ourselves up for failure. Whereas when we just get on with things, support for separation fades. Let the Bloc wither, in its own good time—but on its own dime.

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We can’t do much about the Bloc

  1. I agree. We keep not dealing with a problem we have created or we try to deal with what is not a problem.

  2. "We could, first of all, reform our system of party financing, removing the public subsidy that now provides nearly 90 per cent of the Bloc's funding."

    A great idea. Hate partisanship? Starve the beast. Except Stephen Harper tried this and the media clobbered him. Hell, Harper announced a plan to spend Canadian tax dollars on health for women and children (notably, not for men) overseas and they clobbered him for that too.

    He might have to start using reverse psychology to fake out the media into supporting what he really wants, ie announce a massive increase in funding to political parties and let Pavlov's dogs in the media do the predictable thing: oppose it.

    • Harper wanted to drop political party funding because he hates partisanship? Thanks for the laugh, Delray.

    • All MPs should be publicly funded. MPs should not receive any private funding. It is the road to corruption.

      • You really think members of Parliament helping themselves to the public purse and making their only tie to the electorate an election that happens on average any four years and usually turns into a referendum on the leader anyway would lead to less corruption?

  3. Excellent column Andrew. However, will any of self centred politicians take your advice. Each seems to think they can solve the Quebec question which you rightly point out cannot be solved.

    We need to take action which isolates the Bloc versus giving them the ability to fund their operations on the backs of all Canadians and not worry about what Quebec thinks.

    It is what is in the best interest of the country that is important.

    • Pitty comment. I strongly believe this the kind of thoughts that fuels separatism.

      • We let you separate. Go ahead, be our guest, the sooner the better, cannot wait, just do it, we will help you this time. Alas, it's Qebecois bla, bla, bla as usual.

  4. This is no Sinn Fein, refusing to take its seats, or otherwise disrupting parliamentary proceedings, and it would not get elected if it did. This is no Sinn Fein, refusing to take its seats, or disrupting Parliamentary proceedings a la Charles Parnell, and it would not get elected if it did.

    Missed a line editing?

    While I agree with the premise, removing the public subsidy would cause the major parties to become fundraising machines first and foremost. That suggests that we'd see the major parties deliberately looking for false wedge issues and the rhetoric would be cranked up even more as each tried to whip up their base in a bid to get more dollars. Honestly, I'd go the other way and cut parties off from donations, forcing them to cater to the electorate as a whole if they want money and pushing them to try and go after every single vote possible in as many ridings as possible.

    • Oh dear. Fixed. Thanks.

    • Completely agreed. The public subsidy is a great way to remove the power of special interests from politics.

      And I personally like the idea of having the parties have less money to spend on elections. All the TV ads, etc. are such a pile of crap that they don't really add to intelligent discussion or the democratic process in a positive way.

      The best way to change political behaviour is through institutional changes – setting up a system that rewards respectful, intelligent discussion as opposed to smear and fear campaigns. The best system for that is Preferential Ballots, not Proportional Representation. So long as politicians are competing for a single vote, they have no compelling reason to change tactics. Competing for second and third votes forces them to treat their opponents with respect, lest they alienate those who support their opponents, thus not receiving second or third votes.

      It would be interesting to see how a PB system would affect seat count in Quebec. Would people voting for federalist parties typically give their second and third votes to other federalist parties? I don't really know. Would the BQ be as encouraged to moderate their rhetoric as federalist parties? I don't know…

    • Nonsense. The public subsidy needn't be eliminated altogether. Simply stipulate that no party can receive said subsidy unless they are able to carry, say, over 5% of the vote in a majority of provinces and territories. If (when?) we finally get proportional representation, that will also help prevent other upstart regionalist parties from forming–unless they really do carry legitimate national support. Frankly, it's shocking that the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP have never suggested this. It could be passed in a heartbeat, and it would serve greater good for national unity than anything we've done since official bilingualism.

      With the debate suggestion and proportional representation, even if the Bloc remains, it would be relegated to the sideshow position it deserves. And, finally, everyone would have their voices better represented. There are Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. There are Liberal voters in Alberta. There are NDP voters in Quebec. There are Greens *everywhere*. These people deserve representation. Right now the only net benefit is to the Bloc!

  5. One might argue that the media has helped support the remnants of the BQ by making them relevant outside of Quebec. While there are many fine MP's under the Bloc banner in parliament, their function is limited to opposing the governing party. Treat them in effect the same way the Greens or at times even the NDP and their presence will hardly be noticed.

  6. I agree with reforming the electoral system and making the debate bilingual. I don't agree with removing the per vote subsidy. Just because we don't like how many in Quebec vote doesn't mean we should change the system to disadvantage their chosen party of support. The subsidy exists for good reasons and the fact that it props up the Bloc is just an annoying circumstance. Changing the electoral system and debates are good for all of Canada, while removing the subsidy is bad for Canada and not just the Bloc.

    • Well said.

      I wonder if there was no BQ whether Andrew would have as much hate on as he does for the vote subsidy. After all, many countries in the world have public financed campaigns – even the US does as an option, though a campaign can choose to "opt out" of it – and the reason it exists in theory is to try and keep "big money" as in big union and big corporate money out of buying an election (which we may now see happening in the Supreme Court "Citizens United" court decision aftermath in the US).

      The citizens of this country are by their vote choosing to help finance the party of their choice; a fair portion of Quebeckers choose to finance the BQ by their votes; that's their choice, and it's pretty democratic to me, whether one likes their policies/goals or not.

      • Wow, it sure didn't take long for Liberals to come out of the woodwork to shoot down this suggestion. It's too bad because if Liberals took the long view they'd realize that with a shrinking Bloc the pie becomes bigger for the federalist parties. The Liberals have historically done very well in Quebec and would clearly benefit from a broke Bloc. Sigh, unfortunately, the Liberal Party of Canada never takes the long view these days, everything is improvised, on what seems like a daily basis.

        • What I find funny in your comments, Jarrid, is that you seem to assume the Bloc would be the party most penalized by the proposed party financing reform. I don't buy that argument for a second. It seems pretty obvious to me that the Bloc/PQ can raise a fair amount of money and that their campaign expenses, being that they stick to Québec as a playing ground, are far lower that those of other parties.

          They aren't going anywhere.

          • Three parties have benefited from party financing laws: the Greens, the NDP and the Bloc. This is the case because smaller parties tended not to get corporate money (why should the financially motivated donate to a party that will never take power) and secondly, because the Chretien reforms capped election spending, thus limiting the advantages of the big parties. Those reforms were passed in 2003, and have a LOT to do with the emergence of the messy political system we have today.

            However, of those, the Bloc has clearly and unambiguously benefited the most. 90% of their money comes from the public subsidy. Moreover, because they get public money, they are not beholden to their self-destructive base. One of the biggest challenges for all PQ leaders has been the need to both win over soft nationalists, while maintaining the support of hardline separatists. The latter would vote for the PQ anyway, but is necessary in terms of campaign donations. Because the Bloc doesn't need to raise money, it can maintain its ambiguous stance on the secession question and position itself for maximum effectiveness.

            Frankly, it amazes me that Liberals are so stupid as to support the very election financing laws that destroyed their natural majority (and in particular prevent their political comeback in Quebec). Want to unite the left? Go back to pre-2003 financing rules.

          • The point of politics isn't necessarily to win elections. Some people get into politics to make their country a better place. I'm not saying that's the only reason the Liberals did it (god knows there's plenty of self-interest to go around there, as in every party), but the assumption that doing something that is good for the country but bad for your own party is "stupid" should offend anyone's sensibilities.

          • Want to unite the left? Go back to pre-2003 financing rules.

            Chretien burned that bridge a long time ago.

  7. "It is a kind of nullity, perfectly expressing the ambivalence of nationalist voters in Quebec: neither loyal to Canada nor too much exercised to get out of it." And probably not inclined to pull out their chequebook to support them. In addition, the Bloc has always had problems getting the vote out in federal elections because many separatists see the pointlessness of the whole exercise of electing federal MP's to the House of Commons.

    Cutting off the public subsidy that the Bloc almost totally relies on?

    Harper tried it and the NDP and the Liberals closed ranks with the Duceppe and signed the infamous coalition agreement of December 1st, 2008 with the Bloc. People forget but it was precisely the taking away of this subsidy that gave the Liberals and the NDP the pretext for their ill-fated attempt at seizing power.

    If that subsidy is eliminated, the Bloc will be battling the next election with one arm tied behind their back. A happy thought for all federalists in Quebec.

    • I'd much rather that the separatist party was defeated based on the public's rejection of their ideas than due to a lack of funding.

  8. Well, it sure is a slow decline, eh?

    Seriously, I wish that kind of stuff would get translated by Maclean's into l'Actualité. It's easy to preach to the choir and write those lines in Macleans, the fact is that *nobody* will ever oppose your views here. I'm curious about the kind of reply you'd get from, say, Jean-François Lisée.

    • Olivier, Quebec needs to get its house in order and the nationalist or independance question pales in comparaison to the problems that ails Quebec society. Problems which will persist regardless of political independance if they are not adressed. Problems like:

      1. A suicidal societal birthrate;

      2. An archaic dependance of the state to provide for its citizens every need. The next demand by the Quebec citizenry will be that the state be responsible for wiping their behinds after they use the toilet facilities.

      3. A public education system that is by far Canada's worst. People who have the means flea it like the plague. The high school drop-out rate is nothing short of disgraceful.

      The stupid "question nationale" has sucked up too much political air in Quebec and real problems go unresolved. The impotent Bloc contributes to the inertia on Quebec's real problems.

      Bottom line: the presence of the Bloc in Quebec hurts Quebec more than it hurts Canada.

      • Yes, Quebec has all these problems but I don't see how not voting for the Bloc will help in any way. I don't see how the Bloc, who has no authority and little influence on provincial matters, could help or aggravate any of the problems that Quebec has. Maybe if the Partie Quebecois disappeared…but a lot of the problems Quebec is having now were brought on by the Liberals (provincial) who are federalists.

        Oh, and by the way, right now Quebec has one of the highest birthrates (behind the prairies and the territories – http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/demo04b-eng.htm… in fact, it's higher then the Canadian average. Just so you know. Hey, Quebec might be on it's way to solving problem number 1 (in part because of problem number 2) and the Bloc is still around!

  9. I'm curious then: if the best strategy is to leave Sovereignty to wither away, and efforts such as Meech merely inflamed it, then what of the Clarity Act? Was that a prudent attempt to lay out the ground rules for the sovereignty issue, or rather a foolhardy poke at a wound best left to heal on its own?

    • Closer to the latter, it was mainly an appeal to the ROC. since it echoed exactly the words of a supreme court of Canada decision to the same effect, passing the act was just waving a red flag in front of the separatist bull. Btu Chretien had to do it because the reformers were stirring up the pot.

      • Chretien had a majority government….what do you mean he "had to do it"? You mean it was the wrong thing for the country, and he knew it, but he did it anyway to save some political face even though he held complete control of Parliament?

  10. Gilles Duceppe to me epitomizes how out of touch Quebec is with the real world.

    Duceppe was a maoist well into the 1980's at a time when the Soviet Bloc was crumbling and the Berlin Wall was being knocked down. Even maoist China has let in some fresh air by introducing necessary economic reforms.

    But Quebec continues to vote for some ideological has-been.

    Quebec needs to wake up and join the real world. Voting Bloc simply keeps Quebec stagnating in the past.

    What has Gilles Duceppe accomplished over the years: a good pension for himself and his fellow Bloc colleagues, that's the only tangible thing.

  11. Maybe we should solve the Canadian problem and not the Quebec problem. There must more to done by the media the provincial governments and private business to promote the duality in all of Canada. Stop ignoring the francophones that are present in all of Canada. They flourish make that fact known! The more it is known then the separatist (or the abadonistes as I prefer to call them) will no longer have a leg to stand on mainly that French speaking Canadians have no place and cannot grow in Canada outside of Quebec.

    • Since the last census, Mandarin has surpassed French as the most spoken minority language spoken outside Quebec. Mandarin 18%, French 13%.

  12. Yeah, how can Quebeckers have the audacity to believe that they can exercice their democratic right to vote for a legitimate party? I guess we should just take away their right to vote all together. That would solve the "problem".

  13. ''..Second, we could make the televised election debates bilingual, rather than segregating them by language: the French debate has tended de facto to become the Quebec debate…'

    Why only 2 debates?
    We need region debates….the West, the Northern, Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.
    And why not have debates on issues of FEDERAL responsibility,
    military, national security….etc
    Too often a Federal election is all about issues that are not within federal jurisdiction.

    i would love to see Duceppe enter a debate on Western Canadian only issues.
    Would he accept?
    Does Duceppe have an opinion on the Canadian Wheat Board?
    If not, why not?
    His party is privileged to vote on issues that have nothing to do with 'what's good for Quebec',
    if they don't care, maybe they should excuse themselves from voting on soley regional issues.

    • Wow, I agree. I'd personally love to see several bilingual debates, as you've suggested. I'd also love to have fact checkers at them who would announce when someone was wrong about something.

      Why not just have debates and none of the asinine advertisements that plague our elections? I'd love it, personally.

      • As an aside, I have to take issue with Coyne's characterization of the French debates as being debates about Quebec. When I've watched them, they've been veritable carbon copies of the English debates, right down to some of the one-liners. That said, I agree that we all need more debates in whatever language. Our last debate in 45 second soundbytes was shameful compared with the three relatively indepth debates that took place in the US.

      • Fact checkers is a brilliant idea.
        And an automatic red card for using props is another.
        Rules in debates need to have teeth and consequences.
        There could be nothing more damning than a leader getting disqualified in a national debate.

    • Alternatively, how about no national debates at all. Rather have debates among the local candidates be the only thing broadcast in an area.

  14. With the BQ it's all about the $$$. They exist to blackmail the govt of the day for the $$$. In this task they have been proficient!

  15. The only solution to Quebec is to isolate that province, cut off ALL Equalization payments and let them solve their own problems, which are of their own making anyway. This obsession with the French language & culture has rendered them incapable of dealing with their ability to fund their extravagant social services & their indulgent sense of entitlement – something that other parts of Canada are forced to finance, often denying their own citizens those same level of services. Even Lucien Bouchard realize that this sad dependence on English-speaking Canada is disgraceful, certainly nothing to be proud of. Unfortunately, like all welfare state dependents, Quebecers have lost their sense of pride & self-worth and are nothing but impotent beggars.
    Kim McConnell

    • Instead of bashing Quebec for offering its citizens a superior standard of living, how 'bout we criticize our own governments for their pathetic priorities? We're not suffering because we're subsidizing Quebec. We're suffering because we're pissing money away on the Afghan war. We're suffering because we just wasted 6 billion plus on a pointless Olympics. We're suffering because the British Columbia government is selling off its profitable assets to the highest bidder.

      If you don't like what your government is doing, suck it up and hold it accountable. Don't sit on the sidelines and blame Quebec.

      • Quebec cannot afford this superior standard of living,all these socialist programs are in the red even with equalization payments

    • You mean like a firewall?

      I seem to have heard of that as a solution to some federal-provincial problem some time ago.

      When all you have is a hammer, I guess everything else looks like a nail.

    • You are an offensive fool. If we had more Kim McConnells in this country, we wouldn't have a country left.

  16. Leave everything as it is. Quebec is dying a slow death. The Bloc's existence ensures that the Liberals can't beat the Tories. Every year that passes is a year in which immigrants from around the world move into Quebec and replace the old dying separatists.

    Just cut back on equalization and we're good!

    • Beautiful ignorance…

      ''Every year that passes is a year in which immigrants from around the world move into Quebec and replace the old dying separatists.''

      The only that is dying in Quebec are old federalists by the way…

      Canada is a thing from the past in Quebec…

      • Another slap in the face to the ROC.No wonder there getting fed up, about time

  17. Cut back all equalisation payments to Quebec and that should tell them something.

    • That if you want your clout back, vote Liberal?

    • By the way mister genius, Quebec is sending almost 50 billions a year to Ottawa, and what do we get from the equalisation? 8 little billions… So yes, you can keep your 8, we will keep our 50, isn't a good deal?

  18. I'm a westerner, and I'd vote for the Bloc in a second if the option were available to me. I submit that the reason the Bloc still thrives today is that those who "get it" know that it ceased to be about separatism a long time ago. The fact is that the Bloc represents a collection of values that they would describe as "Quebec values," which are in fact values shared by many progressive Canadians–and which have been abandoned by other parties. These include the desire to see our arts and culture sector properly funded and thriving; the desire for a well-funded public broadcaster; the desire to see social programs like national daycare instituted in order to help the underprivileged have a genuine shot in life; and, of course, the desire to see the French language and French culture promoted across the country.

    It's sad that the threat of tearing apart the country is the only way to get politicians to maintain the programs that make our society more livable than say, the US, but if that's what it takes, I say "so be it." And to those who say that it is a pipe dream to be desiring such things in our current economy, may I remind you that we have spent far more on the war in Afghanistan, "arctic sovereignty," and all manner of other measures that do little more than suck up to our neighbours to the south.

    Perhaps the rest of Canada should learn a little something about sovereignty.

    • Quebec values,give me a break.The bloc can say anything it wants,they are not in power and never will be.The desire to see the French language and culture promoted across the country?Be careful what you wish for in regards to promoting French across the country, Quebec's culture is no different than the ROC they just like to brag that their special.As far as music is concerned it's the same thing, but sung in French.All the programs in quebec like daycare are in a financial mess and were put there to buy votes because Quebecers love their nanny state.
      The appeasing left and an over saturation of French speakers from Quebec in the federal government is destroying Canada
      Visit: languagefairness.ca and see how English are being treated as second class citizens to appease the minority French

      • The big difference between Quebec culture and ROC (besides the language, of course) is that Quebec culture is "Made in Quebec" not "Made in US". It's nice to have songs that talk about home, movies that take place in a town you know…

  19. Funny how Mr. Coyne's pet projects seem to be the answer to everything…

    • Sadly it is not just Mr. Coyne's that seem to have an answer for everything, most journalists have become "experts" in everything. Never mind not having any academic certification on any subject, the model for newspapers and news magazines is that they have "experts" that can give you answers on every subject. That's why you can have a columnist talk about sport in one article, science in another while working on the next one about poverty, like all his colleague he is an "expert" about everything.

      • Leftwingers sure love the so-called experts.

        • It is not a question of left or right, newspapers and news magazine around the world are a dying breed, just publishing news does not work when you have 24 hours news channel and the Internet that gives faster access to the news. Instead they focus on flashy images, scare stories and opinion rather than news. And the opinion is done mostly by former journalists who are now considered "experts" for some wild reason that nobody seems to want to explain. I would not want to be a journalist in the newspaper business in this day and age.

          My prior comment was not to attack Mr. Coyne but rather to just point out that the entire model of print media is now people giving us their opinion. And maybe that model works, when I visit a newspaper website I look at columns rather than the news section having already seen the headlines from e-mail alerts and the ones printed on the homepage of my browser. But I don't look at the opinion articles as an "expert" piece but as an opinion written by someone who works at that newspaper. Maybe I see it that way because when I need to write a paper for a course we are directed to academic journals written by people who did research the subject and have a long list of sources to back up what they wrote.

          Here's a look at print media from Newswipe, segment starts at 01:45 of the clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yK74Lazmko

    • Its a bit cheap to suggest that Mr. Coyne is somehow wrong to even be suggesting, on a fairly regular basis, solutions to problems he sees rather than addressing what he's proposing. There's nothing wrong with people supporting ideas they think are solutions to problems, is there?

      • That's a sensible rebuttal, but I find it gets a bit tiring, especially in a medium and outlet which is fast becoming more about entertainment than information.

  20. I agree with Coyne. Quebecers have a choice as does the rest of Canada. We can live with one another through an atmosphere of mutual respect or appease the other through endless concessions, especially of the monetary kind. It may have been the latter which led so very many Canadians to soundly reject the coalition concept, which would have given the Bloc a big fat signing bonus plus veto power in all matters concerning Quebec, especially matters of finance.

    many Canadians are maturing to the idea that appeasement policies are simply recipes for failure. We wore goofy blue helmets in Rwanda, and where did it get the Tutsi? All of them slaughtered. We appease Quebec to the tune of 8 billion in transfer payments. And where does it get us?

    At some point more Canadians will reject the notion of living on their knees and will stand tall and accept the consequences.

  21. As long as a district in within Canada we have to accept the representative that most voters in the district agree to send to Ottawa.
    Their rights are the same as voters in any other district.
    We may not agree with them but we have to respect that they are as politically intelligent as we and can make the best choice for their particular district.

  22. The real issue is not whether Quebec should separate from Canada, but the reverse.

    • Yes ! and canada would have gotten half as many medals at Vancouver as Quebec won those.

  23. I am reading many of the comments on this board and while I do not want to take the time to respond to many of the them I want to say that it is becoming increasingly obvious that those that support the opposition parties are becoming particularly desperate in their rhetoric.

    Some of the posts are all over the place. Others are just spewing venom which has nothing to do with the subject being discussed. Many are personal attacks on the PM but are not based on facts but perception, media spin or outright lies.

    You people really need to give your heads a shake. This strategy of attacking Harper and the government is not working. In fact the more vitriolic you comments the higher the poll numbers go for the Conservative government.

    You may not like the strategies, tactics and processes the government uses but the opposition parties are not liley white either.

    However, you are losing perspective. As a country we are facing some serious issues that are coming like a freight train down the track and unless we regroup and stop with the personal attacks and focus on substance we are not doing ourselves any favours.

    • I do not know what you taking about, 6 post were in my judgment off topic and 5 of them were anti liberal!!!! The rest were responding t the topic (36 up to your post)

      • Don't you understand? All of your vitriolic anti-Conservative replies to Maclean's articles are making the Conservatives win!! Everyone just stop criticizing them already or else!!!

  24. I think Canadians begrudingly like Duceppe because he actually represents the interests of Quebec in our federation. The more the Party dictates the rules in Ottawa the less people in Provinces feel represented in Ottawa. More and more, Parties are whipping their caucus. Power is being concentrated in the PMO and very few Canadians can name more than 5-6 Cabinet Ministers. I would say that the current political climate will keep the the Bloq numbers high.
    I am sure that more Canadians would like to see their region more represented in Ottawa.

    • If Coyne had half a brain, he would know that not only is the Bloc not contributing to the progress of separation, but to the contrary, it helps make the Commons feel less foreign.

      Canadian commentators seem to assume that the boredom felt by Quebecers about separation translates in enthousiasm for federalism; not at all, the two options have been sent back to back. Total boredommmmm.

      Clearly, if canadians were to get their own regional blocs, it would tilt the balance toward canada. Right now, nobody can tell. And as you can read in the posts, we can count on the great great great canucks to come up with something that will fan the flames of separation.

  25. We could, first of all, reform our system of party financing, removing the public subsidy that now provides nearly 90 per cent of the Bloc's funding.

    Designing the party funding formula in line with party ideologies and values is profoundly lame and undemocratic. Who is going to decide which parties are on the right side of the line?

    A Conservative Party basically run in Calgary's board rooms, A Liberal Party which is not able to elect anything good outside urban areas, an NDP which is specialised in forming provincial governments. This country is a federation, hence this is perfectly normal to have regional disparities of thinking, and thus political association that comes with it.

    Some might say, just let the party funding go altogether. This would be for the Liberal Party a complete turn around on this issue since this is Jean Chretien who put forward this progressive program.

  26. I dare you to tell families of soldiers died in Afghanistan from the Royal 22 in Valcartier they are pretentious.

  27. A practical solution would be to form for the next election a federalist coalition in Quebec. It would have two purposes: Very effective in swing ridings against BQ, and to legitimise a federalist option within Quebec.

  28. Say what you want about the tone of the piece, its a bit backwards to attack the solutions suggested (with the possible exception of the financing suggestion) as somehow disrespecting voters. If our votes are all supposed to be equal then it doesn't make sense that the Bloc gets ~60% of Quebec seats for ~40% of the vote any more than it makes sense that the Liberals are entirely shut out in Alberta and that the Greens are shut out country-wide.

    Similarly, the debates are horrible as leaders often say one thing in the French debate and another in the English one, in order to specifically cater to one province which tends to dominate the agenda in one of the debates. It isn't particularly fair to voters anywhere that we have a debate format which tends to make all of our leaders somewhat two-faced and helps obscure what parties actual policy aims are, or that French speakers outside of Quebec tend to get ignored while one province effectively gets a debate all of its own.

    • I'd also note that we're in a different place than the UK, with regards to nationalist parties. While the SNP does explicitly advocate independence, they've had no referendums and the SNP hasn't won a majority of the seats in the Scottish Parliament, never mind winning a majority of the Scottish seats in the UK Parliament. Plaid Cyrmu hasn't even done as well in Wales as the SNP in Scotland.

      I suspect that if Scotland had a near miss or two on the issue of independence, the tone of the debate in the UK would change pretty damn quickly.

  29. Rather than assuming that all those Quebecers who vote for the Bloc are stupid or ignorant, why not start with the premise that these people know exactly what they are doing. They vote for the Bloc because they see themselves as a minority and they want representatives that will put their priorities before those of other regions. They don't trust the federalist parties to do this precisely because such representatives would always be a minority in such parties. By voting Bloc they know that this will not result in separation but also know that this will increase the chances that no other party will have a majority and that the Bloc will always think of Quebec first. We already have a de facto parliment of regional parties (Conservatives in the West, Liberals in Ontario and the Maritimes) but only the Bloc says this explicitly.

    • "We already have a de facto parliment of regional parties (Conservatives in the West, Liberals in Ontario…"

      The Conservatives have 51 seats in Ontario to the Liberals' 38 so your sentence above is incorrect.

      The Liberals have Toronto, the west end of Montreal, a few Vancouver suburban ridings and several seats in the Maritimes.

  30. Learn french buddy! mayde it will make you smatter!

  31. Aster's point could be interpreted (and should read): Conservatives in the rural/West, Liberals have a solid base in urban cores and, as the BQ in Québec…

    The point remains valid, and in fact, is acknowledged by Stephen Harper. At the core of his political ideology is a hope that some of these regional bases be brought together in an alliance of sorts.

  32. What else can you all expect? The political whores that have made up the governments past and present have given Quebec Nation status. We perpetuate a system that would be recognized as ludicrous in every nation of the world, but here. Federal politcians and parties will continue to cave in to and toady up to a self centred, xenophobic, inherently racist bunch of spoiled children, who have gotten everything they want, flaunt language laws that would be an outrage elsewhere in the country, take a disproporionate share of the countries wealth, and then thumb their nose at the ROC and refuse to make a contribution to the country as a whole.
    Enough. We're all sick of it. Stay and be a part of the whole, no more, no less., no special rights. Or go.

    • You're being sarcastic, right? Seriously, this comment sound and reads like a caricature, a big collection of prejudices and cliches. Just read it again, and tell me it looks balanced and considered.

  33. Mr. Coyne does a good job of laying out what needs to be done in order to rid ourselves of these people once and for all,Harper surely knows these same measures must be taken. The million dollar question is why don't all parties agree to do it, whether left or right don't they all have Canada's interests at heart.

  34. ''its silly pretentious minorities''

    Hey buddy, we were here 150 years before you… Remember?

  35. So it's ok for a federal party to receive public money to run his operation, but it's not for the Bloc?

    Welcome to Canada, where little dictator like Andrew Coyne are proud to show everyday that Quebec should separate from this little public banana tomorrow morning instead of wasting money, time and and a lot of energy…

    By the way, Quebec is sending almost 50 billions a year to Ottawa, so the money that is giving to the Bloc directly come from the pocket of the people who voted for them…

    • Benjamin, (respectfully) the Bloc IS a federal party. They may not be high on our federalism but this does not negate their status, one of a federal party.

      -The Reform Party, and that segment of the CPC weren't (and still aren't) particularly endeared by our federalism. Especially concerning its dual linguistic nature.

  36. Why don't you guys just let us go?
    So much effort put in federal propaganda but for what?
    Is Canada not able to prosper without Québec?

  37. I think the pessimism expressed here is a bit premature. A combination of factors in the future, possibly a new, charismatic Liberal leader, together with the departure of Mr. Duceppe from the scene, could very rapidly change the landscape in Quebec once again.

  38. Ending the per vote subsidy will help. The NDP I think is realizing it was an error for it to oppose the Conservatives on this. The ending of the subsidy would have been positive politically for those two parties, and negative for the Liberals and the Bloc.

    Having two debates is OK but restrict it to those parties who seek and can responsibly expect to form a national government – Conservatives – Liberals – NDP. No Bloc, no Green. The fringe and protest parties can have their say at all-candidates debates with the Marxist-Leninists and all the others.

    If the French language debate is a "Quebec-debate" then have prominent Quebec members of each national party participate. I would enjoy watching and listening to a Bernier-Dion-Mulcair debate. This way each party gets a chance to discuss its vision of Quebec's place in Canada. Duceppe has no interest in this so he can watch from the audience.

    The solution to the Bloc is to have Harper and Ignatieff work together on issues that effect Quebec as well as the other provinces. This is why I think a Conservative-Liberal coalition, like the one just formed in UK, would be very beneficial to Canada. For this to happen Ignatieff has to stop demonizing the PM and his (more numerous than his own) supporters. Reaching out to the NDP is a dead-end for the Liberals.

    • The French language debate is not a ''Québec debate''. It is an insult to all francophone Canadians (outside of Québec) to claim as much. Some (prairies) Provinces made the French language a priority in negotiating its participation in our Confederation. Other Provinces have francophone populations that have existed well before any anglophone set foot in these regions and are still present (my hometown of Windsor, Ontario is an example).

      As for your point of excluding some from political discourse, particularly when they are elected to do so, is a travesty of democracy.

  39. Separatisssss don't needs arguments to keep the support to 40%. They just need to translate these kind of comments to french web sites and voilà! The job is done!


  40. The true work of the canadian chart was to enforce english in a province where french was the official language, protected by the province law. The chart brought english in Quebec thrue Quebec multiethnic population – who's common language is english, thrue businesses, thue the north-americam english fact and thrue the international language influence. the chart, by forbidding Quebec to protect it's language over another, made us powerless in face of a very powerful language. This is the reality. The only right protected by the chart is the right of the strongest over the weakest, the free choice of destroying french in my homeland. 1982 is a shame, all this federation is a shame in the face of the free world.

  41. Only in Canada. Quebec has refused to sign the Constitution for the past 30 years yet the rest of Canada continue to contort themselves into explanations of why this doesn't matter and we treat all their demands as if they had signed it. Arguably they are not part of Canada.
    Instead, how long until another "Meech Lake" deal giving Quebec even more say in the way Canada is run, in order to get them to sign the Constitution?
    Please English Canada, come to your senses and get rid of Quebec (we should throw in "bilingual" New Brunswick and save some welfare money while we're at it). Hundreds of billions of dollars and wasted effort has been expended on the English/French lie, it remains no more resolved than ever.

    • At least some people are awake,good comment

  42. As a card-carrying Conservative, I'm very proud to be associated with the one major party that the Canada-hating commie Duceppe would not want to form an alliance with. He obviously won't become Prime Minister but if he were to become the leader of an independent Quebec, the people there would learn to hate him as much as most English Canadians do. The more you learn about the creep's background, the more you see he'd be another Mugabe. By the way, every vote for the Liberals or NDP gives Duceppe a hand in governing Canada as a whole.

  43. Face it…..all those supporters of Quebec's "Progressive" social programs need to realize one thing…..

    if we forego the geography, it becomes quite obvious that Quebecers have values more in line with the Greeks than other Canadians. If they seperate, they'll end up in the same stew the Greeks currently find themselves in. And I don't think it could happen to a more deserving bunch.

  44. The only way English Canada could solve the "Quebec Issue" is if seventy five cents of every English dollar worked for went to Quebec so they could coutinue to maximize their lounging, sleeping, eating, dining, resting, being "cultured", going to strip joints, dozing, partying, drinking, clubbing, pubbing and intensely intricate social entitlements. Who am I kidding? They'd still complain!

  45. Sorry for my frenchglish..
    I'm a Quebecer that do not vote for the Bloc, but I understand why other Quebecers do it.
    We just don't feel that other canadians respect us. It's only a question of respect. Respect is not only sending perequation money ..
    People that think that English people does not have the right to speak english in Quebec have never come in Quebec. The official langage is french but most of the people speaks english and other languages. I am working for CGI that deserves people from about 50 countries; we have clients all over the world; do you seriously think that we only speak french ?
    We are 7 millions of people speaking french in an ocean of 350 millions. We want to keep our culture because we are proud of it. And, we need protection to do so, because we are only 7 million out of 350 (2%) ! Is it so complicated to understand ?
    The comment that Karnesy is making, express a lot of what a proportion of canadian thinks about Quebecers; I personnaly feel that it is just sad. Do you realize that 60% to 70% of the Quebecers want to stay in Canada.
    But he is right on one point: we like to have fun. So, if you come to see us let's have fun together !

  46. As usual, an insightful commentary by Coyne.

    If you want to change electoral outcomes you almost always have to change the rules of the game first.

    While moving to a proportional representational system (something rejected by voters in Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia) would reduce the number of Bloc MPs it would not correspondingly dilute their influence in the HoC. The change would simply increase the variety of flavours within the House without adding stability, leaving a smaller but no less influential group of Bloc MPs intact.

    Given the improbability of changing Canada's electoral system, a more suitable change in the rules would involve adjustments to the public subsidy, specifically,ensuring that to qualify for federal money, political parties must at minimum elect MPs from at least three separate provinces. This change, will not a daunting task, would force the Bloc to run candidates outside of Quebec or to rely solely on private financing. Since money is the mother's milk of politics, this change would leave funding for the other parties in tact while starving the Bloc of operating cash (75% of the Bloc's funding is from the public subsidy).

    This would only require a very small change in the rules but could have enormous effect in the long run.

  47. Interesting write-up, Mr.Coyne, but believing that nothing much can be done besides cutting the political subsidies is being engaged in defeatism from the onset: if the BQ is respected for standing up to Quebec values etc, then surely the leaders of our Canadian federation could be respected by standing up for the Canadian federation they believe in.

    Our truly federally minded politicians could so easily propose an amendment to our federal elections act, by demanding that any political party participating within federal elections, must field candidates in at least 50% plus 1 of the available ridings nationwide. Such motion will effectively eliminate the Bloc during federal elections, as so it should be.

    Time for the true federalists politicians to proclaim a sense of federalism. and they can do so by introducing the motion as stated above. Why is Mr.Coyne so convinced that something like that wouldn't work? That, me thinks, begs for an answer.

  48. The main problem is Quebecers, who like the Greeks, are now heavily in debt, willing to go away from the "Quebec model" of huge bureaucracy and unions eating the lion's share of budgets.