On a federal government working with the PQ

Paul Wells poses a few questions for down the line


Kelly McParland has this much right: of course any federal government would work with any government of Quebec on routine files. That doesn’t change if the government in question belongs to the Parti Québécois. Trudeau and Chrétien did, and sometimes not just on routine files. Trudeau sat around a table with René Lévesque at nine first ministers’ meetings. Chrétien and Lucien Bouchard amended the constitution to eliminate denominational school boards in Quebec, even though Bouchard wailed and gnashed his teeth throughout the process. So when Christian Paradis says he’ll get along with a PQ government, he’s not doing anything particularly nutty.

It’s still worth noting that in 2006 and 2007, Stephen Harper worked hard to support Charest, whom he repeatedly (and accurately) called “the most federalist Quebec premier in my lifetime.” Back then Harper’s strategic goal was to set up a sharp distinction between the treatment a Quebec Liberal government could expect and the fate reserved for a PQ government. That goal seems to have been abandoned, or pursuing it seems to be too hard for Paradis. One’s almost tempted to suspect that if Paradis is saying nice things about the PQ, it’s in the hope that some of the Harper government’s unpopularity will rub off on Marois, but the real explanation is probably less complicated.

The real question, highly hypothetical, is how a federal government would respond if, say, a Pauline Marois government announces a referendum on a plan to seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction for Quebec. Such a plan was the centrepiece of Jean-François Lisée’s unreadable 2000 book Sortie de secours. But we’re getting several steps ahead of ourselves now.


On a federal government working with the PQ

  1. The hypothetical Marois power grab would surely get support from the co-author of the Alberta firewall letter? Right? That would be fun to watch.

    • Firewall letter was about assuming sole power in areas of provincial jurisdiction — set up a provincial police force (like Ontario, Quebec) instead of hiring the RCMP on contract, etc.

      Marois’s plans include stuff like setting up a separate Quebec citizenship unilaterally, etc.

      Well, if it got TOO bad, there’s always reservation and disallowance. But that’d be throwing jet fuel on the fire…

  2. A bit off topic, serious question: What’s to prevent Quebec to continue on with a Marketing Board for dairy, eggs etc. if/while the rest of the country abandons?

    • off the cuff, I would guess that the province could control the supply from local farmers but not the influx from product from other provinces, so it couldn’t practically work.

      • Yeah, but the provinces have set up restrictions on transport/selling of wine/spirits originating from other provinces through the LCBO for example. Not ideal, but couldn’t they do the same for eggs, milk etc?

        • could be. without further research I’m at a bit of a loss for an answer anywhere near definitive.

        • The provinces didn’t set that up, that was a federal law enforcing a ban on interprovincial sales (the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act), which by the way is currently being repealed with all-party support.
          I’m not sure the provinces have the jurisdiction to implement such a ban unilaterally.

          • I seem to recall the BC Minister responsible claiming, in light of the recent Fed repeal, they would impose similar restrictions/quotas to Ontario’s as an opening bargaining position to move to complete free trade.

    • Nothing’s stopping them whatsoever.

      But: the current arrangements give Quebec dairy farmers around 50% of the country’s milk quota, if I remember correctly. Quebec can’t secure its farmers that guaranteed market unilaterally.

  3. Just curious, why call Jean-François Lisée’s book “unreadable”?

  4. ” a referendum on a plan to seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction for Quebec”…
    What would the question(s) be? How clear could they get? Madame Marois and her PQ colleagues should know by now that it’s a bad idea to use referendums as weapons for negotiating. If they wanted to seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction they should stop their puerile anglophobia and sit down with the Canadian government and negociate. It has worked very well in the past.
    I agree with you that JF Lisee is unreadable, his book and his columns.

  5. When has the Harper government ever worked with any province? Even the Alberta P.C.s aren’t right wing enough for their liking.

    • Well, there was that matter of working with Ontario to bring in the HARMONIZED sales tax.

      • And, of course, their stellar work bringing the HST to BC.

        • I don’t think the failure of the HST in BC had anything to do with the feds one way or the other. It had a fair bit to do with Gordon Campell lying about bringing it in though . . .

  6. “seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction for Quebec”

    If this could work, why haven’t they tried it before? I think the separatists always wanted to have international law on their side. Unilaterally seizing power in defiance of the law and the courts does not put them in a good light.

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