I was nodding along with Norm Spector’s latest column, until his final graf:
Finally, on language issues, Mr. Harper need not line up with devotees of Pierre Trudeau who insist that Montreal’s mayor must be bilingual but that Ottawa’s need not be. Instead, he should propose measures to strengthen the French character of Quebec, starting with subjecting federally regulated companies to the province’s language laws.
Memo to Norm: the government of Canada, like the country, speaks English and French. The laws of Canada apply throughout Canada. The government of Canada is not subordinate to the provinces, nor is it in the business of enforcing provincial laws, particularly laws that discriminate against linguistic minorities.
UPDATE: Second prize for oddest Quebec-related graf goes to Tom Courchene for this “rebuttal” of Brian Crowley’s recent column, adapted from his recent book Fearful Symmetry: The Rise and Fall of Canada’s Founding Values, particularly his description of Quebec as “a society that cannot pay its own way or reproduce itself, that is highly dependent on transfers from the rest of the country, and that is losing its political influence”:
It is instructive to approach this claim from the opposite vantage point, namely, what did Quebec “win” for Canada. First, Quebec gave Canada legal, linguistic and institutional pluralism, among the many beneficiaries of which are the country’s first nations. Second, because Quebec as a founding nation was also a “have not” province, this led to a larger role for interpersonal and interregional transfers (including equalization, which is absent in the United States). Third, and related, Quebec has assumed Saskatchewan’s earlier role as an innovator in social policy (daycare, parental leave, pharmacare for example). Fourth, Quebec was, and still is, a leader in terms of decentralizing the federation, much appreciated now by the fossil-energy provinces. Fifth, with Quebec in the fold, the political tensions in Canada revolved around federal-provincial and territorial axes, and not non-territorial ones (e.g., not Charter interests versus vested interests). Sixth, multiculturalism would be less strong were it not for official bilingualism and biculturalism. Lastly, but hardly exhaustively, Quebec has been the bastion of collective rights, which again distinguishes Canada from the United States.
Okay, the “legal, linguistic and institutional pluralism” part I buy, though whether that’s been all that beneficial to native people is worth debating. But Quebec’s role “as a founding nation” (it was no such thing) in saddling the country with chronic and ever-escalating equalization payments, or in hollowing out federal power — this we should celebrate? We should be thankful that our politics is split on “federal-provincial and territorial” lines, rather than ideological? And “collective rights,” ie the “right” of majorities to lord it over minorities, in whose defense even Tom can only muster the tautology that it “distinguishes us from the US” — sorry, where’s the rebuttal here?