Quebec City and Ottawa disagree about sovereignty

But at least everyone's using their words, right?

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“Obviously, they want to make sure we’ll never get our country.” —Alexandre Cloutier, Quebec’s minister of intergovernmental affairs

What’s a weekend without inflamed tensions between federalists and sovereigntists? Last week, the federal government quietly intervened in a challenge of Quebec’s Bill 99, the law that declares the province the master of its own secession. The feds want the law thrown out. Soon after, Paul Wells reported the exhaustive, and complex, details of the court challenge. On Sunday, as if on cue, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier lashed out at his federalist enemies in Ottawa. He’s quoted as calling the federal intervention a “direct” and “devious” attack on the province.

Denis Lebel will have none of this yammering from Quebec City. The Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs put his foot down in a statement released late Sunday night. You don’t have to read too closely to catch the passive aggression. “We have no intention of reopening this constitutional debate. The federal government’s traditional position remains the same,” he said. “It is completely normal for the federal government to defend Canadian laws.”

Quebec raises hell, and Ottawa shrugs its shoulders. Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader and former Quebec legislator, mostly used the occasion to dismiss the government’s approach to battling sovereigntists. “There’s no question that this is a life buoy, a life saver for the sovereigntists who see this as a great way to start an old battle with Ottawa and there’s not much to be gained by it,” he told The Canadian Press. Mulcair, for the record, voted against Bill 99 when he sat in the National Assembly. The Montreal Gazette reports that Liberals, in opposition at the time, thought the PQ hoped the bill would be declared unconstitutional—an effort, said former premier Jean Charest, to “stir up nationalist fervour.”

Stéphane Dion, the former Liberal leader who crafted legislation that gave the federal government final say on what constitutes a proper referendum question and a clear majority vote, agreed with last week’s federal intervention. No surprise there.

Everyone’s playing to character, for better or worse. So continues a decades-old debate that at least reminds people that you can talk about secession, which is serious business, in painfully slow motion, using your words. That’s, well, something.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail A train carrying propane and crude derailed west of Edmonton.
National Post The derailment caused 120 nearby residents in Gainford, Alta., to evacuate.
Toronto Star Premier Kathleen Wynne wants to make more government data public.
Ottawa Citizen Federal public servants will no longer see a two-week wage clawback.
CBC News Scotiabank covered a $37,000 tax bill wrongly charged to a Nova Scotia man.
CTV News Australian police recovered two tonnes of drug-making material from Canada.
National Newswatch Liberals lead polls in three of four ridings headed to by-elections.

What you might have missed

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THE QUIRKY Textbook. Among the rare books stored at the University of British Columbia is a 700-year-old textbook published in northern France. Richard Pollard, a history instructor at the school, says the book could last several more centuries. The book is entitled the Compendium Theologicae Veritatis, or Compendium of Theological Truth.