Monday, November 27, 2006

AP Takes On Chantal.

This deserved its own post. Our friend and regular contributor to Next Face, AP posted this comment today and responded to Chantal Hebert's November 27th column in the Toronto Star. (CH's text is italicized, AP's in bold)

A response to Chantal Hebert (I apologize for the length):

Today may go down as the worst day in the life of Gilles Duceppe as leader of the Bloc Québécois.

The expected adoption by the House of Commons of a Conservative motion recognizing that Quebecers make up a nation within a united Canada is likely to blunt one of the most potent weapons left in the sovereignist psychological arsenal.

You can’t have it both ways, Ms. Hebert. You can't argue that on the one hand, what separatists have always wanted was a recognition of the Quebecois nation and then on the other hand, when they get that recognition, argue that it puts an end to their grand plan for an independent country. That is simply illogical.

Is Mr. Duceppe wrong when he argues that this motion is historic because Canada has finally recognized the Quebec nation and he looks forward to other countries following suit?

As for the distinction between the Quebecois and Quebec, I would like to point out that Messrs. Charest, Duceppe and Boisclair have never made the distinction between Quebec and les Quebecois. In fact, On November 12, 2006 Premier Charest told reporters that "For us, Quebec is a nation”. One will note that the premier was not making a distinction between les Quebecois and all Quebecers. For him it is one and the same.

Moreover, the latest incarnation of the separatist movement in Quebec, especially after the embarrassing remarks of Jacques Parizeau following the referendum defeat, has valiantly tried to persuade whomever would listen that the separatist project includes every person in Quebec -- not just francophones.

With respect to Ms. Hebert, the Quebecois/Quebec defence of the motion is a distinction without a difference.

There is not one federalist leader on Parliament Hill and in the National Assembly who will not find it easier to make the case for Canada in Quebec on the strength of this motion.

Interesting choice of words, “the case for Canada”. I have yet to hear a federalist premier of Quebec make the “case for Canada”. Was Robert Bourassa’s goal of creating a Canada modeled on the European Union supposed to pass for, “the case for Canada”?

I dare say that premier Charest used to make the case for Canada when he was the leader of the Progressive Conservative party. At least there was some poetry in the words he used. Of course now that he is premier of Quebec he is uncomfortable taking about Canada in non-economic terms and he can’t finish a speech without reminding his listeners of all that he was able to extract from “le federal”.

It would nice to hear a prime minister of Canada say, “for us Canada is a nation, period.” Of course no leader will do that because they are frightened. Frightened of offending the federalists in Quebec, who we are told are having a hard time of it there. Apparently they are greeted at the door at election time much the way Jehovah Witnesses are greeted at the door at Christmas time.

Moreover, this presupposes that every federalist in Quebec supports this motion. I suspect that what Ms. Hebert wished to write was that every federalist leader on Parliament Hill will find it easier to make the case for Canada in French Quebec.
Well that may be the case “in Quebec” but there will be a political price to pay for this outside Quebec.

Its adoption also makes the possibility of another referendum more remote, even if the Parti Québécois comes to power after the upcoming provincial election.

If I had a dollar for every time we have been told that finally we have put the final nail in the separatist coffin I would be a millionaire.

And it is the result of a gross miscalculation on Duceppe's part.

Only a Pollyanna would say that Mr. Duceppe miscalculated. Prior to his motion the Liberal party was the only federalist party in disarray over this issue; now after one week the usual tensions in the country have surfaced among federalists.

Simply put the war is on again between the Pierre Trudeau “one Canada” crowd and the Joe Clark “community of communities”/Brian Mulroney “distinct society” crowd. Gilles Duceppe will sit back, watch and then pounce.

All it will take is another motion on Duceppe's part to ask the House that this new status of Quebec be constitutionalised. He will then chortle with delight when Canadians, quite rightly, balk. Another humiliation in the making!

When the Bloc decided to bring the issue of Quebec's national character to the floor of the Commons last week, it fully expected to wreak havoc in federalist ranks.
In his worst nightmares, Duceppe never imagined that the Prime Minister would pick up the gauntlet or that the other parties would rally behind him.

I’m also sure that in his wildest dreams Duceppe would never have expected that a prime minister of Canada would concede that Quebec is a nation. That has always been a gigantic stumbling block. Remember how he berated Paul Martin in the leaders’ debate for not agreeing that Quebec is a nation – Quebec, not Quebecois – and how Quebec was not better and not worse than Canada, just different. Well now Duceppe has all that.

What Boisclair did not say is that the adoption of the motion will make it harder for his party to stage another referendum — or at least one that it can be confident of winning.

Quite simply, this is wishful thinking on Ms. Hebert’s part.

In the debate over Quebec's future, symbolism has always trumped division-of-power issues. Until this motion, the sovereignists had entered that field with the advantage.
Without the failure to enshrine Quebec's distinct status in the Constitution in 1990, there would not have been a second referendum or a close vote on sovereignty in 1995.

Now Ms. Hebert is engaging in historical revisionism. The Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords were more than just symbolism. There were real changes proposed to the Canadian constitution. Those opposed argued that those changes would further decentralize one of the world most decentralized countries. Those arguing in favour of the accords, in effect, said that the amendments were no big deal and the distinct society provision was just symbolic. Sound familiar?

The sense that Canada is so wary of Quebec's aspirations that it cannot recognize its fundamental nature continues to fuel the sovereignty movement, despite its two consecutive referendum failures.

Quebec’s aspirations – whether separatist or soft nationalist – have never been simply to be recognized for its specificity by a government of Canada. It has always been about a devolution of powers, more money from Ottawa and the ability to do what it wants, when it wants, wherever it wants.

Today's motion — symbolic as it may be — amounts to cutting off that fuel line.
It also places Canada on the leading edge of the international debate on federalist arrangements.

Does she really think Prime Minister Tony Blair is looking at this issue with glee? Do you think that Vladimir Putin will look to this resolution as a way to deal with the various nationalist groups in Russia who seek independence? Again this is wishful thinking on Ms. Hebert’s part.

Today, the Bloc will vote for a federalist motion that stands to deflate its cause, an extraordinary twist in an unexpected saga.

If she thinks the Bloc is just going to pack up and go home she is naïve. The Bloc will use this motion to their advantage; much like a jujitsu master uses the apparent strength of an opponent to his advantage.

In the past, the party has voted against parliamentary motions dealing with the recognition of Quebec's national character.

After the referendum, sovereignist MPs opposed a Liberal resolution that called on the federal government to take Quebec's distinct character into account in its decisions.

But this is different. The distinct society concept was a federalist idea borne out of the desire for a constitutional reconciliation.

From the start, sovereignists dismissed it as an anemic reflection of Quebec's reality.

Hmmm. I also recall that Lucien Bouchard was outraged at the Calgary’s declaration that called Quebec “unique” even though that was the same word used in Quebec's Declaration of Independence leading up to the 1995 Referendum (remember those two lovely documents). The point is that no self-respecting separatist is going to just give up dreams of an independent Quebec because of this motion.

In short Ms. Hebert is doing spin for a prime minister who wants Canadians outside of Canada to think that not much has changed because of this motion but wants Quebec federalists to think that everything has changed. So which one is it?

Sorry, Ms. Hebert, on this issue, you are wrong.


AP said...

I'm flattered that my comment would be made into a post!

I don't mean to boast but it seems that the ink on Ms. Hebert's "peace in our time" post hadn't even dried and rumours are flying that the Prime Minister's Intergovernmental Affairs minister is going to resign over this motion.

I'm sure Gilles Duceppe can't handle any more of this kind of humiliation.

AP said...

Sorry the sentence Canadians outside of Canada in the last full paragraph should read Canadians outside Quebec. My bad.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who AP is but he/she is correct. Chantal Hebert is making me wonder if she has an agenda here.

The wording for this motion is not clear and on an issue as big as this one the lack of clarity could be fatal.

The Bloq was born to exploit opportunities and this is one they will be sure to exploit. I do not think they are humiliated at all.

gritredordead said...

Michael Chong just resigned. I guess he was humiliated too!

stelios the big easy guy said...

911 was an inside job. Bush and Silverstein did it themselves.
**TRUTH** and the same goes for 7/7 5 king news