Saturday, July 11, 2009

Canada at a Crossroads: Re:Confederation

Is Quebec A Sovereign Nation?

What if Quebec Separates?
Suffice to say the question of independence is rarely entertained seriously these days inside “la belle Provance.” Traditional economic and political agendas are driving Quebec’s future with the separatist party out of power and even the whiff of a vote a decade away. But the day will finally come and the people will, in the spirit of RenĂ© Levesque, finally achieve the needed majority to succeed from Canada. What happens the day after? Below I offer my speculation on a few of the abundant possibilities found under such a scenario.

Do Not Doubt the Quebecois
Funny how things like splitting a nation into parts creates an internal animosity in Canada. Almost as much animosity as not separating has caused within Quebec itself. It is about this sense of Quebecois’ existential despair that I write. That Quebec is already emotionally separate is a fact, the question is about political independence and, ultimately, cross-cultural inter-dependence.

Go Ahead, I Dare You
In English, try and actually criticize Quebec in front of a Quebecois and watch what happens. You are rebutted in two official languages by three levels of convincing argument in a coordinated strategy that will quickly come to a resolution by you or you will suffer. Pretty much anyone born speaking french inside Quebec can be convinced and the next referendum will be grassroots (Internet-based) and no doubt effective. No doubt about it, the independence movement in Quebec will eventually win.

As A Canadian Citizen
I beleieve that before Quebec votes to separate we must, as a nation, come together seeking spiritual renewal in a process of Reconfederation. I suggest this as a British Columbian and a Canadian citizen, knowing in effect that through some suggestions I am downgrading the value of my own citizenship, but I do so with critical provisos. The first one being about the actual process of negotiation.

Three Sides Lined Up
I believe that Quebec has done to Canada exactly what Canada did in it’s negotiations with Britain - that is they have patiently waited hundreds of years for the real talks to begin. That kind of legendary patience is where true wisdom accrues and in this country is usually the domain of First Nations who have suffered patiently for more than five hundred years. It is this suffering that gives them the wisdom to lead at the table and is why First Nations are intrinsic to the negotiations. Each entity, The Nation of Canada, The Provinces, and First Nations must all be invited and welcomed at the Re:Confederation Table.

The Players
The negotiation process will be long, perhaps ten to fifteen years, and must be negotiated between English Canada, as represented by the current Federal Government representing the national status quo, infrastructure and system, Quebec, the Provinces, and the Territories, would have the same collective negotiating power and would represent mid-level interests. Ultimately, the Assembly of First Nations would approach the table, as equal partners, representing the land, the environment, and the people’s interests, thought's, and feelings, and other such intangible investments.

PLaying the Democracy Card
The lines are clearly drawn with Federal forces supporting the status que, French and Provincial forces eager for independent change - each on their terms, First Nations are quite literally desperate for any change at all and neatly bookends the process. Each vision of Canada is unique and if every is actually at the table, and so respected, then a historic moment will have truly happened and major leaps can be accomplished. The feds want continuity, pre-conditioned, over a longer period time. This suits neither Quebec nor First Nations as both are environmentally onside and will outrage the First Nations who have been shedding their tears for the environment long before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. This unique opportunity would allow all the players to be recognised and treated fairly without Quebec attempting to leave in a huff.

One Possible Scenario (out of thousands)
The actual breaking up the real estate is where Feds and First Nations connect by relegating Quebec to a relatively thin strip of territory running from Gaspé in the east all the way to Aylmer in the west on the Ontario border. This area will encompass Quebec City, Montreal, Chibougamou and the U.S. border. This new perspective, about half the previous size, would make a large sized state, a wee bit larger than even New York state, and the offer would no doubt kick off a new internal shit storm inside the land of the french language in North America. Any possible solution is going to take much compromise and the possibilities are multifold.

The U.S. Umbrella Theory
But negotiation and compromise will be needed when Quebec has it’s internal majority and thus democratically deciding to abandon Canada. Speculation about what would happen after that is always fun. One scenario suggests B.C. and Alberta then break away to create a mini-super state, under the protection of the U.S.A. to who they would owe great thanks and undoubtably much more in cash dollars. The same could be said of any independent state that emerges from the break-up of Canada. They will be a much smaller mouse sleeping beside the elephant and thereby easier to ignore when the stifled screams begin. The truth is that only by surviving as a complete entity can Canada avoid being eaten up by a starving United States.

The "friendly" C.I.A.
Such a break-up would be the saving grace for the United States who, fearing economic ruin, sees the natural resources to the north and contemplates the unimaginable. If the CIA could get Quebec to leave Canada, the U.S. would suddenly be in a great position to pick up a few valuable possessions, cheap. Of course the C.I.A. would never operate in a friendly foreign nation secretly or would they? My own paranoia goes so far as to wonder why Canada, unlike every other Parliamentary democracy (Australia, Britain, New Zealand, France) has never elected a “Labour” government. In Canada, the NDP, Canada’s socialist party has never been in power. When you consider the odds of Labour in power in every Parlimentary democracy except in Canada - you naturally begin thinking of the C.I.A.

Can Quebec Go It Alone? (can anyone?)
The question remains? Is Quebec a separate nation? The answer was culturally - yes. Quebec has managed to sustain their langauge and define their culture in a way that, partially, helps define every Canadian who takes lessons of patience, negotiation, and tolerence from our history. On the ground, politically, it seems that Quebec’s chances of landing outside the net of the U.S. is highly unlikely, even if Quebec loses the James Bay Hydro power in the deal. Even with EU support, the reality of ecnomic independence, espcially without James Bay, would be mitigated by lumber prices, tourism, and running deficits for the first ten years, only if the population want to keep all essential services including health care.

Support From Dad
Quebec has a pretty good deal. In Canada the central (Federal) government makes payments, wrought from income tax, to the Provinces. The Feds determine the bottom line and then divide the Provinces into the catagories of either have or have not. The haves pay into a fund, which the Feds top up, then the have-nots take from the fund and in this way no province gets left too far behind and are unable to pay for health care and other essential services. It is a socialist concept enacted by the centrist-right Liberal Party in more tolerant times. (These days the Liberal Party seems more conservative than the Conservative Party of Canada.)

re:Confederation or lose Quebec and more.
As I said previously, Quebec has a decent deal considering that last year it qualified as a Have-Not Province. That as such they received payments from the Government is not progress. Such an act does not bode well for the Seperatist Movement and the long-term economic outlook will not be kind to the manufacturing and resource extraction-based industries in Quebec. But having lived inside, for three years in my mid-late-twenties, it is not speculation when I write about the inevitability of the split. As a British Columbian I have as much right as a Newfie does to complain, about being ignored by central Canada, but Quebec’s argument with Ontario is a cage match that has lasted some three-hundred years. Ultimately, the only hope for Canada, unless it wants to split apart and be gobbled up, is some form of Reconfederation where everyone comes to the table and everyone has their chance to speak, be heard, and able to vote. If Quebec ever does decide to leave, I want my say in how it happens ideally before it happens.

© 2009 Leigh Richard Wolf

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