Ain't that funny

Élections 2006

Funny traffic on the Quebec-Canada highway these days. No, not funny-ha-ha. Funny how an increasing number of prominent nationalists are rejecting their old option just as an increasing number of people in the Rest of Canada are getting so sick and tired of the Bloc jamming the country's political system they're almost ready to wish secession would work.
The attentive reader will recall former Bloc Québécois leader and then Parti Québécois premier Lucien Bouchard making headlines a few months back for his newfound concern about Quebec's demographic and economic problems. If you care to read the manifesto (available at, click on “English” then “Manifesto”), you will find only two references to sovereignty, both in the same paragraph: “Another solution put forth is the sovereignty of Québec. Some members of our group are in favour of sovereignty, others believe that Québec's future will be better ensured within Canada. Despite these different points of view, we are all certain that whatever choice Quebeckers make, the challenges facing us remain the same.” Joseph Facal, a former PQ cabinet minister, also signed this manifesto which can hardly be described as a ringing endorsement of sovereignty.
That's not all. Just before the Dec. 12 provincial by-elections in Verchères and Outremont, former PQ premier Pierre Marc Johnson publicly endorsed his former chief of staff, Raymond Bachand, who then won as a Liberal in Outremont. Mr. Johnson explained, in an open letter published in La Presse, that Quebecers should focus their energy on the important social and economic challenges they are facing rather than worry about yet another referendum.
In Verchères, the Liberals also scooped a former péquiste, former Varennes mayor Jean Robert, to run under the red banner. To be fair he wasn't exactly a prominent péquiste; a search of the PQ website turns up no references and serious Googling didn't bring much either. But Jacques Rochefort, ah, now you're talking. A former PQ chief organizer and cabinet minister under René Lévesque and Mr. Johnson, he didn't actually run for the Liberals but he voted for them provincially in 1998 and 2003. And just before Christmas, he was quoted in La Presse saying “The PQ will never achieve sovereignty, they're not going anywhere.” Apparently separation is losing its charm for some of its former advocates.
At the same time, we are starting to hear from folks in the RoC who are getting mighty tired of Quebec separatists jamming the Canadian political system. Citizen readers will remember Kelly Egan's somewhat exasperated Dec. 18 column saying, “Frankly, I think I've grown to loathe Quebec separatists. Are they not wrecking our country?” before going on to explain that with the Bloc holding more than 50 of Quebec's 75 seats, it's almost impossible for any party to form a majority government.
It's a theme the Vancouver Sun's Barbara Yaffe took a step further in a column in last week's Citizen. “The Bloc, following the coming vote,” she explained, “could wind up supporting either a Liberal or a Conservative minority government. And in so doing, it would play a far more influential role than it deserves from a Canadian perspective. And if the 2004-2005 minority government is any indication of the quality of the governance we can expect from a minority parliament, we're obviously in big trouble.”
It's infuriating. What's worse, fewer and fewer of us still believe in the shining road to easy reconciliation Jack Layton keeps talking about. A good many Canadians are fed up with the separatists though, like Mr. Egan, they aren't quite ready to have them break up the country: “You're not putting a giant hole in the middle of Canada,” Mr. Egan tells them. “It's never going to happen. You can pull at the fabric all you want. It isn't going to break.”
Perhaps not. But what if the separatists were no longer pulling on it? What if, instead, they had already succeeded in weaving their own, er, separate fabric and were no longer interested in the one Ontarians are clutching? And what if they'd finally found a political method to make the RoC want them out, not by holding provincial referendums but by electing enough Bloc members, election after election, to make the federal government unworkable?
Folks in the RoC are increasingly annoyed by Quebec's disproportionate role in the running of the country that I wouldn't be surprised if they worked themselves into a powerful “throw them out” mood. I don't know about you, but I'm hearing more people making that kind of suggestion now than I did five years ago.
Just when increasing numbers of former péquistes are turning their backs on sovereignty. Funny. But no ha-ha.

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