Graeme Hamilton - MONTREAL - The world's greatest economic thinkers have failed to find a path out of the global economic crisis. World leaders have been pouring billions into stimulus efforts without making much of a dent. Thank heavens, then, that members of the Parti Québécois put their minds to the problem and came up with a solution in the space of a weekend: Quebec independence.
"In my opinion, the economic crisis demonstrates the necessity of sovereignty," PQ leader Pauline Marois told a party meeting in Quebec City.
She went on: "It is time for Quebec to take charge. When we need to make sudden changes of course, as is now the case, do we really have the means to deal with the incoherency of a federation? We must finish with being wards of another nation.
"The context proves it. Sovereignty is urgent! If Quebec were sovereign, we would have all our taxes. We would have more maneuvering room to develop an economic strategy, to support families and workers.
"If Quebec were sovereign, we could support our industries in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Our aeronautical industry would not be rejected in favour of outdated automobile manufacturers in Ontario.
"If Quebec were sovereign, we would be seated at the big international tables where nations work together to lessen the effects of the crisis."
It was all a bit much for André Pratte, La Presse's editorial page editor, who this morning calls Ms. Marois' pitch "an insult to the intelligence of Quebecers." Where's the evidence that a sovereign nation is better equipped to deal with financial turmoil, Mr. Pratte wonders, noting that plenty of independent states are faring worse at the moment than Quebec.
"France has a higher unemployment rate than Quebec. Powers like the United States, China and Russia no longer know how to restart their economies," he writes. "And an independent Quebec, it will have the magic recipe?"
Ms. Marois' musings are not all that surprising. They are further evidence of a sovereignty movement searching for a raison d'être now that Bill 101 has secured the primacy of the French language and the francophone business class has assumed control of the province's economy. In recent years, it seems, there hasn't been a major crisis for which sovereignty was not the answer. Climate change? A sovereign Quebec would have ratified Kyoto in a flash. Islamic terrorism? Follow the Quebec sovereigntist blueprint of greater freedom for peoples and nations, former PQ Premier Bernard Landry advised after 9/11, and avoid the "deep bitterness" that fosters terrorism.
The recipe is truly magical. Its only shortcoming is that it does not seem to apply to problems that are already fully under Quebec's jurisdiction, such as school dropout rates and clogged hospital emergency rooms.