How interesting it would have been to see Pauline Marois's face when she heard no less an authority than Stéphane Dion offer his hearty congratulations on her party's new sovereignty policy.
Does Dion have it in him to mock an opponent? His comment must have seemed like mockery to the Parti Québécois leader, who had just unveiled the policy that party delegates will be asked to approve next weekend. Instead of a referendum early in a first term in office, the PQ now promises a "national conversation," which amounts to a new effort to convince Quebecers that the uncertainty, ill-feeling, economic upset, and confusion of separation would prove worthwhile.
Dion welcomed the PQ's new candid approach. "A responsible separatist leader should always work with public opinion," the federal Liberal chief said, "instead of trying to manipulate the people. (Jacques) Parizeau's 'lobster trap' and other such tricks should be all finished now."
Dion didn't need to add that unless the federal government and Quebec federalists act truly foolishly, the PQ will have difficulty ever convincing voters they must choose between Quebec and Canada.
Nobody except PQ hard-liners however, should be congratulating Marois and her inner circle about the other part of the new policy, the 11 "gestures of national governance" that any new PQ government would make. Many of these amount to government-paid propaganda to influence the "conversation nationale." Some of the 11 - adopting a Quebec constitution and citizenship and stepping up international-affairs efforts, for example - would brush up against Canada's constitution and might even be intended mainly to provoke a federal backlash. Others - bolstering the status of French in unspecified ways, assuring the integration of immigrants, and "consolidating the teaching of national history" are equally vague but could serve to step up the war of "us" against "them," which is basic to the PQ's understanding of Quebec.
In an election, Quebecers who do not support sovereignty might ask themselves why they would support some of these irksome trappings of sovereignty.
Despite the list of gestures, however, this new PQ policy is on balance good news, since it reveals that the party's dream is, at least for now, slipping away. Quebec now seems to have a separatist party that isn't really separatist, a federalist party that isn't all that federalist, and an "autonomist" party that ... well, who knows exactly?
Separatism is not "dead," no matter how many ill-informed commentators elsewhere in Canada wish it so. While true believers keep the sterile old notion alive, however, most Quebecers simply get on with their lives, within a federal system that serves all Canadians well. Why, then, does anyone need the PQ?
Parti Québécois has nothing to offer but talk
While true believers keep the sterile old notion alive, however, most Quebecers simply get on with their lives, within a federal system that serves all Canadians well. Why, then, does anyone need the PQ?