The only regret any federalist should have about the departure of Andre Boisclair as the leader of the Parti Quebecois is that he went so quickly. A prolonged leadership war would have dealt even more damage to the separatist movement in Quebec.
Attention now has shifted to Gilles Duceppe, and the questions is whether the Quebec MP will leave the federal scene for provincial politics, in the hope of becoming Quebec's premier. No matter what, the separatists are in a crisis of leadership.
The chaos among Quebec secessionists is great news for Canada. Popular support for Quebec independence has eroded steadily since the highwater mark of the 1995 referendum, when 49 per cent of Quebecers voted to leave Canada. In the last provincial election the PQ's popular vote slipped below 30 per cent, suggesting that only a small core of die-hard separatists have any interest in another referendum.
The country can now get on with the business of strengthening our economic and political prospects. Inside Quebec, taxpayers finally have an opportunity to talk about health care and education. Quebecers will be relieved to debate issues other than national unity.
Yes, it is a good time to be a federalist. But complacency is a danger. The forces of Quebec separatism are ailing, but they are still alive. As long as the dream of a Republic of Quebec exists, it can at any moment catch oxygen and revive. Federal meddling in provincial jurisdictions, or clumsy efforts to open up the constitution, will not help. The country needs this break from the sterile debate over Quebec's future. Let's not mess it up.
Separatists are sinking
The forces of Quebec separatism are ailing, but they are still alive. As long as the dream of a Republic of Quebec exists, it can at any moment catch oxygen and revive.