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March 28, 2007

Canadian Politics Minute!

(Posted by John.)

It's so rare for Canadian politics to make it out of the Canadian-blogging ghetto, so let me grasp this moment while I can...  I have to say, I'm not nearly as optimistic as Scott Lemieux when he says "Ah, you always have to like it when the ethnic nationalist secessionists finish third."  The ADQ -- the party that pushed the overtly-secessionist Parti Quebecois in to third place -- is actually chock full of ethnic nationalists (and plenty of other nasty characters besides) and has more than one secessionist in its ranks, though I'm not sure if any one member actually combines both sides.  In contrast, the PQ in this election was actually led by a gay man whose aim was to try and present a more multicultural, tolerant view of Quebec's traditionally racist separatist movement.*  He lost votes to a party with a candidate who denied the Rwandan Genocide took place. [My apologies.  I got that one wrong.  Details beneath the fold.]  So yes, ethnic nationalism in Quebec -- from which the secessionist impulse flows -- did very well this week, at the expense of a more progressive vision of Quebec society.

To call the ADQ a "federalist" party (in Canadian parlance, a party not committed to the dissolution of the country) is problematic, to say the least, considering that the leader of the ADQ campaigned vigorously for secession in the last referendum.  On top of all this, the ADQ has happily used a lot of ambiguity and dog-whistle politics about it's actual views on Quebec's place within Canada.

There are a lot of people who are now proclaiming the Quebec separatist movement dead.  I really, really don't think that's the case -- Quebec has been musing about separation since this country was founded, and I don't think we've unwittingly stumbled in to an era of peace on this front.

*The most frightening moment of my young political life was watching the leader of the separatists in Quebec lead a howling mob chanting "Le Quebec aux Quebecois" (Quebec for Quebeckers!) and blaming Jews and immigrants ("money and the ethnic vote") for their frighteningly narrow electoral defeat.  This was in 1995, but to my young eyes it looked a lot older.

(french corrected, thanks Stephen!)

It was, in fact, a PQ candidate who denied the Rwandan genocide took place -- a pretty big foul-up on my part.  Again, apologies.  However, to address my point, there's plenty more to pick from the ADQ's intolerance buffet.

The other issue that keeps being brought up is the number of PQ voters who seem to have ditched their party because of the PQ leader Boisclair's homosexuality.  People keep phrasing this in sentences like "nobody's talking about..." but of course the French press are talking a great deal about exactly this -- replace words like "too Montreal" for "too San Francisco" and you'll get the implications of the campaign that was waged against Boisclair -- from within his own party.

March 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I have vivid memories of Parizeau's awful "money and the ethnic vote" speech in 1995 as well (I was 12 at the time). So I respect what Boisclair was trying to do with modernizing the PQ. If this election does anything, it will hopefully get Quebec to face the fact that it is not always the enlightened place it thinks it is, and examine the ugly undercurrent of racism prevalent in the nationalist movement.

Also, almost no one is talking about how much Boisclair's sexual orientation sunk the PQ this time around. It's always euphemised into he's "too Montreal" or "too urban" for the rest of the province. Plainly, Boisclair lead the PQ to decimation because of a deep undercurrent of conservatism that has long been festering, but been deprived of an electoral home in Quebec. Right-wing nationalists have stomached the left-wing PQ for decades, but voting for a gay man who admitted to cocaine use as a cabinet minister was too much.

However, I won't bemoan the PQ's horrific loss too much. 1) Quebec nationalism is bad, but separatism is worse, 2) Boisclair wasn't all that racially sensitive himself -- he jumped on the ADQ's anti-immigrant bandwagon by agreeing that discrimination against muslims was just fine, and referring to Asian people as "slanty-eyed."

The barely re-elected Liberal Premier Jean Charest is another underwhelming choice, but he seems the best of the bunch. It's really shocking how much of a right-turn Quebec is taking. However, if it marginalizes the separatists and puts Quebec into a left-right (as oppposed to nationalist-federalist) political model, I think it will be for the best over the long term.

The Quebec separatist movement is not going to disappear - I don't think anyone is claiming that - but I do think its current retreat is a good opportunity to refashion politics in the province.

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 2:34:52 PM

It was probably "le Quebec aux Quebecois"

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 28, 2007 2:54:01 PM

"The Quebec separatist movement is not going to disappear - I don't think anyone is claiming that"

Uh, have you been reading The Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star? I've seen at least a half-dozen editorials in the last two weeks claiming that separatism is on death's door.

Aside from that, I agree -- a realignment along a non-nationalism-based political spectrum would be welcome.

Posted by: John | Mar 28, 2007 2:56:02 PM

The Star Editorial, today:

"Though Charest survived, two-thirds of Quebecers, including most francophones, endorsed nationalism, either in the form of Dumont's dream of an "autonomous" affiliated state or Boisclair's dream of independence... Far from ending the "Whither Quebec?" debate, this week's upheaval risks fanning it even more."

(http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/196606)

National Post Editorial today:

"The old ghosts may have faded into the background some, but the rattling of their chains can still be heard. It should be remembered that the optimism that greeted the 1970 victory of another "fresh young face," Robert Bourassa, was quickly superseded by the heartbreak of the October Crisis, the frustration of the Victoria Charter negotiations and the furor over the divisive Bill 22."

(http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/editorialsletters/story.html?id=85d2945a-1f13-4c92-9b0f-951489600b5b)

Vancouver Sun editorial today:

"The humiliating setback Quebec voters delivered Monday night to Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair means that for the first time in almost four decades neither the government nor the official opposition will be clamouring for another divisive referendum on sovereignty.

That's a welcome relief, but it would be wishful thinking to declare the issue dead."

(http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=532ea93e-33ad-428a-adb5-64f4e4aeead4)


You're probably right John that some people are indulging in wishful thinking so I shouldn't have said "no one". But I think most people realize its far too early to come to that conclusion.

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 3:33:35 PM

I'm an Anglophone Montrealer (now transplanted to New York) and though I'm not a separatist, I have become somewhat sympathetic to Quebecois nationalism, in the sense that I appreciate the sentiment that favours cultural preservation, and I am sympathetic to their more progressive politics. As such, I think the success of the ADQ is bad, bad, bad: It represents the worst of Quebec nationalism and conservatism. Indeed, Stephen Harper has had success federally in Quebec and may very well have even more success next time around. Sure, he's federalist, but the Canada he represents is not the one I identify with. All that said, I think that Charest is super boring and pretty pathetic, and Boisclair is a separatist through and through, and so I could never support him. It's too bad there isn't a federalist, provincial NDP in Quebec, I suppose the liberals will have to do for now.

Posted by: Darkwing | Mar 28, 2007 3:37:53 PM

*The most frightening moment of my young political life was watching the leader of the separatists in Quebec lead a howling mob chanting "Le Quebec aux Quebecois" (Quebec for Quebeckers!) and blaming Jews and immigrants ("money and the ethnic vote") for their frighteningly narrow electoral defeat. This was in 1995, but to my young eyes it looked a lot older.

He wasn't wrong, though, was he? Quebec's immigrants voted against independence (60% of the Quebecois voted for it after all). Fewer immigrants circa '95 and Quebec would be independent today. Simple enough. You can make the pouty shocked face ('how DARE they say such things!') all you want, in raw factual terms Parizeau was right.

Of course, I know, he and all other Quebecois patriots should be sent off to the sensitivity gulag until they learn to properly Celebrate Diversity in the appropriate hive mind style.

Posted by: Cynic of the Digital Ether | Mar 28, 2007 4:35:32 PM

I don't understand why seperatism is being presented as de-facto bad.

Racism with the nationalist movement is certainly a problem, but it's also a very convenient (and over-exploited) lever for a lot of lilly white federalists.

What really marked this election in my opinion were four things:

1. The press basically giving Dumont a year-long blow-job (ala McCain) before the race.
2. The press hyping up a couple incredibly minor incidents regarding reasonable accomadation into some sort of Euro-Arab-esque catastrophe.
3. The rural vote abandoning Boisclair due to his homosexuality and general Montrealais character.
4. Charest's utter lack of charisma.

Posted by: SAO | Mar 28, 2007 4:40:49 PM

"Fewer immigrants circa '95 and Quebec would be independent today. Simple enough."

Simply false. There's no way you can isolate a variable like that. But I'm happy to see separatists acknowledge that they were publicly lying to everyone in 1995 when they said it wasn't about separation but "sovereignty-association". Parizeau admitted the same later, so you're in good company.

"You can make the pouty shocked face ('how DARE they say such things!') all you want, in raw factual terms Parizeau was right.... "

Even were it true, does that make racist scapegoating acceptable? Ah, the principles of the pure...

Posted by: John | Mar 28, 2007 4:54:28 PM

SAO: Is that in order of importance, or what? I might quibble with the ordering, but I don't think any one is wrong per se.

Oh, and just because I haven't said it yet -- no, I don't think Quebec is, itself, particularly vulnerable to the kind of politics the ADQ and PQ played in this election, or at least no more so than some other Canadian polities. Some people have mentioned the persistence of the country-club anti-semtitism in Ontario as an example.

Posted by: John | Mar 28, 2007 4:58:21 PM

Cynic, is there not a gaping contradiction in Quebecois nationalists demanding special rights and transfer payments in order to celebrate their distinct society, while expressing less than overflowing enthusiasm for other minority cultures themselves?

Sure Parizeau's raw facts were correct, but so what? Do the votes of Anglos and Jews and immigrants count for less? How was it in any way a valid point?

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 5:01:55 PM

SAO, I'd quibble with #2, as Dumont very much tried to stir up that "Euro-Arab-esque catastrophe." Blame the press all you want, that was the result of Dumont's very deliberate and very successful attempt to exploit nationalist xenophobia.

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 5:05:35 PM

Anglo Montrealer here reporting from the front lines...
This election is less about a shift to the right than a shift to something different, something new. The voters gave the entire Quebec political establishment a collective kick in nuts by moving away from the two establishment parties, the Liberals and the Party Quebecois and towards the ADQ.

In this respect it was a very satisfying election. It is also a very hopeful election in that it may finally have unfrozen the political system here in Quebec so that instead of only fighting over seperation we can begin to address some of the big issues confronting us.

As for the PQ being a great 'progessive' voice. I have to ask you to conduct the following thought experiment. Imagine a Democratic Party that is very powerful and has been setting the agenda for 30 years in the United States. Imagine that this Democratic Party has been implementing poor policies for over 25 years. Imagine a Democratic Party that is so bad at what it does that your faith in pogressivism itself is shaken. This is what the PQ is to progressivism in Quebec. It is good to see them lose influence.

As for the ADQ, well they are the natural pendulum reaction to 30 years of incompetent statist administration from Quebec City. Like all new parties they have wakos and outsiders in them, a few overt racists and crazy thinkers. These people will now be weeded out as the ADQ gets better candidates and prepares for the next election which will be soon because minority governments in a parliamentary system tend not to last past 2.5 years. You can't compare them with the GOP. It's not the same process or even the same intent that is at work here.

The Liberal and PQ governments of the last 30 years have led us to this point, where Quebec is the most indebted jurisdiction in North America, with the highest personal income tax rates, the largest public service per capita in North America, a rapidly aging population, poor economic growth, low levels of foreign investment, high drop out rates, declining quality of education in our universities and a political culture of denial and buck passing that has gone on for too long.

If Sweden and Norway are shining examples of good left wing government then Quebec is the polar opposite.

This might be of interest for those who want to get into it:
http://www.pourunquebeclucide.com/cgi-cs/cs.waframe.content?topic=28226&lang=2

Posted by: Sceptic | Mar 28, 2007 5:35:05 PM

Yeah I'll keep blaming the press. It was they who made the issue big, and then went to Dumont everytime for commment.

...nationalist xenophobia.

Again, we're conflating Quebecois attitudes towards anglophones with their acceptance of allophones. Certainly there is some minor overlap with each, but by far and away Quebecois seperatism is about seperation from greater *English* Canada and greater *anglo* culture, and much less about keeping the "brown-skinned" "slanty-eyed" types out (to quote the ADQ and PQ).

Posted by: SAO | Mar 28, 2007 5:40:31 PM

As for the ADQ, well they are the natural pendulum reaction to 30 years of incompetent statist administration from Quebec City. Like all new parties they have wakos and outsiders in them, a few overt racists and crazy thinkers.

bwahahahah!

Posted by: SAO | Mar 28, 2007 5:50:17 PM

> Quebec's immigrants voted against independence
> (60% of the Quebecois voted for it after all).

Only if you define anyone whose ancestors arrived after 1650 as an "immigrant." It's hard to overstate just how racist the pequiste mindset is.

(Oh and it seems the people who were there before 1620 (ie, natives) are also being counted as "immigrants", since they too aren't "Quebecois.")

Posted by: Charlie | Mar 28, 2007 6:00:33 PM

SAO, if Quebecers really want seperate from "English Canada" (calling Vancouver or Toronto or even New Brunswick "English" is highly problematic, but whatever) that's perfectly fine and they (you?) have all the right to do so. I wouldn't be happy, because I love Quebec (its politics notwithstanding) but life would go on.

But I'm unclear as to why you'll defend les Quebecois pur laines from charges of intolerance towards allophones, but are perfectly okay with intolerance towards anglophones.

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 6:10:06 PM

There are a lot of people who are now proclaiming the Quebec separatist movement dead. I really, really don't think that's the case -- Quebec has been musing about separation since this country was founded, and I don't think we've unwittingly stumbled in to an era of peace on this front.

I wonder, though, if not dead, the movement might at least finally be doomed to never reaching its goal. Why? Well, if pro-independence forces couldn't pull off a victory some time in the last three decades, one wonders how they'll possibly put together the votes in the future.

What I mean is: presumably in Quebec, like in most of the industrialized world, population growth increasingly is synonymous with immigration. Indeed, last time I checked, I think I remember reading that Quebec has a particularly low birthrate. Anyway, unless la belle province manages to tap into some unknown source of militant francophone immigration, its population is likely to grow increasingly cosmopolitan and internationalist in outlook as time goes by. I think in three decades' time, Quebeckers on average are likely to be significantly less favorably inclined to independence than they are now.

Posted by: Jasper | Mar 28, 2007 6:23:36 PM

Cynic of the Digital Ether wrote: He wasn't wrong, though, was he? Quebec's immigrants voted against independence (60% of the Quebecois voted for it after all). Fewer immigrants circa '95 and Quebec would be independent today. Simple enough.

Sure... but fewer Montrealers and Quebec would be independent today as well. As a Quebec allophone myself, it's worrying (to say the least) that the particular scapegoat he jumped on was the votes ethniques.

Posted by: Raghav | Mar 28, 2007 6:58:30 PM

calling Vancouver or Toronto or even New Brunswick "English" is highly problematic..

That's a little disengenous... but ok, yes those poor "white niggers" have been struggling under the brutal Cajun yoke for much too long!

But I'm unclear as to why you'll defend les Quebecois pur laines from charges of intolerance towards allophones, but are perfectly okay with intolerance towards anglophones.

Where exactly did I defend them from the charge of intollerance towards allophones or anglophones for that matter? I think the issues are seperate for the most part. (The overlap centering on Montreal's Jewish community).

I'm very not okay with bigotry towards immigrants, nor the xenophobic sentiments that marked the election. But if you look at the layout of the ADQ's victories, they're all in ridings where there aren't any allophones. Thus, like the rest of North America, the people who are the most afraid of immigrants and uncloseted gays are the ones who don't know any.

As an anglophone, I'm very not okay with bigotry towards me and people like me. But I'm not so quick to start confusing political rivalry and dislike for out and out bigotry, let alone the kind of bigotry experienced by ethnic minority communities. Simply summing up the relationship between the Quebecois and English Canada as "bigotry towards anglos" covers up so many sides of the complex relationship between Ottawa and Quebec, the old elites of Montreal and the working class French, or what have you that I consider it to be not much more than a trope.

It's especially troubling when folks like Charlie here try to take every manifestation of Quebecois pride and turn it into some sort of racist conspiracy. That is bigotry. Frequently I hear these arguements alternate between referring to the old Quebecers and claiming "Quebecois" don't exist (ala "Palestinians" don't exist). It's a real classy crowd-- those Quebecer-haters and I'll tell you, I've seen a whole lot more bigotry coming from this side than the other way.

Posted by: SAO | Mar 28, 2007 7:18:11 PM

SAO, I don't think this will make any difference to you, but I'm hardly a "Quebec-hater"; I support the language laws, and had I been old enough, I would have voted for the Charlottetown Accord (um, or Meech Lake, I can't remember which one we had a referendum on).

I have no idea who claims that the Quebecois don't exist, and I never said a word about bigotry, I talked about intolerance. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that what ethnic minorities face is anything like what white anglophones face, but plainly, many Quebecois nationalists do not like anglophones. (for consistency's sake, I'll add that many misguided anglophones don't like francophones, and these people are stupid).

I have no problem with Quebecois patriotism or pride or special cultural protections, indeed, I think these are important and positive things for all of Canada. But my problem starts when pride gives way to nationalism. Don't obscure the difference between the two to call me a bigot.

Posted by: moo-cow | Mar 28, 2007 10:39:37 PM

> It's especially troubling when folks like Charlie here try to take
> every manifestation of Quebecois pride and turn it into some
> sort of racist conspiracy. That is bigotry.

You're the one who defined everyone who wasn't "Quebecois" as an "immigrant." It is difficult for ethnic nationalists to avoid falling into the trap of racism, and some people don't even try.

Posted by: Charlie | Mar 29, 2007 2:38:07 PM

I would like to estabish some facts. The only way someone cn write a true story, is when they have lived it.

Last week, I wrote an article called: "JE ME SOUNVIENS."
If anyone wants to have a copy of it, please send me an Email to: [email protected] Once you have read it, you well never think of Quebec in the same way. I had to give up, not just my home, but my children, because I had no other choice.

Posted by: Kenneth T. Tellis | Jul 5, 2007 9:44:22 PM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 3:07:14 AM

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