Plus ça change, Ms. Marois, plus c’est la même chose

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Here we go again. Or do we?

Canada may be the only country in the world where pervasive, divisive arguments over the political and cultural “distinctiveness” of one its regions (compared with all the others) do not automatically devolve into bloodshed.

Intrastate sectarian and ethnic violence has been one of the defining characteristics of global affairs for at least 50 years.

So, then, under the circumstances, bully for us.

Still, knowing this does not keep the nerves of the country’s body politic from jangling when it witnesses Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, hot on the campaign trail, musing about what a newly “liberated” la belle province would look like to the rest of Canada and the world.

Was it not just a year ago when this was the last can of worms that this provincial leader wanted to open? At that time, the big issues were health care, the economy and early childhood education – everything, apart from that last $7-a-day conundrum exclusive to Quebec, about which every other Canadian cared deeply. In fact, “sovereignty”, per se, hovered effectively below the radar, where it has fixed itself (at least according to Quebec polls) since the mid-1990s.

Not anymore. It’s back and with a momentary vengeance.

“Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois says if Quebec separated from Canada, there would be no borders or tolls imposed,” the CBC reported onTuesday. “The separatist party leader was in Notre-Dame-des-Bois near Lac-Mégantic, Que., to unveil her party’s tourism policy and introduce candidate Isabelle Hallé. ‘People would be able to travel freely through Quebec, and Quebecers would continue to be able to visit the Maritimes and British Columbia.’”

The report continues: “When asked by a reporter, ‘Would an independent Quebec be more attractive to tourists?’ Marois said a sovereign Quebec would still welcome Canadian tourists. ‘We could continue to go see the Rockies in the West. . .or go to Prince Edward Island and (the rest of Canada) could continue to come visit us. There will be no borders and no tolls,’ she said.”

This is political theatre of the absurd, absent of reason. Frankly, it’s not about winning a province’s statehood; it’s about winning a provincial election. Sovereignty is, after all, sexy; and for many people who do actually vote in the least democratically engaged region of Canada, separatism is enlivening.

Twas ever thus, and ever shall be. We who reside outside the sphere of Ms Marois’ spin doctors and influence peddlers know this as well them. But we also know that these games cut both ways and deeply.

Consider the late entry of a genuine business star into the game. Pierre Karl Peladeau’s testimony in the public square that he is a true pequitse and wants to support Ms. Marois in every way she demands of him is, at best, disingenuous.

He is the CEO of a company that effectively branded Quebec, through its media holdings, to the world. Anything that would dilute that brand would be as unacceptable to him as Ukraine’s secession from the Russian Federation’s sphere of influence would be to Vladimir Putin.

More likely, what’s happening behind the scenes is a slow-motion coup d-estate of the Parti Québécois, on behalf of Quebecor’s enterprising confederates in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Patrick LaGace, a columnist with La Press, pulled the curtain back a bit in a Wednesday commentary for the Globe and Mail. He quoted Mr. Peladeau’s old friend and associate Michael Fortier (himself, a former federal cabinet minster) thusly:

“Take out the sovereignty issue and I don’t think Pierre Karl would be at the PQ. . .Pierre Karl has not been given proper credit for his stellar recruiting at Quebecor. He recruited A-list managers at all levels of the company. If he is ever a cabinet minister, he’ll have to deal and work with people he will not have chosen. . .It was challenging for me when I was in Ottawa. And I am much more patient than Pierre Karl!”

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