Tag Archives: Partis Quebecois

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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Fighting discrimination with more discrimination

The Partis Quebecois's Great Pumpkin: A solution looking for a problem

The Partis Quebecois’s Great Pumpkin: A solution looking for a problem

Finally, we Canadians face an issue about which all federal parties in Ottawa will concur. Even better, their consensus is morally, ethically and, quite likely, legally unassailable. The question is: What took them so long?

With its new “Charter of Values” – about which it has been hinting for weeks – the Quebec government seeks to expunge “overt and conspicuous” religious icons – such as hijabs, kippas and turbans – from its public service. No more veils. No more headdresses. No more ostentatious crucifixes dangling around teachers’ necks.

Big Brother’s foot soldier Bernard Drainville, the minister who is apparently  responsible for conformity in La belle province, explains the new policy bluntly in news reports, to wit: “If the state is neutral, those working for the state should be equally neutral in their image.”

His boss, Premier Pauline Marois couldn’t agree more. In fact, she told Le Devoir last week, “In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society.”

What a profoundly stupid thing to say, but no dumber, perhaps, than Mr. Drainville’s assertion that ensuing “neutrality” among civic workers is a simple matter of imposing a secular dress code, as if the Province were underwriting some outlandish episode of What Not to Wear.

Contrary to the Partis Quebecois’s insustence, absolutely nothing good can come of this unnecessary, provocative nonsense. And Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism, is right to question the constitutionality of the move.

“(We are) very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of any Canadians to participate in our society and that would affect the practice of their faith,” he told reporters this week. “We will ask the Department of Justice if these proposals become law to closely review them and if it’s determined that a prospective law violates the constitutional protections for freedom of religion to which all Canadians are entitled, we will defend those rights vigorously.”

Added NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, “We’re categorical in rejecting this approach. Human rights don’t have a best-before date, they’re not temporary and they’re not a popularity contest. To be told that a woman working in a day care centre, because she’s wearing a head scarf, will lose her job is to us intolerable in our society.”

Yet, despite the utter correctness of their points, it’s a shame that these two have come late to the contretemps.

In August, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was first and alone among federal politicians to denounce Quebec’s divisive scheme. “We sadly see that even today, as we speak, for example, of this idea of a Charter of Quebec Values, there are still those who believe that we have to choose between our religion and our Quebec identity, that there are people who are forced by the Quebec State to make irresponsible and inconceivable choices,” he told a group of his fellow Grits in Prince Edward Island.

The only official statements coming from the Conservative and NDP camps at that time were watery testimonials to civil rights and commitments to carefully review Quebec’s plans if and when they went public. Still, better late than never.

The values charter is not only a palpable jab at religious freedom; it infantilizes an entire society. It tells Quebecers that those who work for the public service can’t be trusted with the symbols and trappings of their faith and ethnicity while they are on the job; that the only way to prevent discrimination is, bizarrely, to embrace it.

Just as bad, it tells the world that the government of a sizable chunk of Canada is diametrically opposed to the principles of equity and diversity that have, for decades, burnished the country’s international reputation for fairness and inclusiveness.

The Partis Quebecois has taken a non-issue and turned it into a firestorm for no sensible reason other than cynically appealing to certain elements of its exclusionary base. This, alone, transports it beyond the realm of provincial partisanship and lands it squarely in the arena of federal politics.

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