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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bloc to Block

Twenty years of ingratitude and treason. But was it all for nought?

No doubt, Duceppe’s feelings will be mixed on this anniversary. For a political party to have just three leaders in 20 years — him and Lucien Bouchard, and Michel Gauthier for a year — represents an impressive bit of political longevity. But the Bloc’s drive to achieve sovereignty is still a far off dream. They’ve failed colossally at their primary objective: to no longer need to be sent to Ottawa.

Primary objective? Perhaps, better to term it as the Bloc's initial objective. If independence was indeed Giles Duceppe and the Bloc's primary objective, then he and they would long ago have retired - like Lucien Bouchard - and gone to work in the private sector. But who in the private sector is going to give Giles - or any other of the federally funded traitors - a gold plated pension? Wind whistles through the trees. So what is the purpose of the modern Bloc?

The party stays popular for two reasons. The first is Duceppe himself. He’s admired and trusted by friends and foes alike, and Quebecers like federal leaders from Quebec. The second is that the Bloc’s presence in Ottawa acts as an insurance policy against the rest of Canada, virtually guaranteeing “concessions” to the province by the governing party in the (futile) hopes of trying to pull support away from the Bloc.

Ah, yes, "concessions." I will destroy your country, unless you keep funnelling vast quantities of money into my bank account. The more precise term is extortion. The equalization racket has rested less on sound public policy, and more on two vague emotions shared by many Canadians: Pity and Guilt. 

The pity is directed at the less developed parts of the country, those regions that never quite made the transition properly to an industrial economy, in the early decades of the twentieth century. The other element is guilt, this comes in two parts. The first comes from the knowledge, the pleasant rhetoric of mid-century economic nationalists aside, that part of the reason the Maritimes and bits of the Prairies are relative poor is because of Ontario. 

The Jupiter of Confederation, courtesy of Kingston's own John A Macdonald, imposed a tariff wall on the whole of the Canadian economy. When Wilfred Laurier attempted some modest reforms to this economic barrier to national development, he was promptly overthrown by Quebec nationalists and Toronto industrial interests. Forcing Saskatchewan farmers to buy overpriced Ontario goods was a tax, imposed on those least able to pay by those most likely to profit. Equalization was something of a kickback to keep the poorer provinces supportive of the scheme as a whole. I take from you, give you back a bit, and the bureaucracy takes its cut too. Everyone's happy.

The other element of guilt, however, is completely unearned. Many English speaking Canadians of the immediate post-war era felt guilty about Quebec. The guilt was not related to any specific moral transgression, aside from Wolfe's victory, it was this vague uneasiness that somehow Quebec's relatively backward status was the fault of Ontario. It wasn't. Quebec's industrial base, and Montreal finance, benefited mightily from the tariff wall as well. The dominance of the province's business elite by Anglos was less a product of bigotry, and more the result of a lacklustre education system that turned out priests and lawyers. It's touch and go understanding of civil liberties, a product of a society where church and state were thinly separated. If Quebec was a backward society in, say, 1960, they had only themselves to blame. 

Bloc's success, so far, has rested not on the Quebec electorate, but on the guilty souls of English speaking baby boomers in the ROC. They are, however, now passing from the political scene. That fear which Quebec nationalists were once able to spread is gone, it has been replaced by apathy and contempt. The more modern attitude is this: If you want to leave, take your debt and don't let the door hit you on the way out. 

For centuries we have been lectured about the French Fact in North America. We are now confronted by the Ethnic Fact. The immigrant, or his descendants, from Pakistan, Italy or Brazil doesn't give a fig about the Plains of Abraham or Lord Durham, assuming he has heard of either. You can't guilt trip those whose ancestor played no part in the millennial struggle between English and French. The Bloc will last so long as the ROC of Canada tolerates it. Once it becomes clear that English speaking politicians will not bargain with traitors, that the spigot is off, the Bloc is finished. The Quebec electorate will then understand that they can bargain in only one way with the ROC, as Canadians with other Canadians.

Posted by Richard Anderson on August 17, 2010 | Permalink


But, who dares turn off the spigot? Quebecers, even those who don't support the Bloc, automatically determine that it is all of Quebec being 'turned off'.

Some very valid points. I believe the Bloc hasn't actually wanted separation for some time - it's the threat of leaving that frightens the ROC (moreso the federal gov't of the day) into bending. They have obtained more for that one province than they would ever hope to achieve on their own.

Excellent article.

Posted by: Leigh Patrick Sullivan | 2010-08-17 7:07:02 AM

But, who dares turn off the spigot?

The present or future premier of Alberta will be the most likely candidate, to start with.
Virtually all Albertans, and certainly many Canadians, are tired of being held to ransom by a threat that will never materialize.
Quebecers should be more aware of the ineptitude of their political policy makers and money managers. Considering the huge influx of cash into their province since transfer payments began to favour Quebec, there is no earthly reason why their provincial and federal debt should be nearly 500 billion dollars.
Any group of people who can squander the largess of Canadian goodwill in such a manner could never manage their own country.
BTW, excellent article Publius (aside from not mentioning the compilicity of Quebecer prime ministers in this extortion).

Posted by: Ed Ellison | 2010-08-17 10:29:26 AM

In terms of bringing home the bacon, the Bloc has been the most effective regional Party in Canada. It fits well with national statist hegemony because it helps prevent Conservatives from ever attaining a majority. Conversely it must frustrate the left because it maintains a voting fracture preventing an NDP or Liberal minority. It is essentially the Party of Feut-tois(SP?). Once Islam reaches boiling point demographics, the dynamics will change.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-08-17 11:05:27 AM

You know, Publius, these people are "traitors" in exactly the same sense that you are a "child molester".

That is, you've never molested a child, nor has anyone any reason to believe that you've ever contemplated doing so. Not in this or in any other civilized country would any authority, in light of the complete and obvious lack of evidence against you, even consider charging you with child molestation, much less convicting you.

But, it makes me, as an anonymous internet troll, feel so big and manly to call you a child molester. And so, child molester you are. Just as the Bloc are traitors solely because only that status gives sufficient gratification to your sense of manhood.

In case you've missed my point: to advocate constitutional change simply is not treason. In much the same way as to pontificate on politics is not child molestation. Regardless of how badly someone might like it to be.

Posted by: ebt | 2010-08-17 11:33:52 AM

"Le Québec est notre seul pays"
-Jean Duceppe

Bravo GiLLes for all those years of hard work and dedication.
No constituency have ever been better served on this continent and you're an example for any politicians from the ROC; especially those of the day.

Don't mind French-Québec haters pretending to be honest thinkers.
They’re the same as yesterday and they’ve always been the true enemies of Liberty and Democracy. They try, once again, to use the “ethnic card” but doing so, blindly refuse to recognize that many from various backgrounds (Algonquins, Mic Mac, Montagnais, Abénakis, Hurons-Wendats, Italians, Haitians, Americans, Anglos, Irish, Jews, Arabs, Greeks and Portuguese,...) already vote and work for you in federal elections.
...Many of whom are well known harsh defenders of Québec’s independence.

Keep up the good work GiLLes!

Posted by: Marc | 2010-08-17 2:18:45 PM

I wouldn't term the Bloc "traitors" or "treasonous", but I would describe them as collectivist secessionists. Ideally, they would prefer to hive off from Canada and create their own, independent socialist Quebecois workers' paradise. Events, however, especially demographic changes, have conspired to snatch that dream away from them. Today, the Bloc must content itself with having the rest of Canada subsidize whatever socialist ideals a provincial government can manage to implement instead. They haven't been able to realize the complete dream, but they have managed to achieve significant parts of it.

The real problem in Canada is the overwhelming dominance of altruist, collectivist ideas in our culture. Most federalist politicians, intellectuals and journalists and may not be able to stomach the idea of outright Quebec independence, but traditionally they have been more than happy to see trainloads of federal loot shoveled into Quebec because they admire the avowedly socialist bent of Quebecois culture and politics.

They would like to see Quebec stick around in confederation because its generous daycare provisions, omnipresent crown corporations, powerful trade unions and supply-managed agricultural sector provide, in their eyes, a shining beacon of what socialism could provide if only the rest of Canada were not so reluctant to embrace it.

Above all, they fear Quebec independence because of the cultural shifts that would occur if more market-friendly regions such as the West had greater political clout.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-08-17 2:40:22 PM

Let Quebecers have another referendum and let them vote NO for the 3rd time. Then let Quebecers keep on electing Duceppe for the next 15 to 20 years, until the following referendum. Quebecers need a hero like that.

Ever wonder why he didn't go through with the PQ leadership campaign? Timing wasn't right. He would have been beaten in the ensuing provincial elections, and trounced from the PQ.

Easier to get elected as Bloc MP - you don't have to promise anything - than to lead the PQ to a winning election AND successful referendum.

Posted by: Nothing New Under the Sun | 2010-08-17 4:16:48 PM

Quebec is not so independent. They enjoy the American view on marijuana prohibition just like we Americans do. It's America with an accent. Cute.

Posted by: Stars Stripes | 2010-08-18 10:22:35 AM

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