Alas, it hasn't worked out that way. The Bloc has already spent the equivalent of half the term that the biblical Israelites spent wandering in the desert, but unlike the fleers of Pharaoh, another twenty years of aimless obscurity in the backwaters of Ottawa's opposition benches, holds no guarantee that a trip to the promised land will be forthcoming.
While Gilles Duceppe beseeches the Canadian Parliament and all who will listen, to let his people go, unlike the slaves of Egypt, Quebeckers hardly seem ready, willing or able to take the plunge.
Each passing year takes the Bloc Quebecois farther and farther from its goal, and the window of opportunity where sovereignty remains even a remote option is fading rapidly.
What looked so inevitable twenty years ago, is only a dream today, one that only the most fervent of Quebec nationalists hold onto.
Over 70% of Quebeckers, now believe that sovereignty will never happen.
Well, over the last twenty years, a period which ironically corresponds with the Bloc's tenure in Ottawa, two ongoing trends have in fact changed the rules of the games.
The first is Quebec's headlong rush to match Canada's immigration policy whereby an exorbitant amount of new immigrants are brought into the country each year. Without a matching effort, Quebec cannot maintain its demographic weight in Canada, but paradoxically, in doing so, the Province is diminishing its "Frenchness," as well as adding a disproportionate number of NO voters in any future referendum.
If ever there was a classic case of 'Catch-22,' this is it. Damned if you do, dammed if you don't.
Over the last twenty years Quebec has welcomed over one million new immigrants to the province, who understandably tend to be overwhelmingly federalist and NO voters. This represents a swing of five full percentage points towards the NO side in any potential future referendum. Within another five years it will take close to 65% of Francophone voters to vote YES, for a referendum to succeed. Not likely.
The second circumstance is Quebec's growing addiction to Federal transfer payments, particularly those famous Equalization payments which now run close to nine billion dollars and represents almost fifteen percent of the Quebec governments annual budget. Although the Bloc has tried vainly to portray this money as illusory, voters are not so keen to put this windfall on the line. A fix is a fix...
As the prospect of sovereignty dims, where does it leave the Bloc Quebecois? At what point do they give up the fiction that Quebec will one day be sovereign?
Up till now, the Bloc has been following a policy of "FAIL," a deliberately cynical formula that holds that if the Bloc is unsuccessful in securing Quebec's 'fair share,' it will be perceived back home as justification that federalism doesn't work for the province.
And so the Bloc has been happily on the losing end of almost every single piece of legislation. Any proposals or amendments that the party puts forward is shot down faster than a preacher's call for temperance at a Canada Day party. It is, according to the masterplan.
FAIL = WIN!
But things are changing and this last week may actually represent a turning point. Stephen Harper is delivering a stern lesson in realpolitik to Quebec by putting forward legislation adding thirty seats to Parliament, all outside Quebec.
The Bloc has been militating fiercely to somehow avert the unmitigated disaster that it sees in having Quebec's Parliamentary weight reduced. The whole province is demanding that the Bloc do something concrete to forestall the law, but again their efforts are failing dismally.
This time the people are not going to give the Bloc a pass, the old mantra that says Quebec must separate to safeguard it's future doesn't wash, because the sovereignty option is no longer viable and everybody knows it.
This time the Bloc may not be forgiven their failure. Critics have humorously mocked Gilles Duceppe's position that Quebec's weight in Parliament be maintained by pointing out that the Bloc's ultimate goal is to actually have no seats in the federal Parliament.
With no prospect of sovereignty in the future and no ability to defend Quebec's interests in Ottawa, just what is the point of the Bloc Quebecois? People are starting to ask.
There is a dawning realization by some, that if Quebec would have had another half dozen ministers in cabinet, this law would never have been enacted. With few seats to lose in Quebec and none to gain, Harper is free to seek support elsewhere. Politics is a game of leverage and Quebec has none.
Even for Quebec nationalists, the very raison d'etre of the Bloc Quebecois needs to be seriously re-evaluated. Continuing the policy of 'fail' just means that Quebec gets less representation and influence.
Without the very real threat of sovereignty hanging over Ottawa, the Bloc is impotent and
Canadians don't care.
Gilles Duceppe learned this valuable lesson on his trans-Canada trip, one that played to empty halls.
Anglos see the Bloc as irrelevant, not even worthy of a conversation. It is sad and humiliating.
Perhaps it's time for the Bloc to admit they are a problem and not a solution and that the interests of Quebec can best be served if they just packed it in.