Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is Sovereignty Dead?

One of my favourite movie scenes comes from the eminently forgettable indie film "Living in Oblivion," a low budget movie about making a low budget film. Starring Steve Buscemi as the frustrated director and Catherine Keener as the principle female lead, the movie is a painful and uncomfortable glimpse into the frustrating world of independent film making.

The scene in question, involves Keener's character confronting her mother over her father's abuse of her as a child. It is central to the movie and all eyes are nervously on the two actors as the scene is being filmed. Unfortunately during the first take, a light explodes on set, much to the frustration of Buscemi's character, who explodes in rage. The next take goes just as badly with the 'mother' forgetting her lines and then the third try is ruined by Keener's character blowing her lines, in turn.
It's getting late and time is running out. The scene has to be filmed now or time constraints of the low budget will force the director to cut it. Finally the two actors deliver a riveting performance and nail the scene! Tears come to the director's eyes, but when the cameraman announces that he's now ready to film, the directer realizes that they didn't get the scene on film. Utter frustration!

Buscemi's character is crestfallen, with the pain and disappointment visibly etched on his face.

Then, slowly realizing that the moment is lost forever, he just gives up.
Sadly he tells the actors that it's time to go on. "We almost had it, it was beautiful....we can't think about it.... the moment is gone...."

Every time I think of the 1995 referendum, I think of that scene. So close!

While die-hard sovereignists believe that they can somehow re-create that magic moment in 1995 and perhaps go over the top the next time, it is destined never to be and like in the movie, the moment has passed, gone forever.

It seems to me that more and more sovereignists are slowly coming to the same realization, even those in highest echelons of the Parti Quebecois. The sad realty for these sovereignists is that the opportunity for independence has passed them by, forever.

While almost 35% -40% of Quebeckers still say that they will vote for sovereignty in a future referendum, almost 70% believe that they the YES side cannot win. They are probably right.

While sovereignty remains as strong a dream as ever among the college set, those in power positions in the movement are starting to believe otherwise.

Defections in the ranks of PQ thinkers and the rumours of a new provincial party to be created on the basis of an autonomous Quebec within Canada, comprised of both strong sovereignist and federalist politicians gives credence to the notion that it's the beginning of the end of the sovereignty dream.

The PQ has abandoned any talk of a referendum and doesn't even talk of 'winning conditions' any more. At best they are talking about holding mini referendums to force Ottawa to give up more power. That exercise is sad and somewhat embarrassing.

So can it be? Is sovereignty really dead or on its way out as a viable option?

Likely, yes.

For those of us who grew up here in Quebec, sovereignty was the burning political issue that spanned our entire lives and the realization that perhaps the question has already been settled, is slow to be accepted. 

There are many reasons why, perhaps demographics the most important. The half a million or so immigrants who have flooded Quebec since the last referendum are overwhelmingly federalist and even if francophones were to repeat or even increase marginally the support they gave to the YES side in the last referendum, they would still be badly outvoted by the NO side.
Every three years, a full percentage point shifts naturally over to the NO side due to immigration. If a referendum is five or tens years away, as die-hard sovereignists predict, it just gets worse. 

But more than immigration, another factor in the decline and fall of the sovereignty option is Quebeckers' realization that they get more out of Canada then they put in.
Whining aside, it's a fact that most Quebeckers, begrudgingly realize, reminded relentlessly by the ROC that Quebec is a net beneficiary of the federal system.

And so, no amount of deflection by the 'argue anything' type of defenders of sovereignty, can change the perception by Quebeckers that they get more out of Canada then they put in.  The $8.5 billion in equalization payments is a powerful argument for staying in Canada, after all 'money talks.'

Perhaps the sovereignist's biggest problem is that they never offered Quebeckers a real alternative to federalism. It's one thing to complain about the old system, but they never presented a plan of what an independent Quebec would look like.
Believe it or not, people with mortgages and jobs are profoundly interested.

Today's voters are infinitely more sophisticated. Fooling them with a misleading sovereignty question is no longer an option and without a clear accounting of the benefits and true costs of independence, sovereignists have little to offer but dreams. And dreams don't pay the bills.

In the end sovereignty has been defeated by selfish self-interest, not as bad a concept as it sounds.  The success that Quebec has achieved in wresting control of its own economy and its language and culture has made the pursuit of sovereignty uneconomic both financially and socially.

Our generation has seen the Irish Republican Army give up the fight for independence in Northern Ireland as well as the Basque separatists in Spain.

The destruction of the Berlin Wall signaled the fall of communism throughout the world.
A lot bigger and more powerful movements and philosophies have been cast aside.

The end of the sovereignty dream in Quebec is no big deal. It's only a matter of time before everybody realizes it, even the die-hards.


  1. Mississauga Guy said...

    Oh, darnit! I want the talk to continue, to the point where the ROC, the real Canada, tells them to take their killer debt and go.

    Then again, there really is no reason to separate because they already are separated de facto. They get away with their cruel, zealous language laws (bloody nonsense, really), they have their Napoleonic (Civil) Code laws along with the State of Louisiana while the rest of North America abides by English Common Law, and they managed to virtually shut out, at least officially, one of the two official languages of Canada.

    My belief, based on this article is if it ain't broke, break it. I left Quebec due to the cruel language laws that actually have little to do about language and more to do about who you are, what family and religion you are, and not just your place of birth, but how far back your roots extend.

    If the separatist movement has really lost its leverage, it's high time the ROC, the real Canada, exercises its leverage. If Quebec has 22% of the population, it gets 22% of the federal funding, no more, no less, unless its population drops. In that case, the lower its share of the population, the lower its share of the funding accordingly. Don't like it, leave!

    The reason Quebec has lower electricity rates, $7-a-day daycare, cheap CEGEP and university tuitions and a host of other cheapies is because equalization payments, from Alberta mostly and until recently from Ontarians as well, subsidized all this. Ontario is currently hurting very badly from the latest economic downturn, and Quebec doesn't shut up about the tar sand pollution in Alberta, tar sands that keep Quebec well subsidized.

    I know someone well who worked in a community centre in Quebec with cheap daycare and a soup kitchen. One of the daycare customers was a lazy assed welfare mother who did NOTHING all day (except smoke and watch TV from sun to sun) and rid herself of her little preschool kid during the daylight hours putting him in cheap daycare.

    In return for ROC's generosity, Quebec years ago passed a budget law where out-of-province applicants to Quebec universities don't benefit from the tuition subsidies accorded their own. The ROC doesn't charge Quebecers more to go to their universities.

    Any construction workers from outside Quebec who would like to work in Quebec? FORGET IT! Ain't gonna happen. Want to sell your construction materials from outside Quebec into Quebec? FAGGETTABOUTIT! Ain't gonna happen. In the meantime, Quebec's infrastructure deficit is over the top. What overpass will collapse next?

    If the separation movement in Quebec is really dead, I think it's high time for the rest of us to take back from Quebec all the goodies we gave them over the last several decades. I'd like to see the number of Quebec judges in the Supreme Kangaroo Court of Canada reduced from three to two to reflect its portion of the population, but that one was handed to Quebec on a constitutional silver platter. Quebec must pay!

  2. The seperation movement may be dead but I, as a Montreal anglo/allo, am very affriad that an FLQ style terrorist attack might happen again. I can put my hand in the fire that there are groups consisting of social welfare lowlifes who idolize Che Guevera, waiting for a time to attack Anglo's again. Maybe now more than ever due to the decline of he Seperatist movement and the realization that Montreal is more English. My wife thinks I am paranoid but when you read comments for some of the nazi's on this blog, you would think that these people would stop at nothing to get their French Utopia.

    I hope that Canadian Intelligence has a watchful eye on suspected radical groups. Unfortunatly I still live in this province and I want it to be safe for my family.

  3. But why, Editor? Why this nonsense? Everybody knows that Quebec independence is imminent. In fact, a strong and happy and completely French Quebec Republic is going to be proclaimed in 2020.

  4. Troy, thanks for the link. It cracked me up.

    This especially:

    "Les nouveaux Québécois qui arrivent au Québec et en grande majorité en régions, au nombre maintenant de 20 000 par année plutôt que 50 000 quand le Québec n’était qu’une province comme les autres, sont heureux. Heureux parce que, non seulement bien intégrés à la société québécoise et ils ont acquis une bonne connaissance du français, mais ils ont en plus trouvé des emplois où on met à profit leur talent. "

    This whole "article" reads a bit like a page from some fascist/communist manifesto. It conjures up images that we see on rare footage that trickles out of North Korea, where happy people march holding hands, singing happy songs, and heaping praise on the leader, which in the "free" Quebec would be some Francophone dude, I suppose. In this kind of Quebec, the body of Levesque would undoubtedly have to be exhumed, restored, embalmed, and laid to rest in some mausoleum. I suppose the mausoleum would be placed somewhere around Parc Maisonneuve, so that during each St Jean B. celebration, the crowd could swing by and pay respect to the great leader.

  5. well you certainly aren't the first to have declared it dead are you ND? Let's see now, one of the fathers of confederation claimed that that pact rendered French Canadian nationalism dead, Trudeau declared sovereigntism dead after the 1980 referendum. It would be interesting to compile a list of all the times it's been declared dead. Probly more frequently than Elvis has been declared still alive.

  6. "Probly more frequently than Elvis has been declared still alive."

    Très juste Jacques car c'est le genre de question qu'on ne glisse pas sous le tapis aussi facilement.Vous remarquerez aussi dans ce film auquel nous compare l'auteur de ce blogue,le réalisateur est très motivé et plein de bonnes intentions sauf qu'il est entouré d'une équipe d'amateurs incompétents.

  7. Quebec will not separate from Canada (unfortunately) for a number of reasons but the fundamenta reason is economics. Language and culture are a ruse used by the hard core to further their cause. Separation, at one time may have been viable but the massive Quebec provincial debt accumulated due to lavish social programs, government largess and corruption will
    cause the provinces economy to crumble.

    The equalization and transfers were lavishly handed out to Quebec by Ottawa to try and buy off the population and hold the separatists at bay. Separation or the threat of it was nothing more than blackmail utilized to extort money and benefits from the ROC. Of course this regional spending by Ottawa spilled over to other regions ( what about us) and the spending and debt went out of control. This is well documentated by Brian Crowley in his book "Fearful Symmetry" (book is very critical of Quebec).

    Many of the problems we have in Canada now can be directly attributed to the sovereignty movement and of course the central government in Canada, caving in to demands from Quebec.

    There is no doubt that Canada would be a much stronger country without Quebec in the long term. Again, well documented by Reed Scowen in his book "Time to say Goodbye".

    The problem is that the so called have provinces are becoming fed up with the existing status Quo. ( In Alberta, the Wild Rose Party for instance). Why should Albertans fork over 21 billion dollars a year to Ottawa so they can put this money in other peoples pockets; in the case of Quebec over 60% of the total Equalization payments. This, so Quebec can have social programs which far exceed those enjoyed by Albertans or those in NF, SK and BC.

    We can blame Quebec for most of these problems as they were the ones which blackmailed Ottawa into this unfair system of wealth redistribution.

    The Official Languages Act would have never been enacted had it not been for Quebec. This program has cost, some say, in excess of 500 Billion dollars. So another ill fated program costing the ROC a lot of money in an effort to placate Quebec. Just think of how much better health care could have been if this money had not been squandered on a failed program. Had it not been for the sovereignty movement it is doubtful the OLA would have ever been legislated. Essentially the language issue in Quebec was exported to the ROC with attendent costs.

    This extortion continues today with the likes of Gilles Duceppe. He knows himself that separation would be the end of Quebec but also knows it is a very good tool for blackmail.

    As one other commented. Quebec should be given equal representation in Canada on a basis of population demographics. For instance not 8.5 Billion in equalization but 20% of 14 billion or no more than 2.8 billion. Wouldn't that be the fair way to do things. Not 3 judges on the supreme court, only 2 judges, representative of the population and so on. Further the creative bookeeping done in Quebec such the subsidized power the inhabitants which reduce the operating income of Hydro Quebec should be investigated.

    Quebec is indeed the "expensive black sheep" of Canada and it is high time that our politicians quit pandering to this spoiled child which has wrought so much damage on the country as a whole.

  8. Mississauga Guy remarked...

    Anon @ 1:24PM: Glad know someone is in sync with my vision of the situation. With an aging population, we're going to need that money for health care. Let Quebec go and raise that new $200 health care fee to $20,000, if they have to. They deserve it! I'm fed up with paying!

  9. "The end of the sovereignty dream in Quebec is no big deal. It's only a matter of time before everybody realizes it, even the die-hards. " This is a statement indeed.

    This means Canada will now be stuck with this racist, bigoted, xenophobic element forever. A lot of us outside Quebec really want Quebec to leave. The sooner the better! You would be shocked at how many of us have had it with the racist province of Quebec. We are sick and tired of all the demands, entitlements, pandering, corruption; scandals…transfer payments...etc.

    We can only hope that the sovereignty debate heats up again. Thanks to the internet I believe the vote would be different this time. You would see how much people in Canada want Quebec out, not in. Keep it alive you Nazis clowns, don’t give up your dream of leaving, but please hurry up.

  10. Hmm,,,,,

    Well the federalist side may have "won" but it didn't "win" because it won over the hearts and minds of Francophones. Rather it simply engaged in the racial-replacement of the Quebecois with immigrants to out-vote them in the referendum. Hardly a legitimate "victory" in my view. (Please google SWEPT AWAY - NORTH OF THE BORDER by James Fulford for more on this.) Also using money to bribe Francophones to stay in Canada is hardly very noble or glorious. I would think such a policy - which Trudeau developed into an art form and undoubtedly accounts for much of Quebecs' endemic corruption - just presented Canada as a cash cow to Quebec. It was humiliating to Canadians and just gave Quebec a chance to get fat at our expense.

    The only way Quebec could probably become independent now would be to sacrifice the Montreal region. This is not as crazy as it might sound. Ireland eventually had to sacrifice six counties and the key city of Belfast to get away from Britain. Belfast was a much more important and industrial city at the time then it is now (the Titanic for example was built there). In fact the decision was so unpopular the IRA had to fight a civil war among themselves to accept the deal.

    But in a way Canadas' "victory" over the sovereignists is Pyrhic because Canada would have been much better off without Quebec. Just like Britain would have been better off if it had withdrawn from ALL of Ireland in the 1920's. The only winner is the Anglophone community in Quebec.

    By the way the IRA have largely ended their activities because they are winning the demographic battle in the north. There will likely soon be a Catholic majority there. It is the opposite of the situation in Quebec. As for the Basques they have long offered to end their 'terrorism' if Spain would simply agree to a referendum on their sovereignity. Spain has always refused to do even this. The Toronto guy.

  11. Please say it ain't so. The dream can't be over, we're not done yet. I'm one of those people that want Quebec to leave. I feel Quebec has already separated and damaged Canada enough. I live in Montreal and I still feel that way. I don't much care anymore, I can move to Canada. In the end, I don't think the dream of sovereignty is really dead, nor will ever be. All it's doing right now is simmering until the next perceived slight. The Quebecois will never let this valuable blackmailing tool die. I wish for the day when the nationalists make their threats to separate and Canadian politicians say "We no longer care, go for it'. Anyway, if the dream is near dead, all we have to do to resuscitate it, is burn a Quebec flag on YouTube and chant 'Please Quebec, Leave Canada, We No Longer Want You.'

  12. "Also using money to bribe Francophones to stay in Canada"

    Couldn't agree more. Trudeau was not concerned for Canada he and his band of federalists were only concerned for themselves and their eastern power base. If Quebec had been allowed to separate the feds would have been out of business as power would have shifted outside of the Quebec/Ontario regions. The feds knew this well and therefore did everything possible to protect their centralist power base. Simple as that.

  13. The Island of Montreal is the heart and the focus of the French Foyer in Quebec. (I recognize the motto divide and conquer, here...) But no such thing will happen, they are wiser. After suffering 400 years of English tenement, keeping their faith in God, and in their literature, the Quebeckers are INDEPENDENT. They have the necessary elements to do so, like a country.
    They are artisans, entrepreneurs,idealists,and what the anglophonie doesn't understand, their ethics is different. You should refer to the studies of the German philosophis Max Weber who describes it well.
    I suggest you should perhaps be proud of them, one day they may be the avant-garde of this poor country and be part of an economical reform through their participation in European Economy.

  14. L'anglophonie sera toujours dans le chemin de notre bonheur. Ce pays est maintenant à jamais impossible. Les Canadiens anglais recoivent chez eux des milliers d'émigrés tous les jours et banissent les leurs de langue française tous les jours, toutes les minutes et à toutes les secondes. Quelle bande d'écoeurants !

  15. Je crois qu'il s'agit d'un chien qui dort. Mais les politiques internes sont maniés pour le progrès d'un Québec fort. Les nouveaux Québécois vivent bien, se plaisent beaucoup et aideront à solidifier la culture ainsi qu'à rendre une économie prospère. Nous ne sommes plus au temps de l'élitisme Trudeau. Les Québécois sont forts et capables de parler pour eux. Plus encore ils pourraient bien se faire valoir sur une plateforme internationale.
    Le Canada anglais est très ancré dans ses habitudes et le Québec a évolué avec sa culture, ses nouveautés, ses entreprises, ses industries, son multiculturalisme et son patrimoine.

  16. La souveraineté est implantée dans les moeurs. C'est la raison pour laquelle nous n'en parlons plus. Il s'agit d'une valeur qui ne quittera pas la ville. Je me rappelle de la chanson CHEZ NOUS SOYEZ REINE. Ce fut une chanson que nous apprenions au couvent qui est connu par tous les Français. C'est aussi ce qui fait la philosophie de la reconnaissance de notre culture, de notre langue et de notre foi.

  17. L'époque de la Noirceur est toujours aussi sale qu'auparavant, seulement cette fois-ci, ils croient que nous nous séparons. Nous avons toujours été différents, ils ne le reconnaissent pas et ne le reconnaîtront jamais.
    UNE CHOSE CERTAINE: Il est grand temps de dire adieu à la monarchie britannique. Le Canada anglais lui pourra donc se conformer à ce beau patrimoine pour qui nous ne voulons pas payer la facture... En effet, nous n'avons rien en commun avec la monarchie britannique (la source est allemande)et il est temps de nous débarrasser de cette société qui n'a rien à apporter au Québec.Nous pourrions avoir l'Euro comme dénomination, alors ?

  18. Sovereignty is not dead. Other values will have to dealt with: Unions. Order and law will have to prevail. Then more education and relevelling with no monarchy should pleased them. Quebec in its unicity will annoy more and more the Anglos. Too bad !

  19. Je trouve triste le fait qu'il y a beaucoup de personnes partout au Canada (nos compatriotes canadiens) qui ne croient ni dans un pays uni pis que ni s'intéressent dans notre culture et dans notre langue. Le projet de Loi 101 a été mis sur place car notre langue ici chez nous était en danger de disparaître. Moi, je ne suis pas separatistes, mais des fois il me semble la chose las plus simple à faire! presque la moitié des Québécois son divisés par les politiques; toutefois, je veux encore croire dans un pays uni pis dans un gouvernement équitable pour tous et toutes les Canadiens et Canadiennes...