As you have likely heard, Pauline Marois and the PQ have, for the umpteenth time, promised to make a new push for sovereignty.Considering the PQ's very minority position in the National Assembly and its standing in the polls, somewhere in the low thirty percents, it's a presumptuous undertaking for a government that is supposed to represent all Quebecers. Perhaps the motivation is nothing more than an attempt to fire up the faithful, to believe otherwise is to accept that the PQ is badly in need of a reality check.
"Pauline Marois' surprise announcement Tuesday that her party is preparing a strategy to push sovereignty has raised eyebrows at the National Assembly......"The advantages of sovereignty?" You've got to be kidding!
This newest strategy, Marois says, will be presented at the PQ's convention in Drummondville on February 9th. About 2,000 PQ members will vote on the idea of launching a vast advertising campaign to sell the merits of sovereignty...
Premier Marois will only say the "strategy" she'll unveil will focus on selling the advantages of sovereignty. " Link
On Monday I wrote about the Employment Insurance program, which Marois and the PQ want to repatriate from federal jurisdiction, part of the party's overall strategy to wrest political control from Ottawa, one program at a time.
It came as a surprise to me in researching the blog piece that Quebec contributes about $800 million less to the program than it gets out. The fact that Quebecers make up 40% of EI claimants is another shocking revelation.
The idea of taking over this program from Ottawa is akin to asking to take over your neighbours alimony payments...not too bright.
And yet the PQ persists, the question being , WHY?
In making the electoral promise to repatriate the EI program to Quebec jurisdiction I can think of only three scenarios;
- Pauline and the PQ made the promise knowing full well that it was just an 'election promise,' something that played well in a sound bite, but something that a reasonable government would never really consider.
- Pauline and the PQ weighed the consequences of adding at least $800 million to the Quebec deficit and deemed the cost worth the price of winning some power back from Ottawa.
- The PQ shot their mouth off, without ever considering the consequences.
It happened in the 2008 campaign where Charest promised to abolish the provincial sales tax of 7.5% on Quebec culture-related products.
What Charest was unaware of, or ignored, was the fact that this provision would contravene the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)
Suffice to say that when his government was elected, the idea was never mentioned again.
So I'm wondering what Pauline can promise Quebecers, reality or fantasy that can make the slightest difference to influence them after all these years of debate, that sovereignty could actually be a viable option.
Let us start with the only thing that has been floated so far, the right of sixteen year-olds to vote in a referendum.
Again I'll let readers chime in as to the appropriateness of children voting, considering that half of them couldn't, in all likelihood, name the ten provinces.
Perhaps Pauline should take on one of the proposals that I read on vigile.net, that only Quebec born natives be allowed to vote in a referendum.
Perhaps she could also consider awarding two votes per francophone voter to counteract historical injustices.
So what Pauline promises, aside from repatriating the money-pit Employment Insurance program, can she make?
First off, the economics;
No doubt, Pauline will trot out the foundation lie of the sovereignty movement, which is that Quebec sends more taxes to Ottawa than it receives back.
This oft-repeated lie is the hallmark of a PQ campaign touting financial viability, but to those who actually pay taxes, the argument is just plain unbelievable.
Those who want to believe that it so, are the militants that will, quite honestly, believe anything. But for the majority, the idea that Quebec is a net contributor to Canada just doesn't fly, because it is patently untrue.
The big bad equalization payment of close to eight billion dollars is a powerful symbol of Quebec's indebtedness to Canada that the PQ has difficulty explaining away.
As for more generous social programs in an independent Quebec, the idea is laughable.
Just yesterday the minister in charge of higher education rejected the notion of a free education system from kindergarten to university, telling students the truth, that the province cannot possibly afford it.
In terms of promises in relation to more generous social programs, the PQ is actually out of options, there is no money to be had and everybody knows it, even the die-hards.
So what is left?
A rejection of the Oil Sands?
A new gun registry?
A revised more lenient criminal justice system?
Hardly compelling arguments for the creation of a new and uncertain independent state.
And so I'm going to stop discussing the PQ's nonsensical economic arguments, it is like promoting the health benefits of cancer.
So what is left? What can Pauline promise?
Well readers, unfortunately, quite a lot.
Get ready for an unremitting campaign of disinformation and outright hate.
The PQ will play the only card it has left and it will play it to the hilt.
Language and culture.
Those old enough to remember, will recall Lucien Bouchard's pooh-poohing reports of Quebec's economic ruin during the last referendum in favour of language and culture. It almost worked.
No doubt we are in for an onslaught of dire warnings by the PQ that independence is the last chance for Quebec to save its language and culture.
Franco-supremacists will do the dirty work, reminding Quebecers that they are on the road to irreversible Anglicization and that within a few years they will be subjected to Sharia law, Kosher and Halal food, policeman in turbans, driving instructors in veils, and minarets, shrines and temples in every neighbourhood.
Worst of all, Quebecers will be warned that they will be overrun with unilingual English bus drivers and ticket sellers in the metro as well as 'speak white' clerks in
Quebecers living in the sticks will be told that the Anglo/Ethnic infection that has overtaken Montreal is spreading to the regions and that without independence, the die is cast with French in North America on an inexorable road to destruction.
In essence, francophones will be given the choice between prosperity or cultural and linguistic survival, a battle that the PQ discerns to be their only slim chance of winning.
Using a take on the famous American credo, the cry of "Live French or die" will become the rallying point to which the PQ pins their hopes of success.
An ugly campaign of Us versus Them, is what the PQ is preparing, helped along by bolder proxies like French language linguicist, Mario Beaulieu who is starting to become a force, spearheading campaigns to trump a French language agenda over economic or social benefits, as we have seen in the recent Lachine Hospital debate. Link
More of the same is coming, it is all that is left for the flickering notion of sovereignty.
It's going to be ugly, brutal and divisive, exactly what the PQ wants...