Friday, December 17, 2004

Globe&Mail columnist takes on Quebec

I thought I had no time for Lawrence Martin. Ever only slightly less wacky than, say, Rick Salutin. To me he had been nothing more than the Liberals’ running dog ready to defend any of their policies. So I thought I should stop reading his columns altogether. That’s why it was so astonishing to read his “Quebec as dominatrix: The beat goes on and on” in the Globe (Thursday, December 16).
For anyone interested to learn how Quebec has managed to hold English Canada by the throat is an engaging and informative reading. Here are some quotes:

“For 34 of the past 36 years, and 42 of the past 56, the prime ministers have represented Quebec. That’s about 90 per cent of the time for a province with 25 per cent of the country’s population.”

Under Pierre Trudeau, there was the bilingualism program, the October crisis, the cuts to NATO”

“Under Brian Mulroney, who had to win Quebec, there was the reaching out to Quebec nationalists to join the cabinet, the awarding of the CF-18 contract to Quebec over Manitoba, and the sight of the nation’s business overtaken by unity fights and the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords.”

“Many Canadians feel they’ve paid a big price for bilingualism, for the endless constitutional and referendum fights, for the Liberals’ shameless catering to their political base. Westerners have every reason to be bitter.”

So having said all that one would wonder what a kind of conclusion might be possibly drawn other than to lament the deranged state of Canadian democracy. Well, Martin wouldn’t be Martin so there comes a big ‘but’. Actually no so big.
First of all, Quebec would have left, Martin says –
“how would a Quebec – barely willing to put up with its own people running
the show in Ottawa, never mind leaders beholden to another province – have
stayed in?”

This kind of answer, the usual Chretien line, would not be sufficient to explain why on Earth English Canada has had to put up with this crap. Not to mention that just for second one might wonder whether there is an alternative solution to the “shameless catering”.
Martin senses that and so he goes on the positive:

“How far would it have moved away from its respect for language rights, social justice and other progressive values” he asks rhetorically.

Leaving aside the interesting question what is so ‘progressive’ about liberal policies, not to mention that apparently ‘language rights’ don’t apply to Anglophones in Quebec, it is an issue of democracy.
If Quebec wants to be so ‘progressive’, so be it. But if it’s only Quebec’s presence in the federation that keeps those ‘progressive’ values going doesn’t it come as a big indictment how undemocratic and unfair to the will of the people in other provinces the Canadian political system is?


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