LETTER FROM CANADA: WE’RE DOING PRETTY WELL, EH? HOW ‘BOUT YOU?
Up here in Canada, we always complain that Canada gets slim coverage in the international news media, be it electronic, or by counting the number of column-inches of press coverage in the conventional print media. Our elites are always belly-aching that the only time we get talked about abroad is when our country is on the verge of splitting up and we’re having another one of our famous bouts of constitutional hand-wringing, such as a secession referendum in Québec in 1980 or 1995, or a histrionic constitutional amendment process, the likes of which we also had in the early 1980s and 90s.
So basically I thought I’d talk about those things, but in a more positive light, since, in light of the near-death experience of the last secession vote of October 1995, which was only defeated by a margin of 0, 4% for the pro-Canadian forces, Canada as a whole has matured significantly. It’s as if we were one of those developing countries which had just come out of a long period of internecine blood letting and wanted to put it all behind us and move on.
People have since got on with the business of business. Most people in the Province of Québec and the rest of the country are now quite content to earn a decent living, own a car or maybe two, a home, have a cottage by a lake in the summer, go skiing in winter, as well as take a vacation down south, and so on.
Most French-Canadians in Québec have benefitted tremendously from the state-sponsored reforms of both pro-Canadian and secessionist governments in Québec in the 1960s and 70s, as well as state-interventionist federal governments of the same period by gaining better access to health care, higher education, social services and access to capital to start a business as well as better opportunities through legislative changes which allowed them to entire the upper echelons of both the public service and the private sector.
A lot of these legislative changes were and to a certain extent still are, controversial, but for the most part; they’ve created a more just and economically prosperous Canada, with wealth and opportunity spread out much more equally throughout virtually all social classes and linguistic groups. To the point now whereby Québec secession is now virtually a dead letter in our country, because the social and economic disparities of income and opportunity which propelled them to the forefront of the public agenda, have, for the most part, been addressed adequately.
The PQ party at the provincial level, which was the traditional party of secessionism, is in rapid decline and has virtually lost all hope of ever again regaining power. It has virtually totally abandoned its Social Democratic political agenda of social and economic policies, which were the backbone of its party platform in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. Because of this, many hardliners and younger idealists are jumping ship and founding several obscure left-wing nationalist-secessionist political groups, none of which have any hope of going anywhere.
Federally, the BQ party, which emerged as a splinter group out of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’ Progressive Conservative Party after the failed attempt to grant Québec special status within Canada with the ill-fated Meech Lake Constitutional Accord of 1987-90, was recently flattened at the poles in the latest May 2012 federal general election. Most Québecers felt that the BQ had basically outlived its usefulness as a secessionist protest party at the federal level, and voted instead for a slate of mostly unknown NDP Social Democratic candidates, mostly because they couldn’t stand the thought of voting Conservative and the Liberals were nowhere on the map from virtually all Canadians’ perspectives, having been in decline for several decades.
Provincially, there’s been a distinct move to the right ideologically, like in most western countries, with a more pro-business, anti-bureaucracy, deficit-cutting agenda taking precedence, in our case combined with the tried and true warhorse of Québec nationalism. This time the secessionists have put this issue on the back burner for at least ten years, by their own leader’s admission, and wish to work more at improving the sluggish economy, cut the deficit and debt and improve public schools.
The vehicle for their agenda is the newly-minted CAQ party, which stands for ‘Coalition Avenir Québec’ or Coalition for the Future of Québec, an apt description for a pragmatic coalition of secessionists, pro-business/pro-Canadian types and sundry right-wing nationalist ideologues. They’ve yet to grasp power and federally our Conservative Prime Minister has a comfortable majority in Parliament. Although not everybody agrees with how Prime Minister Harper governs, his majority government has brought legislative stability to a country which had known nothing but uncertainty for the previous seven years of both Tory and Liberal minority rule.
So how are we doing in Canada? Pretty well, eh? How ‘bout you? God Bless America.