TORONTO - The Federal government in Ottawa has, in my mind, always been the “whipping boy” of Quebec politics. Federalist politicians from Quebec have always seemed obsessed with the need to play to the Quebec base.
No matter what. No matter the constant humbling of the Federalist agenda for nation-building. There has been an incessant pressure (felt primarily by MPs elected from the Montreal area of Quebec) to do anything and everything to appease the needs of our “only allies” in the province.
Until last night’s election results, that meant the Quebec Liberal Party.
Not any more. The most positive spin on the results is that many members of the now governing party are Conservative federalists dressed up as Coalition pour l’Avenir du Quebec (CAQ).
Outside the island of Montreal and Laval, and perhaps the Gatineau-Hull area across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, the political climate in Quebec breeds Independistes, Separatistes, Sovreigntistes, Nationalists and soft Nationalists. Varying degrees of “Quebec First” political persuasion.
The Premier-elect, Francois Legault, has a history of changing with the times, having personally undergone the metamorphoses to the point that he has said publicly that Quebecers should concentrate on issues rather than on the ideology: standard of living (economic) rather than survivability as a distinct entity (cultural).
A former Premier, also a federal civil servant, Jacques Parizeau, famously summed up his view of Canada with a trite statement describing his own Epiphany: I went out West as a Federalist and came back as a Separatist. He wanted nothing less than a country for Quebecers – Canada was too big.
Perhaps therein lies the rationale for the anti-government “wave” that swept the province last night. The government being “swept” – by proxy – was the federal government in Ottawa, the Federal Liberals. Premier Philippe Couillard, the Provincial Liberal, was collateral damage.
His party was reduced to an enclave of “ethnic strongholds” in Montreal, surrounded by ridings firmly in the grip of the “purelaine” – the ethnically-pure Francophones.
In Europe, such singularity of identity is often described as a home for right-wing, xenophobic, militancy. It dictates the views towards demographic mobility and immigration. Language policies are often the soft expression of this discomfort in the presence of people and cultures are often different.
Are people capable of being assimilated into OUR culture, if not, leave them out, is the underlying rationale at the base of their “immigration policies”. Legault’s CAQ probably fits in the latter category.
During the campaign debates, he professed a desire to “test” all immigrants – three years after their landing – for French language competency. If they failed, he proposed asking Canadian immigration officials to remove them from Quebec.
Either send them back home or to Ontario, he offered. Presumably, the language requirements there would not be as stringent, and the policies of integration are preferred to those of assimilation.
No matter; if Federal Immigration policies were not confused enough, this new technique of entry into the country as a Francophone and removal, subsequently, to an Anglophone environment would surely muddy the waters further.
The point in all of this is that in the course of the last three months, three of Justin Trudeau’s political, provincial allies have gone to an election and lost.
A Federal Liberal government/party may have to begin taking stock of the identifiers associated with people in the West Island of Montreal to ascertain what keeps them loyal to Canada… and by extension to the Liberal Party. The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer have started recruiting quality candidates from the area, including two, so far from the Italian community.