March 22, 2006

The Real Culture of Entitlement: Quebec Nationalism

Federalists in Quebec are divided. Tories and Liberals alike are federalists but they share drastically different solutions to the problem. Tories want to appease Quebeckers by slowly giving them goodies. The hardline Liberal position is that Quebec is entitled to no more than any other province.

It is a clash between idealism and pragmatism. The idealist Liberals believe in equality of opportunity. A Quebecker is worth the same as an Ontarian, an Albertan and a Nova Scotian. This concept of equality of opportunity runs through the veins of Liberal ideology since the party’s founding over 100 years ago.

Tories prefer to give goodies to Quebec in hopes the separatists will quit bitching and come on board. This pragmatic view is similar to appeasement. The separatist beast is a threat to the very core of Canada. The Tories simply want the problem to go away.

For decades, the PLQ, Quebec’s provincial Liberal Party has adopted the pragmatic solution as well. They have lost to a party whose first priority was sovereignty. Losing to the PQ is not an option as it will lead to a referendum.

I believe in the Liberal view of federalism for Canada, called symmetrical federalism. Every province should be offered the same thing by the federal government. If only one province takes advantage of the offer, then so be it. Every province should have equal treatment by the federal government. No province, not even Quebec is entitled to anything.

What is a culture of entitlement?It is when a person feels they are entitled to something simply because of who they are. Frankly, I have never heard a more accurate description of Appeasement Federalism.

PLQuistes accuse me of not understanding Quebec when I say the Quebec government should not be allowed to speak with its own voice at UNESCO. Firstly, it undermines Canada’s voice at the table. Secondly, it reinforces the notion many other Canadians have that Quebec feels they are entitled to something the rest of Canada is not.

Quebec nationalists such as Jean Charest and Benoit Pelletier believe they must squeeze every privilege away from Ottawa because Quebec is distinct and “entitled” to protect its culture. What about the rest of Canada? Do they not have a culture of their own? Some Quebeckers laugh at that question. If you laughed at that question, that arrogance is pitiful.

Jacques Parizeau called the concept “milking the federalist cow”. I compare the two only because they lobby Ottawa for privileges they do not want other provinces to receive. I mean, would Benoit Pelletier be in favor of Ontario having a seat at UNESCO? One for Saskatchewan too, but not for Quebec?

The Liberal Party moved toward the pragmatic view under Paul Martin and it is imperative that we move back the other way. Liberals have to stand on principle and ask Quebeckers a very hard question: Do you want to be treated as a child or as an adult?

Treated as an equal who is not entitled to anything special is the harder answer to accept. Think about it, how many spoiled children are gonna say “you know what, I’m spoiled. Please stop spoiling me.” Not many!

I ask Quebeckers to put themselves in the shoes of other Canadians. Imagine seeing Quebec receive all this special treatment. What happened to equality of opportunity? Apparently the law doesn’t apply to the “special” provinces. I say this as a Quebecker receiving all these privileges.

For those with short memories, anger towards appeasement federalism was the heart of the Reform movement. The original Clarity Act was the idea of Reform MP Stephen Harper. (Dion simply made the idea stronger, good for you Stephane!) Quebeckers are the biggest believers in equality. Whether it be because they fought so hard to be equal to the anglos or because they are most progressive province in Canada, either way, they should support equality of citizenship more than anything else. If it is in the interest to protect French-Canadian culture, then it is the responsibility of all Canadians to protect that culture. That is why the voice at UNESCO that defends must be a Canadian one, not a Quebec one.

This leadership race will require a strategy to rebuild the federalist vision the Liberals will offer Quebeckers. I believe we must preach equality of citizenship, telling Quebeckers the reason they do not get special privileges is because they would be the first ones to complain when an unfair deal was made with another province, such as the Atlantic Accord. It will be hard, no doubt about it. However, unlike the Tories and the PLQ, Liberals have the high ground as we preach equality rather than favoritism. Quebeckers must understand that the only federalist option is too see other Canadians as equals, not Anglos because if they spend the rest of their days in Canada thinking they are better than everybody else, they won't leave, they'll be thrown out.

15 Commentaires:

Blogger HearHere a dit...

You say the hardline we Liberals have taken is no special favours for Quebec???

Huh!!!! Where have you been? We sucked up to Quebec big time with special deals and special agreements that other provinces did not get. What do you think AdScam was all about. Sucking up to Quebec. That is why we have the problem today.
We did not just suck up to Quebec Chretien and Martin became paralyzed from doing anything for the country if Quebec did not agree.
Additionally we let Quebec open private health care clinics which are now rampant. Canadians from across Canada flock to Quebec to spend their own money on their own health care way and we demonized the Western provinces who have nothing like good old PQ.
The Conservative shave claimed that they will stop the one off deals with provinces like Quebec and the Atlantic provinces got for purely partisan purposes.
If Stephen thinks Quebec is going to let the other provinces have the same goodies they have been getting without "special deals" like we gave them it will be a rude awakening.
Chretien and Martin let themselves be extorted by Quebec for "political favours rendered." let's see is that changes now.

3/22/2006 8:19 p.m.  
Anonymous Manitoba Liberal a dit...

Good Post.

Paul Martin and his desire to be loved in Quebec by setting up special side deals easily makes him the worse Liberal Leader in our history and an insult to what Trudeau tried to build for us. And now we have Harper following Martin's example.

Quite frankly the only candidates for leadership that I will listin to are those that have clear vision for a strong Canada. Not 10 strong provinces doing what they want.

3/22/2006 10:22 p.m.  
Blogger Antonio a dit...

to hear here

I agree Chretien caved. He went against his own principles when he caved in 1995 but the NO campaign was staunchly nationalist and winning was the bottom line for Chretien, so I forgive hom...deep down he shares this vision too

3/22/2006 10:59 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous a dit...

Are you calling Jean Charest a separatist?

I know you think Pelletier is one, but Charest too?

3/23/2006 12:03 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous a dit...

Canada is a country with two cultures; English-Canadian and French-Canadian (in big part Quebecois). Hence, Quebec can't be treated like Saskatchewan, because Quebec has a different history and culture than the rest of the country. This isn't to say that the culture in Nova Scotia is the same as the culture in Alberta, not at all. But the culture in Quebec is fundamentally different, as well as history and development. Hence, you can't simply state that Quebec be treated like the rest. Quebecers are different than English-Canadians (residing outside the province), and maintaining cultural and historical traditions is paramount, which is where the difference in treatment lies.

3/23/2006 2:01 a.m.  
Blogger James Bowie a dit...

Tories aren't federalsits. They want provinces doing foreign policy.

Duceppe lost ground in this election. Harper was getting separatist votes, not just Liberal ones.

3/23/2006 5:14 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous a dit...

The Odd Couple, or Who has the power?

That, as always, is the key political consideration. Neither the Liberals not the NDP have enough votes on their own to topple Harper's minority, nor can they do it if they combine.

Heinz might have 57 varieties, but the Bloc have 51 .... That leaves the Bloc 51 seats as the swing-vote ones. The Bloc has dual power, positive and negative power: the ability to veto the Tories should the LPC and NDP not vote with the Tories; and the ability to vote with the Tories despite opposition from the LPC and NDP and carry the day.

What does that mean? The New Tories under Harper will focus relentlessly on trying to achieve a majority of seats at the next election. In the meantime, to implement their Famous Five priorities, and then later on other parts of their policies, they will cajole, caress, sweet talk, induce, court, flirt with, horsetrade with and ultimately bribe the Bloc 51 to side with them and get their policies enacted.

What does that mean for the Bloc 51? They have the power of veto or support, and can wheel and deal to their heart's content with the New Tories. In a way not seen before, the Bloc 51 has a chance to exact a pound of flesh in each horsetrading session with Harper.

So keep you eyes focused as much on the Bloc's wish list as on Harper's. The reality is that there are two parties governing Canada until the next election, with Duceppe being the de facto dual Prime Minister of Canada.

These two Prime Ministers will decide between them how the contours of Canada's political landscape will be shaped, by their deals. They are an Odd Couple indeed: an avowed separatist who wishes to break asunder the Canadian confederation, and a Tory who has shown a marked lack of interest in Canada as a federation and a commitment to the splintering of federal power in favour of the provinces (his "firewall" for Alberta; his "fiscal imbalance" ploy to remove federal funding and so reduce federal influence in education, health and other areas; his "open federalism" designed to allow him to cut deals with individual premiers and piece by piece pass out federal powers to the premiers, leaving scant powers in the centre).

Try this interesting exercise with each issue which arises: forget about the LPC and NDP views, and compare the interests of the Bloc and the Tories. Where they overlap, expect this to become law. Where they do not, expect Harper to back off.

But there is another source of power which is independent of the actual seats now held, and that is where the LPC and NDP should be focusing a lot of their strategies: this is the shaping of public opinion in preparation for the next election. Call this "potential power", if you will. The danger for the dual Prime Ministers is that they become so engrossed in their mutual dealing that they allow the LPC and NDP to frame the battleground for the next election, win seats, and take away the Odd Couple's power.

3/23/2006 11:18 a.m.  
Blogger Antonio a dit...

My point is that Quebeckers are entitled only what is entitled to others as well. If Quebeckers really want to be a part of Canada, they will have to do so as equals.

3/23/2006 12:48 p.m.  
Blogger Mark a dit...

Antonio, this post is excellent. It's provocative but honest. Don't let Fuddle Duddle die.

3/23/2006 2:57 p.m.  
Anonymous élie a dit...

The reason why you hold these "symmetrical" views, Antonio, is because your first
loyalty is with Canada, whereas most Quebecers' loyalties (federalists and secessionists alike) are with Quebec first and foremost. A lot of PLQuistes view Canada as a nice, convenient, comfortable political entity that they don't want to leave, but about which they aren't necessarily passionate. They're passionate about Quebec, however, because it's what they define as their "nation". What goes on in Saskatchewan is of little interest
to most PLQuistes, although they remain federalists.

Even Quebec federalists define Quebec as their nation, their patrie, so you'll have an extremely hard time selling them your symmetrical federalism, in which they are treated as mere Canadians, which they don't think they are.

Your view is very logical and idealistic and should be praised for that, but ultimately doesn't have a very high likelihood of success for Canada.

3/23/2006 7:09 p.m.  
Anonymous élie a dit...

And by the way Antonio, say what you will about "nationalism", but you're clearly a Canadian nationalist.

3/23/2006 7:15 p.m.  
Blogger Steve a dit...

We thought we were the only ones writing about federalism. I haven't read this over so don't know whether you'd love us or hate us, who cares. Same topics:

3/23/2006 8:41 p.m.  
Blogger Antonio a dit...


the difference is many canadians actually care about Quebec and Quebeckers do care about Canada.

The arrangements that PLQuistes take to take advantage of Canada are more dishonest than the people who, on principle alone wanna leave.

If nobody is willing to stand on principle, should we just give up? I won't and many Canadians won't either.

3/23/2006 10:49 p.m.  
Blogger Vincent Robidas a dit...

Les libéraux veulent-ils rebâtir au Québec? Je ne crois pas que le discours du «prends ton trou et ferme ta gueule» envers le gouvernement du Québec soit une option crédible pour rebâtir un parti qui manque cruellement de crédibilité au Québec depuis au moins 20 ans.

Le gouvernement du Québec est probablement, avec l'Alberta, l'un des rares gouvernement à jouer pleinement son rôle d'État fédéré.

Exiger que le Québec puisse parler en son nom dans les dossiers qui le concerne, ce n'est pas un power trip, mais bien la réaction d'un État qui assume ses responsabilités dans une fédération.

Un discours comme le vôtre va assurer votre marginalisation dans le paysage politique québécois. Les Conservateurs n'en demandent pas tant!

3/28/2006 12:12 p.m.  
Blogger Steve a dit...

Hey, you will like what we have to say about federalism. Dig around, all throughout our blog:

4/02/2006 11:31 p.m.  

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