Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quebec election: The real ballot box question

PQ lobster trap for unwitting Quebecers
Try as they might, the PQ cannot direct the definition of the ballot question in the upcoming provincial election into fields of their choosing. They would rather talk about their Charter of Values, which has given them a good crack at Francophone votes to boost them into a majority government position. Or the bright prospects for a Quebec economy, with debt reduced and business booming.

But every time they try, those pesky journalists keep asking about the PQ’s plans to launch a permament campaign as a majority government, disguised as a White Paper process to examine what is best for Quebec – stay in Canada or separate.

And so the referendum has become the ballot box question:
The border comments followed Marois to another campaign stop, prompting her to agree with a reporter’s assertion that an independent Quebec would not be unlike the European Union, where there is free movement of citizens.

“That’s what it means, but that’s not to say there wouldn’t be a (Quebec) citizenship and, as such, a passport,” Marois said.

Couillard, meanwhile, launched his strongest anti-sovereigntist message yet on Tuesday, with the federalist leader accusing the PQ of hurting Quebec with its constant musings about referendums and separation.

“The choice is clear,” he said. “Do you want a government that is going to focus on a referendum and the separation of Quebec or do you want a government that is going to concentrate on the economy, jobs, health care and education?”

Ms Marois wished the White Paper process to be safely on the back burner until she achieved her majority government, but it just keeps coming back, helped no end by her unwitting stirring of the referendum pot.

It seems she just cannot wait until after the election to start her nation-building exercise.

What she clearly will expect once the referendum is launched, is the replacement of the confederation of Canada by a new one, consisting of ROC and Quebec, linked through something similar to the European Union, itself a slow-motion nation-in-the-making event.

So the leader of the PQ expects to have a seat on the Bank of Canada (but no veto power over its decisions); to retain the Canadian dollar (rather than have a brand new Quebec currency that could be too vulnerable); to have relatively free cross-border access into and out of Quebec and ROC; to have full control of all events and all peoples within Quebec’s current borders, including over all economic matters, such as energy (pipelines crossing its territory on the way to the Maritimes; electricity grids doing the same; water in rivers etc.). Quebeckers might have dual citizenship (Canadian – or rather, ROC, and Quebec, although she is a little vague on this).

A lot of this smacks more of sovereignty-association rather than of independence, but Ms Marois prefers not to get into such minutiae. For the moment. First, get the majority; then launch the PR exercise known as the White Paper; then select the option she favours; then present it to the people in Quebec in some kind of single or multiple stage referendum(s).

And, of course, all decisions on the referenda would be resolved by 50% plus one vote (making a decision by a majority of Franchophones far more likely to reach such a low threshold, as the PQ well know). And, of course, Thomas Mulcair and his NDP have agreed with this 50% plus 1 vote decision, despite the Supreme Court of Canada disagreeing and requiring a substantial majority.

And, of course, despite the events that are taking place with the breakup of the Ukraine (Crimea hiving off under the attraction and direction of Russia), the PQ assume that everything will remain tranquil in the province of Quebec during these events. The territorial integrity of Quebec is assumed as a given.

The Ukraine is finding that once you start tinkering with major political changes, Pandora’s Box is opened, and nobody can control that box.

The Question for Thomas Mulcair and the NDP

Do Thomas Mulcair and the NDP agree with the basic assumption that no part of Quebec has any moral or legal right to hold their own referendum to see whether 50% plus 1 inhabitants of, say, lands now occupied by First Nations, might wish to declare their independence of the newly independent Quebec, and remain part of Canada, or become independent entities themselves?

The PQ’s prospects for a majority government have taken a sharp turn downwards, now that Ms Marois has opened Pandora’s Box. All bets are now off. She should have stuck to the setting of the PQ lobster trap, but perhaps this time the lobster trap of the PQ will not work ...

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