Monday, May 14, 2007

Strange Days for Sovereignty

I just watched Gilles Duceppe's press conference regarding his clownish Texas 2-step in and out of the PQ leadership race. He called his decision to enter the race "a mistake". Most of what he said was pretty lame, the expected fallout from his embarassing decision. But he also made a curious comment about agreeing with Pauline Marois that separatist politicians in Quebec must make an effort to "reposition sovereignty".

None of the follow-up questions addressed this interesting turn of phrase. I must confess, it left me a little puzzled. How does one go about "repositioning" sovereignty? What does that mean exactly? It seems to me that the idea of Quebec separation is fundamentally a yes/no proposition. There is little doubt that support for the concept of outright separation has slipped recently. A CROP poll on the subject in January 2006 showed that 58% of Quebecers would vote to keep Quebec in Canada. The writing was on the wall heading into the most recent Quebec provincial elections, in which the PQ suffered humiliating losses.

The major beneficiary in those elections was Mario Dumont, a man who by all appearances has already successfully cornered the market on "repositioning" sovereignty. Oh but wait. Dumont isn't a "sovereigntist", he's an "autonomist". As far as I can tell, this makes him a little more sovereigntist than a Quebec Liberal, and a little less sovereigntist than a PQiste. He exists happily in the mushy middle ground. Dumont has thus already cast his autonomist reel into the sea. Eager for Quebec votes, the vacuous Stephen Harper has greedily taken the bait, turning his back on his Western base and Reform roots, and he now appears willing to follow Dumont into uncharted decentralist waters. If the latest election results are to be believed, Quebecers are also buying into the ADQ and their message - whatever that may be.

So where does all this leave Pauline Marois, Gilles Duceppe and the other sovereigntists? Marois has already stated that she intends to shelf plans for another referendum, should she win the upcoming PQ coronation/nomination.

"A political party that does not appear to be necessary (for the people), condemns itself to being marginal and could even condemn itself to disappearing," Ms. Marois said in her speech.
Duceppe meanwhile seems to have the support of his caucus to return as leader of the Bloc. Does anyone care? The BQ is as irrelevant as it has ever been, its major fuction at the present time being to prop up the rudderless Harper government.

I must confess I have never understood the sovereignty movement. Perceived disenfranchisement of French Quebecers notwithstanding, no one has ever convinced me that there are logical reasons to go through the effort of dividing a nation that exists in relative peace. I was an admirer of Pierre Trudeau's Quebec policy - namely that all Canadians should consider themselves equal (or equally distinct). In today's political climate, that makes me a constitutional dinosaur (and at age 33 no less). Still, I can't help but wonder if the sovereigntists in Quebec are starting to tire of their own rhetoric. It's hard to exist on rhetoric alone. Just ask our Prime Minister.

1 comment:

Red Tory said...

"Re-positioning" as in "put it on the back-burner for the indefinite future" I think is what it means.