‘Gradual de-Canadianization’ means Quebec has pretty much already separated
Published Wednesday, March 5, 2014 7:31PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 1:02PM EST
Quebecers will head to the polls in five short weeks as Premier Pauline Marois dissolved the National Assembly this morning. If the PQ win a majority it may mean another referendum and change the face of Canada, but in many ways formally separating doesn’t really matter. Quebec is already a distinct place and has many of its own laws with limited input from the federal level of government.
Daniel Weinstock, a professor in the faculty of law with McGill, refers to it as the “gradual de-Canadianization of Quebec.”
“Quebec has carved out a wide range of policy space,” he says to Kevin Newman Live. “And much of that exists because sovereigntists have pushed for it.” In that way they may be a victim of their own success.
Since Quebecers voted not to separate 19 years ago, politicians of la belle province have made a number of under-the-table agreements and have opted out of a laws (for example, just yesterday it was announced Quebec is allowed to opt out of the Canada Jobs Grant) allowing Quebecers to live in a very different place than those in Ontario or Manitoba or any other province or territory. Weinstock also brings up the example of assisted suicide saying euthanasia was talked about in Quebec completely differently than it was talked about in the rest of Canada.
Weinstock says when he was growing up, Quebecers wanted to separate because of historical injustices, but now that’s irrelevant. “We now have everything we need, we don’t need to consult the federal government.”
He now says Quebecers see sovereignty as a means to an end. Canada was founded by two nations – two equal founding people – and now it’s more about 10 equal provinces, where Quebec plays a much smaller role. Succession is now a way to renegotiate with the rest of Canada.
A poll from a couple months ago shows about a third of people would vote for Quebec sovereignty and about half would vote against it. Those certainly aren’t the numbers Marois needs to call a referendum. But this may be the last kick at the can for those hoping to separate. If the Liberals win, even a minority, they may lead for five to 10 years.
“Think of how many immigrants will move into the province,” says Weinstock. Non-Quebecers traditionally don’t support separation. “At that point it will be an impossible proposition.”
But Weinstock says actually separating doesn’t matter. “Quebec is a different place, a distinct people,” he says. If a referendum were called he believes a lot of people would respond by asking why there is a need to take the final step when the province already has almost everything it wants. Which may be a good thing, because Weinstock doesn't think there will be the same kind of "love-in" we saw with the other provinces in 1995.
He says when people around him such as students or incoming faculty move to Montreal they are shocked because it seems like a separate country.
While many outside of Quebec see separatism as the main issue voters will be thinking about in five weeks are the economy and health care, says Patrick White, managing editor of Le Huffington Post Quebec. He says Quebecers are just like most Canadians in that respect.
A Leger Marketing poll of 1.500 Quebecers found Marois has 37 per cent of the support to the 35 per cent of support for the federalist provincial Liberal party of Philippe Couillard. But a lot can change in five weeks.