Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fear and the future of the Canadian marriage

Tight housing markets can carry marriages through rocky patches. While not as attractive as patriotism, fear has helped mightily hold Canada’s federation together ever since its inception. Forum Poll’s survey for the National Post on Quebec and Canadian expectations about an independent Quebec are not flattering, but they’re relevant. The lay of the land that Form reports will influence the uniters and dividers.

Rory Barrs' concluding paragraphs are probably the most important:

“If Quebec did separate from Canada, a large majority (81%) believes the rest of the country would get along just fine, while only 12% do not. As for Quebec’s fate, 65% of respondents think it could not survive as an independent country, while 23% believe it could.

“Quebecers were much more optimistic, with 40% saying the province is self-sustainable.”

In other words, a cocky majority of Canadians don’t fear losing Quebec, while only a plurality of Quebecers will say that they believe they can function on their own, as a sovereign nation in North America.

From the heady days of the Quiet Revolution in the 60s, much has changed: aimless, inarticulate English-speaking now will carry on, while Quebec—after tossing off over two centuries of Anglo dominion—will fail.

These expectations are shallow. Canada wouldn’t include Quebec, but it would hardly head off on its own. Quebec would no more strive to be “self-sustainable” than its affluent neighbors on this continent and in Europe. These expectations, however, will shape the start of the debate, if not the outcome.

For traditional federalists like Stephen Harper and, for instance, the leadership of the Liberal Party, these numbers are reassuring: they needn’t get too excited about the demands of the Parti Quebecois Government and they needn’t compromise substantively either. Essentially, Canadians don’t feel that much is at risk, whether Quebec bluffs or not.

For the Government of Quebec and its independence movement, these numbers suggest they go back to Réne Lévesque and Sovereignty-Association.

Rather than making a series of micro-management demands for more powers for Quebec’s bureaucracy, they should get back to the expansive, confident vision of their founding proposition: the idea that little as well as giant nation-states can prosper in close association with others.

I prefer full-blown federation. But the alternative on this continent for Quebec and the rest of Canada is essentially the same—self-government in economic, cultural, and strategic association with the United States.

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