Friday, February 19, 2010

Bouchard fallout

A bit of a survey here of the fallout from Lucien Bouchard's earthquake of a message earlier this week, that sovereignty is unattainable for the foreseeable future and that it should be set aside in favour of more concrete goals to build Quebec.

Pauline Marois gave a speech, predictably affirming the PQ's commitment to the cause:
“Our party's project for Quebec is to give ourselves a country for fundamental reasons that have to do with our identity, our culture and who we are as francophones in North America,” Ms. Marois said at a business luncheon on Thursday. “Those of you here who are entrepreneurs and business leaders ... I'm sure you will one day want this region to take its place in an independent Quebec.”
The editor of Le Devoir seems wistful, framing Bouchard's remarks as something to be grappled with. He seems to cling to the notion that sovereignty is attainable, "who knows" if winning conditions might not present themselves again, he writes, separatism has been written off before. The notion of relegating sovereignty to the back burner is very consequential to him, it's been such a force underlying many Quebecers' political commitment, its absence something to contemplate. A very philosophical yet somewhat stubborn response to Bouchard.

Bernard Drainville, a PQ MNA with leadership aspirations, wrote a letter to Bouchard in Le Devoir, respectfully disagreeing and citing independence as the very reason he entered Quebec politics. He gives three main reasons for the pursuit of sovereignty: Canada's environmental policy and the need to have control over both EI and immigration policy. Not really insurmountable issues, they could be addressed.

Chantal Hebert writes that support for sovereignty has been stagnant and refers to a poll:
Support for sovereignty ebbed back to pre-Meech levels – around the 40 per cent mark – while he was still premier and in 15 years there has never been enough momentum for a winning referendum for the Yes side.

Even if Bouchard had not rained on the upcoming anniversary parade, it would have taken more than a double-barrelled commemoration of federalist and sovereignist failures to send Quebecers back to the referendum barricades. A poll published Thursday showed two-thirds of respondents agreed with Bouchard's call to put sovereignty on the back burner indefinitely and more than half did not believe the province would ever secede from Canada.
So, some predictable clinging to the mantle by PQ stalwarts. Some feeling of regret from the intelligentsia. Some rationality in the form of polls indicating that Bouchard is correct, a large majority do want to put the issue on the back burner.

Additionally, Michael Ignatieff has weighed in with a letter to Quebecers, reaching out and addressing the moment. Speaking up for the federalist option to Quebecers, nothing to be shied away from. As a bonus, Ignatieff's letter, coincidentally, happens to be responsive to some of Bernard Drainville's rationales for sovereignty, as outlined above.

The Prime Minister, however, seems to be MIA on the occasion of Bouchard's significant statement about the future of the sovereignty movement in Quebec. Not exactly what you want in a federal leader on such issues.