Have you ever heard of the Clarity Act? How about Bill 99?
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, after the PQ’s devious attempts to trick Quebecers with confusing referendum questions in both of it’s failed attempts to separate Quebec from Canada, the Chrétien Government passed the Clarity Act, which basically says two important things: 1) that any future referendum question must be clear (ex: “Do you want Quebec to separate from Canada?” and 2) that the margin of victory must be clear (in other words, 50 per cent plus one vote is not sufficient).
In the late 90s, the Bouchard-led PQ passed Bill 99 in Quebec, which basically said “yeah, we don’t really care what Ottawa says, we’ll make the rules and that’ll be that.”
This isn’t to say the Bouchard was right or wrong in this case. I believe there’s a legitimate debate to be had over who gets to set the rules. Personally, I feel that the clarity of the question is a must, but that the margin of victory is also debatable. Chrétien must have felt the same way because the Clarity Act didn’t actually set a proper margin of victory – it just said the majority must be clear.
Where I have an issue is that the Quebec Liberals have always positioned themselves as the great defenders of federalism and the anglophone community in Quebec, yet they supported the PQ’s anti-clarity law through four years in opposition, nine years in government, and now voted again to support the PQ this week:
From the Gazette (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/National+Assembly+unanimously+adopts+motion+condemning/9073857/story.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3a+canwest%2fF297+(The+Gazette+-+News)):
All parties in the Quebec National Assembly have unanimously adopted a motion condemning the “intrusion of the government of Canada into Quebec democracy” by seeking to invalidate Bill 99, a law adopted by the Quebec assembly in 2000, stating a referendum on sovereignty would be decided by 50-per-cent-plus-one vote.
Now, I understand the PLQ’s strategy here and frankly, it’s not unintelligent: just like the CAQ did on Bill 14, the Liberals must at least appear to be defending Quebec’s interests, whether they actually believe in the law or not.
What bothers me is that the CAQ was lambasted in the anglophone and federalist communities for not going on the offensive against Bill 14, yet when the Liberals play the same cards, they are still supported. Even on this unanimous, François Legault will surely be painted as a wolf in sheep’s clothing while Philippe Couillard will get a free pass.
Simply put, our community has been brainwashed into supporting the Liberals no matter what – even if they clearly do not return the favour. Remember, the Liberals are the party that used the Notwithstanding Clause to prop up the undefendable portions of Bill 101.
All this to say two things: The PQ will always play the Quebec vs Canada card and as long as the Liberals are unchallenged in the federalist community, they’ll never go to bat for us with any sort of vigor; and secondly, I can’t understand why we’re still allowing these debates to dominate our lives when our economy is tanking and our schools are failing.
It’s time to move from Quebec past the yes/no debate of the last 40 years and start talking left/right, about the economy, and about moving into the future rather than battling dinosaurs.