I’ve spent a portion of last week in Vancouver and Victoria, where I met with clients and a few friends.
Being on the other side of Canada (the Pacific side) is always a pleasant experience. For anyone who has not visited British Columbia, especially Vancouver and Victoria, you’re really missing something.
As Canadians, we’re always reminded (ad nauseam) how distinct Quebec is, but never how distinct the other provinces are. I assure you that Quebec is not the only distinct region within Canada. Far from it.
This Thursday evening (August 5, 2004), I will be speaking to a group of individuals in Cornwall, Ontario over Chinese food. The topic will be Quebec, and the influence Quebec has had, does have, and will continue to have over the rest of Canada, well into the future.
Being several thousand miles away from any Quebec influence, as I was last week, sort of settles the mind, and helps one focus. In my case, it helped me reaffirm a belief I’ve been considering, even before permanently leaving Quebec for Ontario in the year 2,000.
Rene Levesque, Quebec’s first Separatist Premiere (1976) said: “Quebec should be as French as Ontario is English”.
Robert Bourassa, Quebec’s first outwardly nationalistic leader, believed Canada should be carved-up into 5 separate and semi-autonomous regions, governed somewhat like the emerging European Union.
Lucien Bouchard, who almost won a victory for the Separatists in 1995 stated: “Canada is not a real country”.
Then came Reed Scowen, a former prominent member of the Quebec Liberal Party, and financial consultant in private life, who came out with a best selling book about divorcing Quebec (Time To Say Goodbye) just after the close-call Quebec referendum in 1995.
Even with all of this, I still hung onto the belief of one indivisible Canada over all other options.
That is until I realized how different Canada really is from coast to coast.
Levesque, Bourassa, Bouchard (especially Bouchard), and Scowen were right. It took time, but they convinced me: Quebec has got to go.
But more than that however. I think it’s also time to say goodbye to the current concept of Canada. In spite of what the politicians would have us believe, it just isn’t working.
The United States of America is a huge melting-pot, where people immigrate to become Americans. And instead of celebrating their differences as we do in Canada, they use their “unique” individual heritages to add to the hegemony of the whole.
In Canada, we do just the opposite.
Here; we have different rules for different people and different regions.
In Quebec for example: it’s alright to legislate minority groups out of visible existence (Bill 101). But in the rest of Canada, minority groups are given an elevated status. Also in Quebec, it’s alright to restrict the Right of Mobility and the Right of Association in the work place (Quebec Construction Labor Laws). The Supreme Court of Canada said so. But in the rest of Canada, everyone has the right to work from one province to another.
In Western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan. Alberta and British Columbia), grain and wheat farmers are not allowed to sell their crops to anyone other than to the federal wheat board.
In Eastern Canada however (Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes); farmers can sell their wheat and grain to whomever they want, and at whatever price they want.
Even Canada’s much bragged about “national” healthcare policy is not really all that national, since Quebec will not cooperate with any of the other provinces in regards to pricing.
There is of course much more. But I need to save some of my thoughts for the supper meeting, or else no one will come.
The bottom line however, is actually quite simple:
DeConfederation is quite a workable concept. More workable than the model we are presently following. And if you don’t believe me: Just ask yourself which Party and government really represents you? Is it the government of your province? Or is it the government in Ottawa?
And look at how many people couldn’t care enough about the pathetic federal political system we have, to even show up at the polling stations to vote.
Then there is the 54 of 75 federal seats in Quebec that went to Separatists. And the choice of Separatist Jean Lapierre to be Paul Martin’s Quebec Lieutenant, and Paul Martin’s number 3 MP to be his replacement in the event Paul Martin can not continue as Prime Minister.
Seeing how happy, confident and forward-thinking the people were in Vancouver and Victoria sealed the deal for me. Even though they fly Canadian flags, they have virtually nothing in common with the rest of Canada. And they don’t pretend to.
For all intent and purposes, British Columbians are in their own way, just as distinct as Quebecers, and more apt to be more successful outside of Confederation than within it.
The same can be said about the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) and Ontario.
Quebec has so poisoned the dream of Confederation, that nothing will be able to save it in its original form. Reed Scowen was right. It really is time to say goodbye.