Agree or disagree with what Quebec does, nobody can deny they don’t pull out all the stops to defend their identity.
It has become common-place for people to criticize what seems to be the outsize power Quebec has in Canada.
A high proportion of Prime Minister’s have come from Quebec, and the equalization system results in an immense amount of money being shifted from Western Canada to Quebec.
Thus, a province like Alberta pays into equalization even amid brutal economic circumstances and massive budget deficits, while Quebec provides generous social programs, has recently cut taxes, and – until the virus crisis – had been reducing their budget deficit.
Often, a discussion of this unfairness focuses on how Quebec benefits, and casts this as something devious on the part of Quebec.
Yet, a more realistic assessment would be to ask why leaders in the rest of the country haven’t shown the same relentlessness in order to bend the system to their will for the benefit of those they govern?
Ironically, Quebec often succeeds because their governments are less hamstrung by an obsessive need to be politically correct, are willing to defend the values of their community, and listen to public opinion.
Consider the example of Bill 62, where the Quebec government sought to stop public workers from wearing full face coverings, and mandated that individuals receiving government services had to uncover their face.
The legislation was widely described as ‘discriminatory’ by much of the Canadian media, and many Liberal, NDP, and Conservative politicians criticized it.
It was also condemned by Premiers outside of Quebec, including Conservative premiers.
And yet, it had widespread support.
As a 2017 Ipsos poll showed, 76% of Quebec residents supported Bill 62.
Meanwhile, a majority of people in all other regions supported the idea of similar legislation:
- In British Columbia, 69% support (37% strongly/32% somewhat); 31% oppose (17% strongly/14% somewhat).
- In Alberta, 64% support (36% strongly/27% somewhat), 36% oppose (10% strongly/26% somewhat).
- In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 69% support (53% strongly/16% somewhat); 31% oppose (10% strongly/21% somewhat).
- In Ontario, 66% support (37% strongly/29% somewhat); 34% oppose (14% strongly/20% somewhat).
- In Atlantic Canada, 57% support (30% strongly/27% somewhat); 43% oppose (29% strongly/14% somewhat).
So, it could easily be said that the Quebec government was the only one willing to actually listen to public opinion.
It’s similar on immigration.
With surveys showing Canadians wary of increasing immigration levels under the Liberals, the only province to reduce immigration was Quebec, with a 20% cut in 2019.
Again, only the Quebec government is listening to public opinion on the issue, while everywhere else politicians – including ‘conservative’ politicians – ignore what people think.
And that brings us to Bill 96.
It’s a bill that pushes for changes to Canada’s Constitution and impose even stricter measures to prevent the decline of French in the province.
According to a report, these are some key measures of the legislation:
“Adding clauses to the Canadian Constitution, saying Quebec is a nation and that its official and common language is French.
Applying Bill 101 to businesses with 25-49 employees and federal workplaces.
Forcing all commercial signage that includes non-French-language trademarks to include a “predominant” amount of French on all sign.
Capping the number of students in English CEGEPs at 17.5 per cent of the student population.
Giving access to French language training for those who aren’t obligated by law to go to school in French.
Removing a municipality’s bilingual status if census data shows that English is the first language for less than 50 per cent of its population, unless the municipality decides to maintain its status by passing a resolution to keep it.
Creating a French Language Ministry and the position of French-language commissioner, as well as bolstering the role of the French-language watchdog, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF).
Provincially appointed judges will not be required to be bilingual.
Requiring that all provincial communication with immigrants is in French, starting six months after they arrive in Quebec.”
Now, much of this will be controversial.
But the issue isn’t even about whether we agree or disagree.
It’s noticing how Quebec clearly identifies their interests – preserving the French language – and then takes decisive steps to turn that into reality.
It is no coincidence that in this era of globalization – which seeks to subsume all identities into one – both Quebec and France are among the strongest in the Western world pushing back in defence of their identity and tradition.
What can be learned
Quebec has mastered a ruthless kind of politics, using the threat of the country breaking up to bring much of the country into submission, while resolutely defending their sense of identity in a country where top leaders like Justin Trudeau openly push for a ‘post-national-state.’
Criticizing Quebec for this would be counter-productive.
After all, isn’t it better for Quebec to push for their own interests rather than just give in to others?
Instead, other provinces should be learning from this approach.
In particularly, Alberta has a very strong and distinct identity, based upon limited government, individual freedom, and entrepreneurship.
Just as Quebec’s identity is under potential assault from globalization, Alberta’s identity (and economic future), is under assault from globalized forces like an environmentalist movement that has abandoned reasonable conservationism, and instead allows foreign-funded activists to set the narrative and try to destroy the energy sector – even as places like Saudi Arabia get a free pass.
Alberta has taken some steps in that direction – with the threat to cut off oil and gas to BC showing a willingness to play hardball.
Further steps, like the creation of a separate police force, separate pension plan, a demand for control over immigration, and a clear declaration that anti-energy sector legislation will lead to pipeline shutoffs and severe economic consequences, would enhance Alberta’s leverage.
Quebec has shown that in a country where ‘niceness’ has become weakness and submissiveness, power accrues to those who are willing to assert their will.
A dysfunctional nation
As you read this, you may be thinking “this sounds like a recipe for chaos, and it seems like Canada isn’t really a well-functioning place if provinces have to use threats to get their way.”
And you would be exactly right to think that.
This is obviously not the best option.
The best option would be a country in which every province was treated with respect, and where the federal government was willing to listen and promote core industries across the nation, rather than picking winners and losers while actively punishing the energy sector.
The best option would also be a country where we abandoned the disaster of ‘post-nationalism,’ and built a strong and cohesive Patriotic identity in this nation focused on Canada’s values and our history.
But that’s not happening.
The Trudeau government actively opposes it, and the Conservatives are often too scared to advocate for it.
So, that leaves the alternative of individual provinces recognizing that in the absence of a cohesive country, willpower and willingness to assert your interests is the only to get what you want.
In that regard, the rest of the country could learn a lot from Quebec.