Sunday, June 20, 2010

Checking out the New PQ Program

What is a separatist party to do when enthusiasm for genuine independence is weak among the majority and strong among those who show up at the party meetings?  Invent some threats and then come up with a list of promises about nationalist issues when the province is actually facing much bigger challenges in terms of budget deficits, failing infrastructure, and over-stressed services.  So, what are the new promises?

Most importantly, Pauline Marois is resisting the extreme wing's desire to promise a referendum on independence as soon as possible (see this interview for old voice of Quebec self-destructive extremism: I love how Jacques Parizeau is so scornful of folks who stand for good govenment).  Why?  Because that might mean that the PQ does not get into office.  Quebeckers are pretty smart about the likelihood of a passing referendum--not very likely. And they are probably pretty aware of the costs of such a referendum: more provincial money wasted, more financial uncertainty, declining housing prices, and lots of wasted time.

  • To save face on nationalist issues, Marois is promising to extend the rules on education to wherever she can: to pre-school kids and to post-high-school.  The rules to be applied to day care would not be as strict, it seems, but the idea would be that the toddlers would need to be exposed to French if they go to Spanish or English or whatever daycare.  This might be less problematic and controversial than it originally sounded--that all daycares would have be French only for immigrants and Francophones.  
  • Expanding Bill 101 to CEGEPs is likely to be more controversial--that Francophones and immigrants could not go to English CEGEP's (the two year school between 11th grade and university that is free but underfunded).  Many Francophones seek out English education at this stage so that they can be competitive in world markets, given that their prior English education has not been so good.  
    • The PQ promises to adjust for this by allowing or compelling (hard to tell which) the French CEGEPS to teach a year of English courses and the English ones to do the reverse.  How is that supposed to work?  Importing heaps of teachers from school to another?  Seems expensive and not particularly well conceived. Quelle surprise.
  • Bill 101 would be extended to private schools so that Francophones and allophones (folks whose language is not English nor French) could not go to private English schools.  Not sure what this means for Anglophones.  It would appear that they would need to invoke the notwithstanding clause, given prior Canadian Supreme Court rulings, not that Marois cares about that.
This is all part of: "renewing Bill 101, the Charter of the French language, “to remedy the damage caused by several Supreme Court of Canada judgments.”"  Oops, got to hate it when individual rights get in the way of collective fears rights.  Of course, the PQ assures that it seeks “the preservation of the linguistic rights of the anglophone community.”  Yeah, sure.

What else:
  • "Quebec would ask Ottawa to transfer full powers to Quebec in immigration, the environment and health."
    • Immigration?  Quebec already controls immigration from beyond Canada, as part of a two stage process. Canada can only say no to those with health or criminal issues, and cannot say yes to those who want to immigrate into Quebec if Canada says no.  So, not clear what this means.
    • Health?  How much control do the Feds have on health?  Not clear again what new powers they are seeking.
    • Environment?  Quebec already has the power to impose its own gas taxes, to zone and to regulate, to subsidize to influence the economy.  It cannot control Alberta's oil sands pollution now, but would have less influence if all environmental regulation becomes provincial.
  • A PQ government would seek powers of water and rail transport, which now are federal, and would ask for control of Employment Insurance funds and business development.
    • Given how badly Quebec handles what it currently is responsible for, do we need more government?
As much frustration as I have had with the Liberal Party here, I guess I have been lucky that it has governed for all of my time in Quebec.  A PQ government with these kinds of stances?  Well, since they are a gang that cannot shoot straight, I am trying to figure out if they would do more damage to their friends or their adversaries once they are back in power.

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