The grandfather of modern separatism asserts:
“No country is too small to prosper and to enjoy an acceptable growth rate as long as two conditions are met,” Mr. Parizeau maintains in his book. “It must have access to a large market and its businesses must be competitive.”The funny thing about this statement is that it hides the contradictions within Quebec nationalism so very nicely. Sure, access to large markets and competitive business sound great. And I had a conversation Friday with a European diplomat who is involved in negotiations between Canada and the European Union over freer trade. He said that Quebec was very much in favor of this, even though Quebec has been very protective of its industries, to the point of requiring for much time that margarine be white to protect the Quebec dairy industry. So, I asked the diplomat about this, and we both realized that somebody somewhere was not thinking about how Quebec could continue its habits of protecting various industries (train manufacturers come to mind) when the new agreement would require genuine competition.
So, Parizeau is saying that it wants to be part of a large market (NAFTA and EU) but is not saying what that would mean for Quebec's policies. He is saying that business must be competitive, despite the tradition of protecting companies from competition. Moreover, the deliberate effort to restrict Quebeckers from learning English might not help access nor competition. Oops.
He also says that Quebec would use the Canadian dollar. Hmmm. Would an independent Quebec need Canada's cooperation there? Does Parizeau want Quebec to be Greece to Canada's Germany?
“Quebec independence is not a miracle cure; it will not automatically make Quebeckers more intelligent,” he said. “But it won’t make them dumber either."Perhaps not. But a referendum would not be a smart choice--the costs in the past have been clear. The outcome is unlikely to be favorable for the "sovereigntists." So, it would be lots of churn for little payoff. But it would sell more of Parizeau's books, give him more TV time and more opportunity to blame the Jews and other ethnic folks for the failures of the sovereigntists to convince a majority of Quebeckers that an independent Quebec is worth the effort.
The real challenge for sovereigntists is that Quebec nationalists have won pretty much everything that they needed to win. Bill 101 and all the rest have ensured that French dominates English in Quebec. The money flows from Canada to Quebec. Quebec has heaps of political power in Ottawa--we only seem to get a majority party into power if a Quebecker is at the head of the Liberals and often not even then. So, yes, there are cultural differences and some political differences but not so much that a costly divorce would be the smart choice. And given the polls on separation, more than half of Quebeckers see that pretty clearly.