Today, we bear witness to the passing of a pair of well-known entities from the Canadian political scene. First, we see the end in sight for the PARTI QUEBECOIS. Born in 1968 to Rene Levesque and friends, this separatist party has driven Quebec through two highly successful referendums, both of which failed to separate Quebec from Canada. The party was born out of nationalist and pro-labour sentiments, which have been key elements of the province’s political terrain since time immemorial (or at least since 1960). Sadly, the high ideals and lofty goals of the party were routinely shaken as time went on. As the party grew older, the nationalist bent grew stronger and she moved away from her labour centre to begin pandering to big business.
Of course, unlike the Liberals, the PQ, as they were popularly known, always behaved above board in their business transactions. They were completely and utterly incorruptible. Never did certain cabinet ministers in PQ governments give handouts to their friends and family like the Liberals did! Never did the PQ’s closest allies get rich from being so cozy with the government! Never did they stop the media from providing unbiased reports. Why, look at Premier Pauline Marois’ assertion of their integrity when the Charbonneau Commission started asking questions about them! But, politics being what it is, rumours did, of course, abound with regards shady dealings. Leaders were called hypocrites when they were no longer hard working people but wealthy elites, and the party suffered as they passed down from Parizeau to Bouchard to Landry and, finally, to Pauline Marois. Far more heartbreaking than their shift from left to right, the PQ have been painted as racist bigots. Anti-Anglophone, anti-Allophone, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and so on. Such a shame they were painted as such, for nothing could be further from the truth. They didn’t want the English language to disappear, they simply didn’t want anyone to learn English who originally spoke French! It’s not like the UN ever declared such linguistic policies unjust. No, the laws and the language police were merely in force to encourage everyone to speak French all the time, so that English would gradually be abandoned or forgotten.
When Marois said that the English in the West Island should drown, she didn’t mean it literally. She just meant that the English language should be allowed to drown in Quebec, just as the French language was drowning in North America. All good, loyal members of the PQ know that French does not exist outside of Quebec. Not in New Brunswick, or Nova Scotia, or PEI, or Ontario, or Manitoba, or anywhere else. Quebec is the last bastion of French in a sea of English! Yet people will only read what they will, and this is not even the worst interpretation! It was assumed that the PQ wanted to destroy Canada, implied by statements such as those of Pierrre Karl Paledeau and Marois herself, but they were merely looking after Quebec’s interests! After all, Canada would still be there, there would still be the Canadian dollar and the Canadian army and, of course, transfer payments would continue! Quebec might be its own country, but Canada would still be whole. Quebec would just have a different status. Language and Independence were what drove the PQ in her early years but, as time wore on, people cared less and less for these oh so imperative issues.
For some reason Quebecers would rather talk about health care, the economy, infrastructure, and education instead of language and independence. But the PQ, always so noble on its course, did not acknowledge the will of the people. Instead it interpreted this drop in enthusiasm as sabotage from some kind of OTHER, but who? Parizeau made the claim “money and the ethnic vote” and, of course, that would be it. What was the PQ to do? Well, get rid of the ethnics and make them all as white and Christian as possible. After all, it’s not like the Catholic Church ever did anything wrong to Quebec, like be oppressive, abusive, or corrupt! Sadly, the newer members of the PQ forgot that their party’s father, René Lévesque, had helped lead the charge to counter the Church’s power in the province. Despite its fanaticism for sovereignty, language and culture, the PQ pressed on her tireless course, her support gradually draining away either back to the traditional Liberals or to newer socialist or coalition parties. After the lowest support base for a PQ government ever, in the 2014 electoral race, the party began to show signs of its fatigue. Support fled to the other parties and the PQ leader – poor, poor Pauline Marois – lost her own seat, while her party won the fewest seats it has won since first forming government back in 1976.
Thankfully for the PQ supporters, Pauline Marois was not able to finish carrying out her budget cuts to healthcare and so the PQ may remain on life support until the next election. Alas, only time will tell if the patient is still kicking when it gets to the coroner. We will be watching, and the next few months should prove very telling.