Thursday, November 23, 2006

My head hurts

I’ve been reading coverage, commentary and primary sources for much of the evening now and I keep going back and forth on whether or not I agree with Harper’s motion today.

First, let’s compare the motions. Here’s the original BQ motion:

Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation.

And here’s the Harper motion, at least in part, from the Star:

That this House recognize that the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada. . .

Compounding my headache, there’s also the issue of Quebec vs. Quebecois. Some media have been reporting Harper as saying Quebec, but really he actually said Quebecois. The difference? Quebec/Quebecers is a political distinction/entity meaning citizens of and the province of Quebec. Quebecois, as I understand it, refers more specifically to francophone residents of Quebec. So, a sociological group rather than a political group. Oww, my head. An important distinction.

Now, originally I had read the BQ’s motion translated into English as Quebecers, rather than Quebecois. That makes the difference between the BQ motion and Harper’s motion appear bigger, and the Harper motion more attractive. At this point, I’m tempted to go with Harper’s motion, as it brings it clearly from the political sense to the sociological sense.

But reading the BQ motion in the original French it seems to me (an admitedly unilingual anglo) that it would be more appropriate to translate it as Quebecois. So, then, did the BQ intend it in the sociological or the political sense? Are the two motions really that different after all? If Quebecois is correct, then the only difference between the two is Harper tacked on a “within a united Canada.” That’s a great patriotic, feel good addition. But does it really change anything in the long run, strategically?

I don’t think so. Now my head is hurting even more, and I’m thinking Gilles Duceppe is playing a slightly slier game then I’d originally thought. If I was him while I’d bluster for the cameras I’d ignore that united Canada bit. The key thing for me (Gilles) is the recognition that the Quebecois form a nation.

Because I know I just emphasized the difference between sociological and political but after all we’re talking politics, not polysci. Whichever way the BQ intended it, their goal is accomplished. The Quebecois, and the Quebecois alone, have been recognized as a nation within Canada. We'll work out the details later.

The separatists have thrived on exploiting differences in words and terms like these to raise expectations in Quebec that will be dashed, fueling Quebecois anger and therefore support for separatism since the federal system just isn’t working.

So, we say we’re recognizing the Quebecois as a nation but only sociologically, don’t forget, and only within a united Canada.

OK, people in Quebec will now be asking, what does that mean? They’re not going to be satisfied with a mere recognition. They’re going to want something tangible. Does it go in the constitution, or does it confer new powers? The recognition, no matter how much we insist it is purely in the sociological sense, doesn’t meet expectations. It raises them. And if we don’t meet them, along comes the BQ and PQ saying See, we told you they don’t love us! And Gilles is smiling like a chesire cat, because we’ve played into his hands.

If we could keep this purely in the sociological sense I’d be cool with it. Because yes, I think in the purely sociological sense, as long as no special powers are conferred, of course the Quebecois are a sociological nation. But angels can’t dance on pinheads, and we can’t keep that genie in a bottle. And even if we could, I’d still have to ask, why are we singling-out the Quebecois Nation for special recognition? Why aren’t we also recognizing hundreds of First Nations, the Acadian Nation, the Newfoundland Nation, and so on? Are they less worthy of this purely symbolic, doesn’t infer any special powers recognition?

Yes, my head still hurts. So, I’ve decided I don’t like either motion, as they will both prove equally destructive. Ideally, we wouldn’t even be here. Ignatieff says we should thank him for bringing us here, I preferred last week when he was saying this was a grassroots thing he had nothing to do with. If he sticks with this new story he’s dropped lower than Joe Volpe on my candidate rankings. Well, maybe a tie with Volpe.

However, we are here, and we can’t wish it away. So, do we vote yes, even knowing the can of worms it will open and recognizing we’re playing into the BQ’s hands? Or do we vote no, knowing at this point the genie probably can’t be put back in the bottle anyway, and the distinction we’re making may not be widely appreciated? It’s a difficult question. Dammed headache.

Again, we’re letting the separatists outmaneuver us and dictate the terms of the debate, and that pisses me off. But, yes or no? I’ve literally been sitting here going back and forth in my head for half an hour now on that. As I see it, the choice is:

=Vote yes, and fight an aggressive but uphill battle to make it clear this is purely sociological and symbolic conferring no powers, and that we love all the other nations equally as well, giving the separatists the stick I mentioned earlier to beat us with, or

=Vote no, and say while we think the Quebecois people constitute a nation that’s not what this motion is about, this motion is about advancing the separatist agenda in stealth/trying to appease it, you’re not going to trick me into playing that game, I call BS

I have really been going back and forth but I have to say vote no. Despite his bluster this is still the motion the BQ wants, and we shouldn’t give it to them. Don’t play by their rules. Don’t let them define the agenda. Fight the good fight. Fight the fights that need fighting.

I vote no.

P.S. Yes, I know the Star is reporting that Stephane Dion is backing the Harper motion. I want to hear more from him on his reasoning. But at this point, I’m pretty disappointed. I think Warren’s list explains well why. What happen to the mashed potatoes?

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Gauntlet said...

"They’re not going to be satisfied with a mere recognition. They’re going to want something tangible."

Recognition is more important than anything you would usually think of as tangible. The Separatists are going to want more, because they know they're not going to get it. That's their game. The Quebecois, however, if this is a sign of real recognition and not just a facade, will get something better than tangible. They'll get something self-affirming. And the Separatists will lose the only good argument they've ever had.

Anonymous said...

My current interpretation -- and I agree with you that this whole thing appears to be like one of those russian nesting dolls, but with flatulence attached -- is that Duceppe is a mild winner because the genie is out of the box. Harpor is making a political risk that he anticipates (and I anticipate) will return exactly what he wants -- short term gain in popularity. In the next few months he will be carrying this 'I recognize Quebecers as a nation' mantle and it won't hurt heading into the polls in Trois Rivieres and the eastern townships. Meanwhile, the possible sideline of handing a 'get foot out of mouth free' card to Ignatieff now puts the front back in the front-runner. Now I'm really worried. We know Harpor's federalist dream is to eliminate federal authority and jurisdictions ad hoc, which the Bloc and Quebec provincialists will love. And you are right -- maybe it isn't satiating the Quebec populace with this 'nation' thing, but its the next group, who won't be satisfied with some Wizard of Oz genuflection -- cut me to the quick!
Oh, the interpretations will be many, as noticed by Coyne's distaste for this yet Oliver's gushy salute. Right now we may have dodged a bullet, but now we don't have the gun, either... Maybe I will have to talk with the Anybody But--- dudes, after all.

Anonymous said...

This can of worms has been slowly opening up with a can opener for a long, long time now. Kinsella says he's old and been there before. Well, I'm older - and the hole is still not filled. It will always be there until dealt with. The constant blackmail and threats are not going away.

I think too much credit is given to Trudeau - he left it incomplete. He didn't originate the words "just society" either, but everyone gives him credit for that.

I worked with a woman who had been the secretary of Prime Minister of Jamaica (this was in the early 70's). She helped Manley write his book. Manley and Trudeau had gone to the same "socialistic" school of thought (they were very good friends) and Manley used the same words and vision and thinking such as the words "just society" as well. This was not originally a Trudeau thought or vision.

This issue is a constant neverending headache and it would be nice to see it settle once and for all.

To ignore it would be to end up like 1995 all over again - do we want that?


Lolly said...

Sir John A. did not want to make any decisions regarding Quebec and simply stated that the Canadians of the future could deal with it ( bring them into the Constitution ) because it gave him a headache, as he saluted the country with another bottle of whiskey.