AngryFrenchGuy

On Québec’s Independence and Belgian Mathematics

with 47 comments

The separatist threat is over.

This is the new conventional wisdom in Canada. Québec’s independence? Old news. Problem dealt with. Taken care of.

In the Globe and Mail Lawrence Martin writes a one paragraph obituary of what was only a brief episode in Canada’s glorious history:

“In Quebec, a corner has been turned. Separatism? It’s old, it’s boring, the debates as shallow as a birdbath. Decades of referendums, constitutional battles, separatist threats drained the national spirit. They curbed foreign investment, preoccupied the federal government, sidelined other national priorities. Not so now.”

The latest polls show that support for independence is at it’s lowest in decades. Only 36% of the Québécois would vote for sovereignty according to an April 2008 poll by CROP. Léger Marketing counts 42% (google English).

Insignificant, apparently.

Well… you know what they say about numbers and what we can make them say.

Take Belgium, for example.

Now, French-speakers in Belgium have always had a slightly odd way of counting, different from the way other French-speakers count. Ninety and Seventy, for example, are in French Quatre-vingt-dix and Soixante-dix, but not in Belgium. Over there they say Nonante and Septante.

Apparently the perception of numbers is also different in Belgium. In Canada when 42% of the Québécois support the secession of Québec it means the movement is moribund and agonizing. In Belgium, when 49% of the Flemish say they support the independence of Flanders, the country is thrown into the worst political crisis of it’s history.

Yet, if you take a standard 5% margin of error, there could mathematically be more separatists in québec than Flanders right now…

Of course, the situations in Québec and Flanders are very different.

Over there, the crisis is the result of Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s failure to reform the country in a way that would give Flanders more autonomy whereas in Québec, Trudeau’s constitutional reforms and Mulroney’s Meech Lake accord have… left Québec pretty much in the same situation where it was when the “troubles” started 40 years ago.

In the very heated context of a political crisis that has been going on for years and the very fresh rejection of Flemish autonomy by the French-speaking Wallons, half of Flanders wants out of the kingdom of Belgium.

In a still favourable economic climate, with a governement that panders to the nationalists and after four decades of “referendums, constitutional battles, separatist threats” that have “drained the national spirit”, “curbed foreign investment” and “sidelined other national priorities”, between one third and one half of the Québécois STILL want independence from Canada.

Insignificant, I’m sure.

There is no way those numbers could go back up again, right? French-speaking Montrealers are feeling very secure linguistically right now, aren’t they? And there is no way the 55 000 new immigrants the Québec governement wants to recruit every year will have any effect on the demographic balance on the city either. Of course not.

And as the people of Québec watch their manufacturing sector collapse in the wake of the American economic meltdown, they will surely find comfort in the fact that they can always flee Québec and it’s horrible language laws for the riches and linguistic freedom of Alberta.

How could any of this ever flare up into a rise of support for Québec’s independence?

Thank God for Canadian Math.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

July 27, 2008 at 7:07 pm

47 Responses

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  1. “Well, the BQ for one (arent they a separatist group)…They have a significant vote in parliament which Gilles has used to Quebec’s advantage. The other issues, buying votes by Harper and Co. — of course if Quebec had more of a conscience they wouldnt allow themselves to be bought as Acajack has suggested.”

    I see ABP’s understanding of parliamentary democracy is as refined as his comprehension of the Official Languages Act.

    Except for the last few years minority governements were rare in Canada. The Blocs votes, in those parliaments, were not necessary for the government to pass any legislation they wanted.

    An as for buying votes in Québec, it absolutely did happen, and nobody, certainly not anyone in Western Canada, has done as as much as the Bloc to expose the practice and end it.

    As he has done since he first appeared on this forum, ABP is blaming the cop for the crime.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 4, 2008 at 6:07 pm

  2. “I see ABP’s understanding of parliamentary democracy is as refined as his comprehension of the Official Languages Act.”

    Hmm, really one has to understand it was brought in appease a minority (that is the french minority which is increasingly becoming a minority in the ROC) and has cost Canada untold hundreds of billions of dollars …the OLA that is. On parliamentry procedure, if the Bloc didnt matter then why were they even there…You would have been better to to elect liberals or conservatives (closet separatists) to further your agenda. Doesnt really matter, anyways, the liberals (Chretein, Martin, etc etc etc) and of late the Conservatives are more than well looking after the interests of the welfare nation within Canada.

    Buying votes…yes, I agree, they did….but then again if someone’s morals and convictions can be bought for hand full of coins what does that say about their values and character?

    Who is accepting the bribe from the cops.

    ABP

    ABP

    August 4, 2008 at 7:12 pm

  3. The idea that part or all of Canada might join the USA if Québec went its own way was put into my head by my roommate in college (university), who was from Alberta, and whom I will call Garth. Garth seemed to hope that Alberta would eventually become an American state. I myself hope that never happens.

    Garth was extraordinarily–er–conscious of (all right, he had it in for) the “French,” as he called Francophones. And there was just a handful of Francos in the town where he grew up. I found Garth’s Francophobia somewhat hard to fathom, but I sensed that it was a large part of his anglo Canadian “identity” (Garth was in fact of German descent), and most of what I have heard or read on the subject since then (including this blog) reinforces this. I thought then, and think now, that if you took away the ill will toward the Francos, Garth was just another kid from a cold part of the American Midwest who happened to say “zed” instead of “zee.”

    littlerob

    August 4, 2008 at 7:43 pm

  4. Hundreds of billions in costs because of the Official Languages Act? Wow. Let’s see some stats on that one, please.

    Can I ask the federalists (unionists?) why it is so important to them to show that Quebec is not as rich as Ontario? My suspicion– please set me straight if I am wrong– is that it is an attempt to prove that Quebec’s “welfare state” has produced the gap.

    Personally, I don’t see that the distinction between Quebec’s redistributive programs and Ontario’s is all that sharp, in terms of dollars and cents. Subsidized tuition at UQ and cheap Quebec daycare are pretty poor examples of wasteful government largesse, by the way: if you believe that government’s role is promote equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome, you should applaud the use of tax money to build educational infrastructure (globally speaking, brains are the only commodity that produces wealth in the long term) and promotes participation in the labor force (surely less money is lost in subsidizing daycare than is gained by increasing the number of women in the workforce). Unless you are one of those people who think all taxes are necessarily bad, in which case how could you stand Canada at all– or anywhere on earth really?

    And looking at the bigger picture, are we really sure that Ontario’s success is not due in large part to historical forces over which the federal or provincial government had only marginal influence? Could it not be that Montreal’s decline and the flight of capital had to do principally with the end of its importance as a seaport, and that Toronto’s (relative) rise had a lot to do with midcentury expansion in the manufacturing sector bleeding over from the once-huge industrial complex at Detroit?

    Yes, there were other things going on, but these are huge tectonic shifts that should be difficult to dismiss. You might argue that Montreal (and thus Quebec) could have managed the decline of its principal industry better; on the other hand, I could argue that Montreal has done a hell of a lot better than other cities/areas in the region (anywhere in upstate New York) or with the same industrial shift (Baltimore was once one of the richest cities on the continent). And, as those examples might imply, glory can be fleeting; Toronto may be coming to realize this, though Calgary is still in the invincible arrogance of relative youth…

    But ultimately, how would a resolution of this argument (assuming for the moment that such a thing could be brought to a simple conclusion) tell you anything about Quebec independence? Quebec’s poorer than Ontario. Well, Canada’s poorer than the US. So?

    One last question, this time to the independentistes. Why are you so married to the Canadian currency? Yeah, it’s pretty, and calling the $2 coin a “twonie” is brilliant, but is Canada as it is today constituted really an optimal currency area? For example, if you assume that today’s oil prices are here to stay, it might be reasonable to conclude that Canada’s dollar would command a higher value vs other world currencies due to Albertan oil exports than would otherwise be the case. The downside of this is the “Dutch disease”: a hollowing-out of other industries because manufacturing and service provision become uneconomic on the export stage. Know anyone who drives a Saudi car?

    well-wisher

    August 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  5. “Who is accepting the bribe from the cops.”

    That didnt come off right. Should be…the cops are accepting the bribes as usual.

    ABP

    ABP

    August 4, 2008 at 8:52 pm

  6. “Hundreds of billions in costs because of the Official Languages Act? Wow. Let’s see some stats on that one, please.”

    Consider this…the OLA provided french (and english for Francos to a lesser extent) training whereby a federal civil servant would be put in french language training for up to a year, at full salary and a replacement worker provided (Yes, paying for the training and two salaries…very expensive) The cost of translation of every document into two languages and publication of same. The enviromentalists should challenge this. As well as the cost of packaging which is likely a small cost. Also that associated with “immersion” programs and the costs associated with that to provincial governments.

    Some reference information as to cost:

    http://www.languagefairness.org/Cost.php

    Here is what the current Prime Minister…Stephen Harper had to say about the state of bilingualism in Canada. (few years ago when he was President of the National Citizens Coalition).

    “As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity, and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions.”

    “Make no mistake. Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it is less bilingual today than it has ever been.”

    -Stephen Harper

    Hmm..the current prime minister of Canada. He might be an authority on the subject, well maybe not!

    A franco perspective for you WW.

    “Unilingual Anglophones will be sentenced to a lifetime of job immobility” – Pierre Trudeau ”

    Another Canadian prime minister and the one who hatched the OLA…I guess he might have had an agenda in mind??
    Hmm, what does this say. Does this ring of discrimination by some chance.

    “Could it not be that Montreal’s decline and the flight of capital had to do principally with the end of its importance as a seaport”

    More likely the 1995 referendum I would think. Not the seaport which is still functioning and from what I can tell doing ok.

    “Personally, I don’t see that the distinction between Quebec’s redistributive programs”
    “Subsidized tuition at UQ and cheap Quebec daycare are pretty poor examples of wasteful government largesse,”

    No problem WW…as long as you pay for them yourself. You obviously have not read what I have been saying. Quebec is on welfare, the ROC pays for a great deal for these programs, that the other provinces can’t afford themselves. Whats wrong with this picture??

    “You might argue that Montreal (and thus Quebec) could have managed the decline of its principal industry better; on the other hand, I could argue that Montreal has done a hell of a lot better than other cities/areas in the region (anywhere in upstate New York)”

    Are the other states giving them billions of dollars in subsidies a year. If so, maybe they would have done better as you indicate for Montreal and Quebec.

    Your last question is for others as I although I agree that Quebec should separate, I am not a Quebecois so wouldnt qualify as a “separatist”.

    ABP

    ABP

    August 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm

  7. “One last question, this time to the independentistes. Why are you so married to the Canadian currency?”

    I was in favour of Québec adopting the US dollar until the greenback started tanking a year ago.

    Maybe it’s still an option. Monetary policy is complex.

    Perhaps Québec should unilateraly adopt the Euro or the Pound?

    angryfrenchguy

    August 4, 2008 at 10:02 pm

  8. “Ouch… An American telling Canadians that the only thing that makes them not American is the presence of the Québécois amongst them.

    If I know anything about English-Canadians, that made a lot of people upset.”

    I’m not really a full-fledged english Canadian, but I don’t see why this should be upsetting. English Canada has plenty on common with America and I don’t see why I should be afraid to admit that. However, I don’t see how having common cultural reference points means that we should or will end up as a single political entity.

    To me, the Canada will be swallowed up by America argument is the equivalent of saying Quebec will turn into an economic backwater after independance. It seems to be born out of some kind of petty vindictiveness. It’s like nobody wants to admit that the part of Canada they don’t belong to can actually survive without the part they do belong to.

    I happen to believe a Quebec-less Canada will be plenty secure. Of course they’ll have a lot in common with America, it’s a young country and hasn’t had much time to shape its identity, but it does have a couple of centuries of nation building under it’s belt. Give it time, and a more unified vision and they’ll set themselves apart.

    RoryBellows

    August 4, 2008 at 10:20 pm

  9. I agree with Rory.

    Australia/New Zealand, South America, Germany/Austria, there are tons of examples of culturally very close peoples who have decided for a variety of reasons to remain politically separate.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 4, 2008 at 11:18 pm

  10. For whats its worth..I agree with both AGF and Rory on this. Quebec would be fine and likely better off without Canada…

    Currently the federal government is inhibiting their growth in many ways. Give them back the tools…no doubt they will have to adjust too a little less standard of living but in the end I think they would be better off as would Canada itself.

    Rory is right about the vindictiveness regarding the backwater economy some suggest and that Canada without Quebec would be just a clone of the US. I dont think this is the case although there are as some have said similarities. I think this type of thinking is put in Quebecers minds by the stakeholders who will lose when Quebec separates. (large business interests, federal government etc).

    Things such as common currency, passports etc will just for the most part muddy the waters. I think to be effective, Quebec separation requires a clean cut from the ROC.

    It really is the best for all. Unfortunately, only wishfull thinking.

    ABP

    ABP

    August 5, 2008 at 12:22 pm

  11. “Perhaps Québec should unilateraly adopt the Euro or the Pound?”

    In this case, you completely loose all influence on monetary policy. The BOC has to take into consideration all of Canada (including Quebec) when making policy. The ECB and Bank of England do not.

    “Currently the federal government is inhibiting their growth in many ways.” ABP, could you expand on this a little, how does the federal government inhibit Quebec’s growth any more than it inhibits all provinces’ growth?

    Anonymous

    August 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

  12. “Currently the federal government is inhibiting their growth in many ways.” ABP, could you expand on this a little, how does the federal government inhibit Quebec’s growth any more than it inhibits all provinces’ growth?”

    Actually it is reverse of what you might be thinking….when you addict a person to hand outs and subsidies you take away that persons need to survive within their own means and by their own methods. Analogy, a son or daughter of a wealthy family who never has to work, so never develops a work ethic….A very pervasive way of undermining an economy. In doing so, the federal government has also driven a spike into the relationships between Quebec and the other provinces who are forced to donate to the province of Quebec. In the West, however unfortunate, a great many people perceive Quebec as a welfare province who are living on the backs of others. Of course, they are not totally wrong about this as statistics indicated. I know of some young Westerners who have such a disrespect that they refuse to travel to Quebec which is really their own loss as Quebec is a very nice province with much to offer.

    If you look at the Economic statistics which have been visited before on this site before, it is very evident that Quebec is lagging in growth and in economic performance. . I wonder if this would have been the case if Ottawa hadn’t been so generous with the cash handouts and other special entitlements such as the farm and business subsidies.

    ABP

    ABP

    August 5, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  13. What’s the cost of “separation” or independence?

    Financial cost, political etc;

    Can it be afforded?

    Michel

    August 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

  14. Hey ABP, since you like numbers so much:

    Québec’s GDP might be lower than Alberta’s but can you tell me why I should care when Québec’s dropout rate is about the same, it’s infant mortality 50% lower and the crime rate half the one in Alberta?

    So you have more money. You spent it all on pickups. Bravo.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 6, 2008 at 11:50 am

  15. Hey ABP, since you like numbers so much:

    “Québec’s GDP might be lower than Alberta’s but can you tell me why I should care when Québec’s dropout rate is about the same, it’s infant mortality 50% lower and the crime rate half the one in Alberta?

    So you have more money. You spent it all on pickups. Bravo.”

    So they like pickup trucks. Very functional work units. I have one myself.

    The West (as well as Ontario) sends a lot of money (welfare) to Quebec each year. Lets not get into amounts as they have widely been discussed and proven already. Perhaps, if Ottawa stopped embezzling so much money for Quebec , we could afford the social programs you in Quebec seem to enjoy!!!

    ABP

    ABP

    August 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm

  16. “Ouch… An American telling Canadians that the only thing that makes them not American is the presence of the Québécois amongst them.

    If I know anything about English-Canadians, that made a lot of people upset.

    Québec is not in Europe. I don’t see how it could join the EU.

    It would simply remain a member of NAFTA, and probably remain a vocal advocate of it’s expansion. I don’t see any reason an independent Québec should be cut out except out of spite, and I don’t think the Americans, the only partners that matter in that forum, care at all whether Québec is a province, a country, or a protectorate of the king of Bahrein.”

    Actually, I see more parallels between Québec and the United States than between English Canada and the USA. Where did the tories run to when the Americans and French kicked their asses back in the 1780’s? You know why they could do that? Because English Canada for some reason was fine with England and their taxation without representation, quartering soldiers, cutting off trade, waiting months for answers on simple decisions from King George, and other insults. Read the American Declaration of Independence. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.”

    It reads a bit like the Bloc Québécois website, except the Bloc doesn’t sound quite as fed up as the Americans were yet. Québec, when you finally really mean it, go for it!

    Save French

    December 19, 2008 at 7:13 pm

  17. I grew up in Ontario and was very proud of Canada. I was indifferent to Quebec. I moved to the US in 1989 and never returned “home”. It is my hope that a part of what is currently the province of Quebec does become an independent Quebec Nation. I am no longer indifferent to Quebec and I harbor no ill-will. The time has come to split because the ever-present drama will never go away until this happens. Too much attention is diverted from things that really matter. Hold another referendum with a clear and fair question. Use Federal Ridings to determine the borders of the new nation. In those ridings where 45% or more of the population wishes independence, let them go. Make some accomodation to ensure the ridings that form the new Quebec nation are contiguous by paying to relocate citizens in outlying ridings where the majority wishes independence. Insist that Canada remain contiguous with the Atlantic provinces. Once complete, you will have a Quebec nation that probably consists of 1/3 – 1/2 of the land area of the current province of Quebec. The part of Quebec that wishes to stay within Canada remains the Province of the Quebec. Everyone is happy and finally this is done – once and for all. Best of luck Quebec, sorry it didn’t work out.

    JM

    July 10, 2009 at 8:19 pm


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