Gilles Duceppe’s Separatist World (…ok, Canadian) Tour
In his excellent biography of Pierre Bourgault, journalist Jean-François Nadeau tells the fascinating story of the gay veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who lived with a pet kangaroo in his Shaughnessy village house near the old Forum and became an indépendantiste pioneer. In his book, Nadeau also recalls the separatist firebrand’s long forgotten tour of the Canadian West, early in his career.
Way back in the day, before paying lip-service to Canada’s “bilingual” nature became a litmus test of canadianess, Bourgault toured the Prairies to explain the idea of an independent Québec to hostile crowds of Westerners who had no sympathy for any “French power” or “Québec Libre” nonsense and who basically were going out to see a freak show.
According to Nadeau, Bourgault usually left the room to standing ovations.
This week the Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe launched his own Canadian Tour, but Québec’s independence is not the radical idea it once was. The idea that with Québec out, Canada will be more a more united and nimble country has much greater acceptance today than it did when Bourgault spelled it out to his unsuspecting audiences of farmers and cattle ranchers.
And Canada has changed too, since Bourgault’s time. Like the Prime Minister’s muse, Tom Flanagan, is quoted as saying in the Globe and Mail: “In the West, it’s a yawner, whether Quebec is in or out”.
Duceppe is one of the longest-serving members of the House of Commons, a familiar face to all Canadians and, even if bashing separatists who collect a federal salary is always a good for a few votes in te ROC, most people in Ottawa recognize the Bloquistes are kickass parliamentarians.
It’s hard to see what Duceppe will accomplish with this tour, or even who would come out to hear him.
One useful thing Duceppe could do, if he was so inclined, is reach out the Canadian left and see if his sovereigntists comrade Amir Khadir‘s suggestion that the Bloc and the NDP work out some sort of formal alliance has any legs.
Why, not? If the Bloc is in Ottawa for the long run, there is not fundamental reason why it couldn’t form a united opposition with the NDP, with a common social platform and separate constitutional planks.
Damn, I could even make a case that it could form a government with the New Democrats, deferring it’s votes on any constitutional or federal-provincial issue to Québec’s National Assembly, achieving a kind of sovereignty-association without changing a coma in the Constitution.
I’m not holding my breath. Big ideas are hard to sell in the age or micro-targeting. It would be surprising if anything inspiring or novel came out of Duceppe’s voyage.
Now I’m not saying Duceppe is a boring politician of that he doesn’t have any good ideas. He’s certainly one of my top 5 separatists.
I’m just saying he looks more like a dog man than a kangaroo type of guy.