Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Risks of Quebec Separation
and the Loonie

Back in November, I wrote that the risk of Quebec separation had diminished, and the value of the Canuck buck was rising, in part, because of this reduced risk. But ever since the sponsorship scandal became increasingly serious, some pundits have suggested that the risk of separation has risen once again. But not all agree, as is clear from this piece by Barbara Kay [$, thanks to Jack for the link].

Much has changed since the last referendum... Here are 10 good reasons not to fear a third one:

1. Reason and self-interest work against separation, so only a master demagogue like Lucien Bouchard can whip up the irrational ethnic nationalist fervour necessary for a close vote. There is presently less than zero charisma in separatist ranks.
2. From former PQ minister Richard Le Hir and other informants, we have the straight goods on the separatists’ desperation tactics in the ’95 campaign: bogus financial studies, corrupt commissions, PQ-sanctioned ballot-box fraud and plans for an illegal UDI — none of which can be repeated.
3. The Clarity Act precludes the kind of rambling, misleading question posed in 1995 that nobody understands, and which falsely implies a right to “sovereignty association” that the PQ could not and did not intend to honour.
4. Montreal, the now-globalized engine of Quebec, is prosperous, peaceful and more multicultural and bilingual than ever before. Politically, culturally, socially and economically, Montreal is a world apart from the ROQ (Rest of Quebec). The city has worked too hard at recovery, with too much at stake internationally, to acquiesce to Quebec City ideologues. Look for a muscular counter-offensive and “distinct society” solution in Montreal.
5. Quebec won’t have the support or sympathy of France, as it did in ’95, or any other democratic country. The zeitgeist is blowing in the opposite direction of ethnic nationalism, as the EU attests.
6. A potentially divided Quebec, with native and federalist regions opting out of separation, is now constitutionally — not just theoretically — on the table in the event of a Yes vote. Nothing in the PQ arsenal can stand up to this daisy-cutting bomb.
7. Playing the language card is over as a result of Bill 101’s success. Today, confidently francophone Quebecers are actually militating for more English in a super-healthy French environment.
8. The separatists depend on public gullibility and the dissemination of their nationalist spin through tacitly complicit media. In 1995, the francophone media — virtually 100% sympathetic to sovereignty — controlled public debate in French. Technology has fractured that monopoly. Blogs, Blackberrys and chatrooms will democratize the Quebec media ideoligarchy.
9. Asymmetrical federalism – what mainstream Quebecers always really wanted — has de facto triumphed under the federal Liberals, who appease Quebec to keep the peace. There are no more “victim” pegs to hang political indignation on.
10. It was the near-complete absence of strategic planning and leadership — under Jean Chrétien and his cabinet, including Paul Martin, who visibly panicked in the final days of the campaign — that nearly blew it for Canada in 1995.

Which brings us to the most reassuring reason we have nothing to fear from the separatists: Observing a politically volatile situation unfold on their border, a post-9/11 United States will not wait on events. In 1995, the U.S. expressed polite disapproval of Quebec’s bid for independence. Next time, they will threaten to intervene, and they will mean it.
Now that Bernard Landry has resigned as leader of the Parti Quebecois, separatism may regain some of its lost strength. Landry was anything but a charismatic leader. My expectation is that if the P.Q. select a more charismatic leader, we could well see another referendum in the next decade.
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