The Shift to Autonomy - An Opinion

The error made by those wanting to move the debate in Quebec from sovereignty - federalism to right-left - was the initial dictate promoting the shift by advocates to the populace that they should vote for 'any federalist party except the Bloc'. It was clearly implied that 'federalist' parties were in some way interchangeable and that the priority of marginalizing the Bloc was the desired end in itself.

As an Ontarian who had experienced the devastation of  'Rae's Days' and was now living in rural Quebec it became immediately clear that Quebeckers had no idea of who the NDP were or what their record had been. Despite the intensive efforts of many of us to educate our co-citizens, it wasn't until late in the game that a real effort to distinguish between federalist parties emerged and by that time the Orange Wave had firmly taken hold encompassing the province with the exception of a few ridings including the one in which I live where the Tories held their majority.

We can see now that the vote for the NDP in Quebec was a protest/strategic vote against the Bloc, it was a 'group-think' party vote for socialism rather than based on the individual competence of a particular candidate, and that Quebec chose to remain in the opposition rather than choosing to govern. The expected 'shift' has will not bring the significant 'change' that most Quebeckers imagine. The NDP in fact have less leverage now in the House of Commons than they did pre-election, a significant number of newly elected MPs are inexperienced and fairly unknown in the ridings they represent, and the laundry list of promises presented by the NDP is a mandate that will be next to impossible to deliver. The NDP is basically the Bloc without the angry, divisive, separatist narrative.

Will these facts result in a continued move away from the sovereignty issue or will the NDPs failure to deliver actually push Quebeckers back toward the PQ in the next provincial elections. Oddly enough that will depend not on the effort of the elected federal majority in Quebec - the NDP - but rather on the effort of the majority Harper government to regain ground lost.

However, the priority I believe is to educate the average citizen on exactly what their options are - who these federalist parties are - what they offer Quebec in terms of regional autonomy and as active participants in the Canadian Federation. The political isolation resulting from 20 years of representation by the Bloc has resulted in an obvious void in the federal political narrative for Quebeckers, however it is also clear that modern Quebeckers are increasingly more politically engaged and open at the grassroots to their many options. There is an eagerness to explore, debate, dialogue and consider aspirations that is both inspiring and empowering - and it is no longer confined to an internal discussion but has moved onto the national platform where the dialogue is vigorous and invigorating. Quebec is changed and the momentum is there to ensure that Quebeckers, through continued debate and the goal of self-determination will in fact create the model of governance that serves their vision. The majority Harper government has been and remains the greatest advocate for de-centralized government and will show itself to be NDP Quebec's greatest ally.