ABOUT TIME SOME MEMBERS OF THE QUEBEC POLITICAL ELITE GOT AROUND TO SAYING IT!(And about time I got around to writing about it, since this news is a week old, I know.)
I haven't forgiven Lucien Bouchard for almost destroying the country. I know, as far as separatists go, he's one of the more pragmatic ones and is more reasonable than the hardline Péquiste wackos who imagine an independent Quebec as being, essentially, Cuba North (Cuba, in their minds, being a socialist worker's paradise and everything that's wrong with it is really the fault of the Americans, of course). While I think an independent Quebec would be a banana republic and a economic basket case no matter how you slice it, an independent Quebec under someone like Lucien Bouchard would at least have some semblance of a market economy, possibly even slightly freer a market than they have now, since they wouldn't have the taxpayers from the rest of Canada to bail them out anymore from the financial drain that expansive 1960s and 1970s-level social services brings. But I remember that horrible and scary couple of days leading up to the last sovergnity referendum that we went through exactly a decade ago this week, and, whether, a few years from now, I'm still living in Ontario or whether I'm back in Quebec, the sheer dread of the prospect of my country being torn apart on a whim is not something I want to experience again in my lifetime. Lucien Bouchard gave national suicide a palatable face, and he had the charisma that prime minister Jean Chrétien's No campaign lacked, and, as a result, Quebec came within a hair's bredth of slitting its own wrists.
However, despite having some personal animosity, I wholeheartedly give at least preliminary support to the "Manifesto for a Clear-Eyed Vision of Québec" supported by Lucien Bouchard along with "former Liberal minister and SNC Lavalin president Guy Saint-Pierre; Joseph Facal, a minister in the last Parti Quebecois government; former Universite de Montreal rector Robert Lacroix; leading film producer Denise Robert; and economist Pierre Fortin of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal".
Finally, some mainstream political figures in Quebec saying some of the things that should have been said a long time ago regarding outdated and backwards policies in the province.
From the Montreal Gazette
"A group of leading Quebec establishment figures issued a ringing manifesto yesterday calling for radical changes in Quebec politics and public administration.
Led by former premier Lucien Bouchard, the group warned that the province, whether or not it separates from Canada, faces a drastic economic decline and crippling social problems if reforms are not undertaken that require the slaughter of some of the most sacred cows in the field of Quebec politics.
The avowedly non-partisan group of a dozen, which also includes two former cabinet ministers and leading figures from industry and academe, proposes short-term elimination of the provincial debt mainly through substantial increases in electricity rates and massive investment in education, financed in part by sharply increased tuition fees.
Also proposed is major tax reform that targets consumption more than income, and a guaranteed minimum income plan to reduce the cumbersome bureaucracy required by today's array of social programs.
The manifesto warns if Quebec society refuses to accept such changes, it will fall victim to a demographic shock in the near future and risk becoming "the republic of the status quo, a fossil from the 20th century."
The group also offered a stinging criticism of the general reluctance to forsake old habits. "The slightest change to the way government functions, a bold project, the most timid call to responsibility or the smallest change in our comfortable habits, is met with an angry outcry and objections or, at best, indifference."
Along with Bouchard, who yesterday made his first political foray since resigning as premier nearly four years ago, the group includes former Liberal minister and SNC Lavalin president Guy Saint-Pierre; Joseph Facal, a minister in the last Parti Quebecois government; former Universite de Montreal rector Robert Lacroix; leading film producer Denise Robert; and economist Pierre Fortin of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.
At a news conference he called to address the manifesto, Premier Jean Charest wasted no words: "If you want to look at it in partisan terms, if I were involved in the leadership race of the PQ, I wouldn't exactly call it a ringing endorsement.
"It's a smack in the head. It can't be stated in any other way."
The manifesto's authors are an informal group of concerned citizens, Bouchard said. Their hope is to spark a public debate that will lead to a broad consensus.
The group includes both sovereignists and federalists and deliberately chose not to take a position on constitutional options.
"We all agreed not to go there," Bouchard said. "We know Quebecers will have to make a choice, and whatever they decide, those challenges identified today will have to be met.""
Man, even though this is bipartisan on the constitutional issue, they have so much to piss off the usual separatist constituents: higher tuition rates for university students, a lessening of the power of unions on the economic agenda, and an admission that the English taught to students at most French-language schools is woefully inadequate for Francophone children, who will be prevented from doing business in the international marketplace and giving them insular attitudes by limiting the media they are exposed to.
There's a lot that still needs to be said that is left unsaid by this manifesto, but I'm not going to denigrate how much of an incredible step forward it is to hear people of influence within the Quebec political, academic, and ecomonic elites admit even this much. It was almost like getting an unexpected birthday present two weeks late when I first heard of this, and I encourage the "Quebec Lucide" campaign to continue to finally stimulate some healthy political dialogue within the province without letting those opponents who are not used to real debate and differing opinions on how things should be run intimidate them from letting the message be heard.