It’s been a long winter, brightened by the brilliant performance of our Canadian athletes at the Olympic Games in Sochi.
But now that it’s over, we have to face the grim reality of our political winter. The prospect of a spring provincial election, with the Parti Québécois comfortably ahead in the polls among the key francophone vote, presents a disturbing tableau: a PQ majority, nothing to stop passage of the so-called charter of Quebec values, tougher language laws, and a return to at least the rhetoric of separation.
Some Quebecers, even a few francophones, have expressed in the media that they are thinking of throwing in the towel and leaving for ostensibly greener pastures, free of painful and divisive debates. We say: Easier said than done, and how self-defeating. We have our roots here, in many cases going back generations. Our beloved institutions are here and would wither and die without our continued support and patronage.
These are our streets, our dépanneurs, our schools, hospitals, libraries, restaurants and concert halls. These are our Canadiens and Alouettes. The Laurentians and Eastern Townships contain our lakes and rivers, summer camps and country houses, ski hills, and forests.
Many of us went to school, married and raised families here. Our parents and grandparents are buried here. It is where we first fell in love, learned to drive, opened our first bank account.
Picking up and starting over somewhere else could be traumatic, certainly defeatist. Hell no, we won’t go.
The PQ’s nationalist gambit, propelled by Bill 60, which would ban the wearing of the Muslim hijab, Jewish kippah and Sikh turban by public employees, appears to have paid off in terms of an electoral turnaround, as measured by the latest opinion polls. However, let us not forget that the nationalist camp is deeply divided. Their voices will be heard in any election campaign, if that becomes a central issue.
Philippe Couillard has had a tough time in his new role as Liberal leader, replacing the seasoned Jean Charest. He faltered because of his initial inability to establish and maintain a position on the charter.
When it comes to the economy, the Liberals are more welcoming to private investment that is the key to injecting dynamism where it is sorely lacking now.
It is noteworthy that the recent summary by the Boston Consulting Group of interviews with 50 of Montreal’s corporate leaders suggested that Montreal’s economy could improve if the city’s cosmopolitan character were reinforced. They also said Quebec immigration policy put too much emphasis on French-language ability. In other words, award more points for technical and professional skills, and accept the languages they bring.
We can and will stay. We love our cosmopolitan city in a context where French is the predominant but not the only language. We accept that English is becoming the predominant language of international trade, commerce and tourism. We will support political parties and activist groups that represent our vision of a society that will sustain individual rights even as we support collective goals. We will be here if there is a PQ government and speak out when necessary if there are further moves to clamp down on acquired and individual rights and restrict our beloved institutions. And if there is another referendum, we will do what we did in the previous two, and fight for our principles.
Not from Toronto, or Cornwall, but right here.