Where would we be today if the Canadian government had responded to the 1995 referendum with a constitutional amendment recognizing the Quebec nation and conferring the concurrent powers? If, at the same time, Canada had at last signed a sustainable agreement with First Nations concerning their territorial and ancestral rights and their right to self-determination? If, while they were at it, Canada reformed its taxation laws to make them more equitable? These changes, we know, did not take place. Neither are they on the current agenda.
In the Meantime, in Quebec
Last autumn, twelve of Lucien Bouchard’s right-wing buddies shared with us their “Manifesto for a Lucid Quebec.” This text rehashes the old tunes of debt repayment, demographic decline and the need to increase public fees. The progressive response was not long in coming, strong and clear. The “Manifesto for Quebec Solidarity” collected thousands of signatures in only a few days.
This is a very encouraging sign in the weeks leading up to the much awaited fusion of the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and Option citoyenne (OC). This fusion has been unanimously adopted at both UFP and OC congresses. It will take effect at the beginning of 2006, through the adoption in a special congress of a declaration of principles and organizational statutes. The party will be progressive and sovereignist, with two spokespersons (one man and one woman) and will be led by a 16-member national coordinating committee with male-female parity.
This new party will be the fruit of intense, year-long negotiations between the two organizations. In practice, the two already work together on joint briefs, media events, support for social struggles, etc. The Quebec Left, progressive and sovereignist, is taking an historic step that could result in an important growth in membership over the next few months.
The election of André Boisclair to the leadership of the PQ heralds the rise of the right within the party. Its pursuit of a referendum is considered suicidal by progressives, due to the lack of a democratic, participatory approach.
As was the case with the two recent manifestos, the Right and the Left alike have much to gain in making themselves clear.
Two elections in two years are not likely to improve the lot of Quebec and the First Nations. In Quebec, a massive vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois is predicted, a vote that will indicate both national affirmation and a protest against Liberal corruption. But the Bloc Québécois is not the solution, either. It is merely an eloquent illustration of the Canadian impasse. Progressives, from sea to shining sea, have much to gain in putting their voices together, even if they were only to shed a little light on the issues that electoral campaigns never fail to obscure.
This article appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of Canadian Dimension (Politics and Religion).