Hey, remember Stephen Harper’s disturbing boast a number of years ago that “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it”? Well, it seems that threat may not just have been picaresque rhetoric after all. While you were sleeping (or perhaps sunning, writing a novel, and/or masturbating), it seems that there’s been a “quiet devolution” taking place in the land.
Referencing lofty proclamations by Transport minister Lawrence Cannon, Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, at the recent Conservative caucus in Lévis, Que., Andrew Cohen, at The Ottawa Citizen writes:
Ottawa will extend the economic autonomy of the provinces. More specifically, it will allow Quebec to negotiate a unilateral labour-mobility deal with France that would recognize the professional qualifications of its nationals, such as doctors, so they can work in Quebec.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Cannon casts this in the language of conciliation and accommodation. He always does.
“Quebecers are overwhelmingly tired of the battle between those who say they are federalists and those who say they are sovereigntists,” he told the Globe and Mail. “Quebecers are nationalist, Quebecers are autonomists, and our political formation is fully responsive to those desires.”
Well, there it is. Quebecers are no longer federalists, as Jean Chrétien or Brian Mulroney might have called them, appealing to their broadest instincts. They are no longer Canadians. Now they are “nationalist” and “autonomist” — and maybe opportunists, too, not that Mr. Cannon would say that.
So, as a national government (or “political formation”, as he says), let’s appeal to their smallest instincts. Let’s give them every power they desire. After all, they’re not federalist — a dirty word in Quebec. They’re nationalist! They’re autonomist!
Now some might well applaud the transfer of authority from the centre to the regions, but surely it seems reasonable to ask whether the ideological orthodoxy driving this structural transition to a new kind of “administrative federalism” should be carried out largely in stealth mode without any public discussion. It’s not exactly the sort of “transparency” and “accountability” that Harper promised when he was idealistically tilting at former Liberal governments of the day, is it now?