Matthew Hays’ excellent op-ed, Opinion: True confessions of a diehard anglo leftie, in today’s The Gazette illustrates yet again what many people in the other Canadian provinces don’t understand: the political arena in Quebec is different from any other province (I dare not use the word distinct).
What makes this so is that as long as there is a party with platform that includes a sovereignty plank, there will only be that one issue in Quebec elections. With the odd exception of an election in which the electorate ‘sends the government a message’ and focuses on ousting them rather than on voting in quality representatives, Quebec elections are narrowly focused. The economy, healthcare, education and all the other essential concerns that touch the day-to-day lives of Quebecers are bandied about in speeches and televised debates, but are hijacked, essentially overshadowed by the looming threat of a referendum and possible separation.
Unfortunately until the notion of sovereignty is removed from the equation, and frankly I don’t see that happening any time soon, Quebec elections will continue to be one trick ponies, miniature referenda on Quebec’s future in Canada. The electors of Quebec, both sovereignist and federalist, are cheated out of the opportunity to address many important issues, and vote for the party with policies that best reflect their needs, by the divisive specter of separation that permeates all. Too often voters are forced to, as the saying goes, hold their noses and vote for a party that really doesn’t reflect their values, but is federalist or sovereignist.
This effect will continue until the push and pull of the sovereignty debate is muted.