May 1, 2012 – Canadian politics have been shaped by the Quebec-Western Canada dynamic since the 1980s because Quebec separation from Canada was the number one issue confronting the country as we knew it.
I don’t think Quebec separation, while still an important and contentious issue has the same priority as it once did, even in Quebec, and this may change the power dynamic between the two solitudes as we have come to know it.
The looming threat of Quebec independence was always enough to raise the priority of Quebec voices in the Federal house. However, due to containment, unfeasibility, or the almost incestuous relationship between the long-time Quebec Provincial government and their Ottawa Federal counterparts – today western Canadians in particular and Canadians in general, no longer feel that a serious threat of Quebec separation any longer exists.
Kim Campbell remains, to date, the only woman and BC native to be Canadian Prime Minister – although her run was brief and she did inherit Mulroney’s Quebec-heavy cabinet. When she beat (guess who?) Jean Charest in the bid to succeed Brian Mulroney as head of the PC Party in 1993 and become sitting Canadian Prime Minister, she did appoint Charest as deputy Prime Minister.
Charest used this appointment as his stepping stone to a Quebec Premiership where he is still reigning and has been a major part of the taming of Quebec Separatism, no longer able to be used as a political tool or threat in bargaining power with Ottawa.
So, for a country conditioned to wait for Quebec to make its demands of provincial autonomy from Ottawa and then chime in “we want that too!”, that paradigm no longer exists; because the demands of an obedient and controlled Quebec are no longer the most urgent priority for Ottawa. If the rest of the country still wants to wait for Quebec to make demands and then say “us too!”, Ottawa is 100% fine with that because it means less demands overall on the Federal.
As Mulroney’s Conservatives fractured and split into the Reform Party in the West and the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, the entrenchment of the Quebec electorate within a Separation-mandated party did two things:
1) it put Quebec on “the political sidelines” with regards to Canadian national policy and objectives; and 2) because it continued and prolonged the threat of Quebec separation, it forced the rest of Canada to see past their regional differences and learn how to work together in the face of their shared, rebellious provincal peer – this was to the rest of Canada’s immeasurable advantage.
How that advantage will play out, either for the rest of Canada or Quebec, will be what defines Ottawa between now and the next Federal election.