I thought the quest for Quebec sovereignty was dead after the Parti Québécois (PQ) was trounced in the last election. I cried when I read columns by Toronto writers declaring — and celebrating — that the dream was over, that so many French Quebecers would never see their nation returned to them from the conquerors.
Though, I know of one very wise political columnist — the Montreal Gazette’s Don Macpherson — who wrote after the last election that the sovereignty issue was far from dead. It was only on the backburner, he said, if not in those exact words.
But I didn’t see it. After all, we had just lost our beloved Pauline Marois, Quebec’s first female premier, who was defeated in her own riding. She had a lot of heart and soul, and it was so refreshing to see a woman in the top job. And when it became apparent recently that Pierre Karl Péladeau will be elected the new leader of the PQ, I figured the party didn’t stand a chance of winning the next election in 2018 because he — a prominent business media tycoon — is not exactly loved by blue-collar workers.
The PQ is dead in the water, I thought, and the sovereignty dream with them.
But I was wrong. I underestimated Pierre Karl Péladeau. After all, he is a shrewd man who can more than hold his own in the competitive business world.
Recently, he announced that, if elected PQ leader, he will have a scientific study done on the ramifications of Quebec sovereignty. And he reaffirmed his intent to lead Quebec out of the Canadian confederation, of giving Quebecers our own distinct nation.
Of course, you can be sure he won’t proceed with that until he is confident it is economically feasible, and has proven that to everyone — something previous PQ leaders never did. And he will make it economically feasible when the research shows the hurdles — and, of course there will be some — because that is what smart, successful businesspeople do: they find ways to leap over financial hurdles.
And PKP, as we call him here, has been moving forward in leaps and bounds on the road to Quebec sovereignty. Even though he hasn’t been elected PQ leader yet, he is grabbing headlines throughout the province with his talk of sovereignty.
And yesterday, he scored his biggest coup d’etat so far, in my opinion: He got the Liberal premier of Quebec talking publicly about sovereignty in what has to be a classic case of the fly entering the spider’s parlour. Premier Couillard took PKP’s bait, and in so doing put the sovereignty issue firmly on the front burner again . . . and also launched the next election campaign years before it needed to be launched.
Of course, the premier thinks all the sovereignty talk will sink the PQ, which is why he was beaming yesterday, Philip Authier of the Montreal Gazette reported. Here is Couillard’s quote:
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” a beaming Couillard told reporters suggesting an election fought by Péladeau could resemble an election-referendum. “The PQ has laid it all out. The question is referendum, sovereignty, separation.”
Silly Couillard. He seems to have forgotten (like I had) that a lot of Quebecers are yearning for sovereignty, and when they read his quote, their hope — our hope — will be renewed. (Yes, some anglos believe French Quebecers should have an independent country here, and that we can be part of it.)
The underlying question is: why did Mr. Couillard add more kindling to this particular fire yesterday? Why didn’t he just ignore the whole issue by simply shrugging it off? After all, he has a majority government and doesn’t have to call an election until 2018. Is there perhaps a small flame in his heart that burns for sovereignty?
Whatever the case, the sovereignty dream is very much alive, and the game is afoot.
And I am smiling today.
Thank you, PKP.
Quebec, je t’aime.