Appeared on the Nov. 26  issue of Tandem

by Angelo Persichilli 
TANDEM  (Versione italiana)
Here we go again with the same old historical questions: are they going? Are they staying? 
Who are they? They are the people of Québec. Where they are supposed to go? It is not quite clear.
This question pops up every time there is an election in La Belle Provence. In fact, in Québec there are no elections, just referendums on the need, or perceived need, to keep this country alive.
If we're to take the media's word for it it seems that Canada is on the verge of breaking up every four years. If we listen to the media it seems we always need heroes or saviors to keep this country together.

All this hype is due to the media's ever-growing appetite for sensationalism and in the need for some politicians to carve a place in history for themselves.

In reality, things are very much different. The majority of people living in Québec are well aware of the need to keep the country together and they just look at the provincial election as a normal event typical of any democratic process.

They have a government and, like any other Canadian Province or any other democratic country, they want to exercise their right to change this government if they feel like it. In every Province there are two or three parties that give their citizens the choice for change.

In Québec, there are only two parties: the Liberal Party and the Parti Québecois (it is too early to consider Mario Dumont's Action Democratique as a valid alternative).

In 1976 the separatists took over the government because people were fed up with the Liberals of Robert Bourassa. In fact, when René Levesque asked them, in a very gentle and subtle way, if they wanted to separate, the answer he got was No, mercy Messier!

Again, Jacques Parizeau misread the people of Québec in 1995; they were only tired of, again, Robert Bourassa. In fact, when Parizeau called another referendum, the answer was the same: "NO".

Yes, the margin was very slim, but we do not have to forget that the question was at best a convoluted one. He did not ask the crucial question: do you want to separate? 

In fact separatists are afraid to ask that very simple question because they know the answer. Bouchard knows it. In fact, he does not commit himself to the referendum "unless we have winning conditions". This means that if he doesn't call it, he knows that there are no "winning conditions": the people of Québec have said so many times before.

The last poll from Angus Reid is clear: the majority of Québekers, 46 percent, want Bouchard in government but, at the same time, 73 percent don't want to separate. The message is loud and clear, even though the Canadian media continue to talk about separation and the break up of the country. The people of Québec want Bouchard as their provincial premier, not as a Prime Minister of a new country.

When will the perennial farce of Canadian politics be removed? For this to happen there are two things that need to be done. 

First, the media have to start reporting the news not creating it.

The second is the creation of a second political party in Québec that is not separatist, but instead one that could act as a viable alternative to the Liberals.

I believe it is important to monitor the developments of Mario Dumont's Action Democratique. If he is able to create a political organization without killing the Liberal Party, I believe that the farce of the last few years will be put to rest. And with it also the fake federalist heroes and the separatist's paper tigers.

Some might say that this might be true, but it would be a big risk to try it.

They might be right, but we have to ask ourselves another question: taking the separatist threat as real, is the present federalist gang able to stop it?
The answer is clearly no.

Pierre Trudeau tried and failed. Brian Mulroney tried and failed. Now we have Jean Chrétien and Jean Charest. The former is not even trying (and when he does he creates more problems than he solves). Charest, on the other end, has a lot of courage and goodwill. Unfortunately, he has no ideas, and the debate two weeks ago proved this.

Charest and Chrétien seem to be far apart from each other with their approach, but in reality both favour the status quo. Unfortunately for them, the Canadian people (including the majority of people in Québec) do not want this. They are tired of seeing the unity of this country gambled every four years.

Whatever results we are going to have on Monday night, one thing is definitely needed: a new leadership for this country in order to face the challenges of 2000 and beyond.


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