In Sunday’s Sun: whither thou goest, Quebec?

[This is a reworked/expanded version of the post I wrote a few days ago. Quite a few of you claimed to like it, so I worked it into 625 or so words. Cheers, W.]

Now that Quebec’s separatist government has called an election – and now that there is a very real prospect of the Parti Québécois seizing a majority in the National Assembly – strap on your seat belts. We’re in for another bumpy ride, Canada.

In recent years, of course, it has been become de rigueur for the commentariat to declare that the separatist movement was “dead.” Some of us vehemently disagreed with that assessment. When your politics are entirely about identity, and long-nurtured grievances and humiliations, you never give up.

Separatist longing is unkillable, because logic has nothing to do with the desire for a separate nation. If it did, we wouldn’t be hearing – once again – about the likelihood of another Quebec referendum. It is a matter of the heart, not the head. Party platforms come and go; dreams don’t. They’re eternal.

Politically, the circumstances favour the separatists. If you survey the political landscape, and take a hard look at all the players, you’ll see why.

· Quebeckers aren’t bullish on Canada: Statistics Canada notwithstanding, most Quebecois (like most Canadians) do not believe that a robust recovery is underway. They know (as this writer suggested on this page last week) that they are still only a couple paycheques away from living on the street. To Quebec voters nervous about their economic prospects, Canada does not seem to be thriving any more than Quebec is. Pauline Marois’ argument is dishonest, but compelling in its simplicity: economically, we derive no benefits from Canada – they are pulling us down. Why not try some economic independence, for once?

· Canadians aren’t bullish on Quebec: As a smart Conservative friend told me at lunch this week, it is a fact that Canadians themselves cannot be counted on to automatically rally in support of a united Canada, as they did in 1980 and 1995. Instead, they can be expected to respond with anger and/or indifference to the sovereignty issue again being revisited. Maybe. But he is certainly not wrong when he observes that Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair do not possess any of the populist political skills of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien to rally average Canadians. And none of them, my friend observed, has ever fought a referendum before.

· The federalist giants are gone: The great separatist-slayers of the past – Chretien, Trudeau the Senior – have left the scene. They have been replaced by a passionless, Western anglophone Prime Minister who is reviled in Quebec; a novice Liberal leader who lacks any real support off the island of Montreal; and an NDP leader who clearly sympathizes more with sovereignty than federalism. Who, then, will speak for Canada, in the coming confrontation?

· The federal political parties aren’t ready or willing: The political culture/stature of each of the federal political parties isn’t what it was. Conservatives quietly wonder if Canada wouldn’t be better off without Quebec. Liberals have zero strength on the ground in Quebec. And the New Democrat caucus is mainly made up of former crypto-separatists. Not good.

· To many Québécois, Canada herself is a myth: Over the years, all of the symbols of Canada – ranging from things as simple as Canada Post offices to the flag – have been disappearing in Quebec. Quebeckers, therefore, can’t be condemned for wondering what their federal taxes pay for. Watch their newscasts: their world does not extend past the Ottawa River. Canada is an illusion, to most of them.

None of this is to say, of course, that the separatists are without their own problems. Marois, in particular, is no populist firebrand like a cane-wielding Lucien Bouchard was. She is no Rene Levesque.

But politics, like comedy, is all about timing. And, presently, the timing favours the separatists.

Thus, my prediction: our preoccupation, in the months to come, will not be Crimea or Syria or Iran or the Central African Republic.

It will be Quebec.

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Liberal-NDP merger/coalition/cooperation? A truly federalist NDP?

Sigh.

Well, you guys know I – like Messrs. Chretien, Romanow and Broadbent, among others – favour progressives finally coming together.  So that we stop splitting the vote, and so we finally defeat Mr. Harper.

You also know that I believe another referendum is increasingly likely – and that we all need all of the federalist political parties onside for that effort, as they mostly were in 1980 and 1995.

Thomas Mulcair has ensured that neither will happen.  With this statement, he has (a) made any cooperation with Liberals impossible and (b) he has strengthened the hand of the Parti Quebecois.

Jack Layton, Canada misses you, very much.

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Babymetal: the band that will destroy metal

They’re also my current favourite band of all time: choreographed bubblegum pop fused with hardcore? Nobody has ever done that before!

The old metalhead at the start, horrified by what has happened to his genre? That’s my brother and his grizzled friends, realizing the genius and might of Babymetal, and that the end is nigh.


Lenten observance

Straight edge, for the next 40 days.

Mayor Crackhead, care to join me? We can both submit to blood tests at the end.

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Behold the issue that will dominate Canadian politics for the next year, and then some

If the separatist Parti Quebecois government calls an election “soon, soon” – and if, as many expect, they win a majority government – strap on your seat belts. We are in for another bumpy ride, Canada.

In recent years, of course, it has been become de rigueur for the commentariat to declare that the separatist movement was “dead.” I’ve never agreed with them. When your politics are entirely about identity, and long-nurtured grievances and humiliations, you never give up.

Separatist longing is unkillable, because logic has nothing to do with the desire for a separate nation.  If it did, we wouldn’t be hearing – once again – about the likelihood of another Quebec referendum.  It is a matter of the heart, not the head.

Politically, the circumstances favour the separatists.  Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Statistics Canada notwithstanding, most Canadians and Quebecois do not feel that a robust recovery is underway.  They know, as I wrote in the Sun on the weekend, that they are still only a couple pay cheques away from living on the street. To nervous Quebec voters, Canada does not seem to be thriving any more than Quebec is. Why not give it a try?
  • The great separatist-slayers of the past – Chretien, Trudeau the Senior – have left the scene.  They have been replaced by a passionless, Western anglophone Prime Minister who is reviled in Quebec, a novice Liberal leader who lacks any support off the island of Montreal, and an NDP leader who clearly sympathizes more with sovereignty than federalism. Who, then, will speak for Canada, in the coming confrontation?
  • The political culture/stature of each of the federal political parties has changed.  Conservatives quietly wonder if Canada wouldn’t be better off without Quebec; Liberals have zero – zippo, zilch – strength on the ground in Quebec anymore; the New Democrat caucus is mainly made up of former Bloc and Parti Quebecois supporters, who will not lift a finger to save Canada.  Not good, not any of it.
  • As a Conservative friend told me at lunch this week, it is a fact that Canadians themselves cannot be counted on to rally in support of a united Canada, as they did in 1980 and 1995.  Instead, they can be expected to respond with anger and/or indifference to the sovereignty issue being revisited, yet again.  I do not know if he is right, but he is not wrong when he observes that Harper/Trudeau/Mulcair do not have any of the populist political skills of Trudeau Senior and Chretien to rally average Canadians.
  • All of the symbols of Canada – ranging from things as simple as Canada Post offices to the flag – have been disappearing in Quebec over the years.  Quebeckers, therefore, can’t be condemned for wondering what their federal taxes pay for.  Watch their newscasts: their world does not extend past the Ottawa River. Canada is an illusion, to most of them.

None of this is to say that the separatists are without their own problems.  Marois, in particular, is no populist firebrand like a cane-wielding Lucien Bouchard was.  She is no Levesque.

But politics, like comedy, is all about timing.  And, presently, the timing favours the separatists.

Thus, my prediction: our preoccupation, in the months to come, will not be Crimea or Syria or Iran or the Central African Republic.

It will be Quebec.


In Tuesday’s Sun: …in which I use a word to describe the National Post that I am not allowed to use

As Russia and the Ukraine slip towards war – and as the West looks on, unable or unwilling to do anything – it’s easy to forget that nice things still happen. The birth of babies, for instance.

Everyone likes babies. They are innocent and helpless and they make us smile. Like Johnny Depp once said, they are the only creatures evolved enough to convey pure love. Their arrival, therefore, is a time for celebration.

Their arrival is not, however, a time to associate them with genocide, or anti-Semitism, or depravity. It is not an occasion to mock the baby, or its parents. All of us would agree with that.

But not all of us work at the National Post.

Some background: on Friday, Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire, welcomed their third child into the world. He was eight pounds, three ounces, and they named him Hadrian. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen immediately offered their congratulations. So did NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

With war seemingly starting in the East, and Winter seemingly never ending in the West, it was a welcome bit of good news. For the National Post, it was something else entirely.

Shortly after Hadrian arrived, the Post published a “news story” – I use flying quotes, there, for reasons that will shortly become obvious – about him. The story had no byline, and it was later quietly (and significantly) altered. But here are some of the things it said about young Hadrian.

His father is “obviously no fan of history,” said the Post, and proof was found in the name Trudeau and his wife selected. It was a Roman Emperor’s name, declared the Post, and he was “surrounded by controversy.”

He was “ruthless,” said the Post. He is also still “reviled among the Jewish community.” He committed acts of genocide, and his name is still associated with a “curse,” the Post decreed.

When a few of us saw that “news story,” we were surprised. To us, it seemed like the National Post was actually insinuating that Hadrian Trudeau was named after a homicidal, anti-Semitic maniac. And not, apparently, some other Hadrian the Trudeaus know.

I sent a note on Twitter to John Ivison, a Post writer who had earlier tweeted about the Trudeau baby and the genocidal Jew-hater. I asked him who linked Hadrian Trudeau to the mass-murderer. Ivison professed not to know. “No idea. Wire? I haven’t read it.”

At that point, a wire service used by the Post, Canadian Press, chimed in. Bruce Cheadle, a senior writer with CP, wrote: “Those particular files were not from Canadian Press.”

Thereafter, I wrote to Stephen Meurice, the Post’s editor, to ask (a) who wrote it and (b) if he agreed it was a mistake. So far, no answer.

Here’s the thing: babies aren’t political. Even if you hate a baby’s father – as we can only assume, at this point, the Post does – its birth should not be an occasion to do what was done here.

If you look up Hadrian’s name, baby name dictionaries say it’s simply a variant of “Adrian.”

If you look up “National Post,” this week, you’ll see that it means “a bunch of assholes.”

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