The past, present, and future of Québec (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
With the Bloc Quebecois supporting the Conservative federal budget in 2007, it appeared that Quebec had become at least somewhat friendly towards the federal Conservative Party. The emergence of the Action democratique du Quebec (ADQ) in the provincial election of 2007, could have been seen as the rise of a centre-right Quebec party that could hopefully negotiate with the federal Conservative government a more “autonomous” status for Quebec, without having to go on the far more potentially disruptive statehood/sovereignty route. The ADQ at that time could have been seen as a party that consisted largely of “non-separatist nationalists” and that resented the increasingly “anti-nationalist nationalism” of the 2007 Parti Quebecois (especially such as that expressed by PQ leader Andre Boisclair in his constant weepy speeches about “inclusiveness”). Insofar as ever greater degrees of leftism and “political correctness” had overtaken the Parti Quebecois, to that extent it had become less and less attractive to its nationalist core base, especially in rural and suburban areas. Boisclair chose to hew to the most extreme forms of “political correctness.”
In earlier years, the Quebecois nationalists had declared that “the social question is the national question.” Insofar as the bureaucratic structures of the Quebec provincial administration, Hydro-Quebec, and the Caisses depot (Quebec credit unions) manifestly served so-called “old stock” Quebecois, and attacked the status of the long-time anglais exploiters, Quebecois nationalism could clearly be seen as having discernible traditionalist elements. Now, however, when Montreal has been almost as demographically changed as Toronto, it is perceived that an extensive welfare-state is increasingly operating on behalf of the newcomers – very few of whom have any interest in Quebecois nationalism. That may be one reason for an increasing interest in “the free market” in Quebec.
While, in earlier decades, Quebecois nationalism was one of only a few nationalisms in the Western world that were highly valorized by the Left – there has been a considerable shift from the 1990s onward. Overwrought accusations were made in the 1990s that Quebecois nationalism represented something like “Catholic tribal racism”. As successive waves of “political correctness” rolled over the Western world, the Parti Quebecois ever more intensively embraced extreme anticlericalism and multifarious minorities – until it had by 2007 become – it is possible to argue – something which embodied what could be called an almost entirely “anti-nationalist nationalism.” This gave an opportunity to the ADQ to portray itself as at least somewhat less nationally self-hating than the PQ – something which would naturally appeal to the more authentic Quebecois nationalists.
While rejecting the drive for full statehood/sovereignty – which it probably perceived as too chimerical -- it could be argued that the ADQ was working towards policies that would ensure the persistence of a far more socially and culturally substantive Quebec – a Quebec that would retain at least some relation to the historic Quebec nation that has existed for four previous centuries. And such national preservation and thriving through time and space would appear to be one of the main goals of any more authentic nationalism.
In 2007, it could have been argued that the ADQ, although non-separatist, was more substantively Quebec-nationalist than the Parti Quebecois.
Clearly, the Parti Quebecois drew some lessons from its third-place finish in 2007, and re-fashioned itself in a direction that could appeal far more to its core nationalist base.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.