A few thoughts on the June 28 federal election, focused on the Quebec results and their implications for the Left in the Rest of Canada.
THE SOVEREIGNTY MOVEMENT: HERE TO STAY
This was the fourth consecutive federal election in which the Bloc Quebecois has emerged as the dominant party in francophone Quebec. And the sixth consecutive election in which the federal Liberals, Canada's "natural governing party," failed to win a plurality--let alone a majority--among Quebec's francophone voters. The Bloc received 300,000 more votes than it got in 2000; rumours of its imminent demise proved greatly exaggerated.
Quebec has produced nationalist splinter parties in the past: Henri Bourassa's Parti Nationaliste, the anti-conscription Bloc Populaire in the 1940s and Real Caouette's rural Creditistes. But none had the longevity and popular support of the Bloc Quebecois, not to mention the Parti Quebecois. Throughout most of the twentieth century, until the 1980s, Quebecers, as a minority people within Canada, tended to vote overwhelmingly with the party in power in Ottawa. That, the reasoning went, was how they could exert maximum influence within the federal system of government. Now, however, the myth of "French power" within the federal government has been largely abandoned.
One obvious explanation for this change in traditional voting patterns lies, of course, in the fallout from the unilateral patriation of the Constitution in 1982 and the failure to repair that error (Meech Lake, Charlottetown). The roots go much deeper, however. During the Trudeau years, many francophone Quebecers were able to overlook his visceral hatred of Quebec nationalism because his governments, initially at least, offered some real hope of improvement in their status within Canada through such things as the official languages policy and repeated (albeit unsuccessful) attempts to develop a …