Quebec Aspirations Pulled by Nationalism, Free Markets and Globalization

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"TEXT 1778.","Canadian Speeches: Volume 15, #01, March/April 2001.","DESMOND MORTON.","Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.","Quebec aspirations pulled by nationalism, free markets and globalization.","Quebec (province). Nationalism. Market economy. Globalization.","The forces of nationalism, free market liberalism, globalization, and prosperity, pull on the political aspirations of Quebeckers. Most want to be both Quebeckers and Canadians in a compact of equality with English-speaking Canada. But a recession could change attitudes. Speech delivered at Kensington Place, Montreal, February 12, 2001."," In the 1990s, we have endured two powerful ideologies, free market liberalism and nationalism. We have seen them work out their distinct destinies in globalization of markets and communications; and we have seen nationalism in Kosovo, Rwanda, Shri Lanka, and beyond. And we have lived with it here.

The earlier nationalism of Henri Bourassa had told Quebeckers, like other Canadians, to sever their loyalty from Europe and find a new and purely Canadian identity. His successor and rival, Abbe Lionel Groulx, preached a narrower loyalty to a conservative, Catholic Laurentie, with its back to 20th century materialism and secularism. This was the mindset of Maurice Duplesis, a premier whose long rule defined Quebec for many other Canadians and for old-fashioned nationalists.

In 1960, when the province voted for Jean Lesage and the Liberals in 1960, the unexpected result was to shrug off the dominance of both Catholic clericalism and the English-speaking economic elite. Like most slogans, "The Quiet Revolution" was a lie. Transforming Quebec was not a silent process and it was achieved largely by using the Quebec state as a forceful instrument of collective will -- such as Rene Levesque's nationalization of Hydro power. In the process, Quebeckers learned, the state could do almost anything, but only in Quebec.

BUT, Levesque soon insisted, if Quebec became as sovereign as scores of ex-colonies, its national state could do anything anywhere. It was an intoxicating message that for some led to the crisis of 1970 -- or to the relentless bargaining by Robert Bourassa for a "profitable Confederation" and 100,000 new jobs. Some Quebeckers found the attraction of strong unions, economic justice, universal social security. To this day, this is one of sovereignty's strongest appeals. Others, like Charles Sirois of Teleglobe and Bernard Lamarre of Lavalin, demonstrated "un gout des affaires" which earlier nationalists had specifically denied. Brilliantly-led firms like Bombardier and la Cirque du soleil, aided by the famous Caisse de Depots, built on Quebeckers' compulsory pension savings, have linked Quebec's economy to the world.

This is the history of your lifetime. If you have been Quebeckers, you have helped shape that history, you have been shaped by it and sometimes, if you are anglophones, you may have wondered whether it has anything to do with you. …