AT first they snickered. But after two years of struggling to
convince Canadians that they need a "Plan B" - just in case Quebec
secedes from Canada - Lorne Caughill says people now are listening.
What the retired high school principal from Kitchener, Ontario,
is pushing with his grass-roots "Canada First" group is a fall-back
plan for an English-speaking country of nine provinces - sans
Quebec separatists are known to have their own detailed plans on
how to approach talks with Canada over borders, pensions, maritime
boundaries, use of the Canadian dollar, and trade relations, to
name a few points that would have to be negotiated.
Mr. Caughill says Canada needs a plan of its own to define its
post-breakup priorities, from how much federal debt Quebec should
assume to whether Quebeckers will turn in their Canadian passports.
Canada has no Plan B because "thinking the unthinkable," as many
English-speakers call this national lifeboat drill, has been seen
as defeatist and unpatriotic. In Canada's 30-year travail with
Quebec separatism, secession always has seemed a remote possibility.
But Canadian attitudes may be changing. Five weeks ago a
referendum on Quebec secession failed by less than 50,000 votes.
Since then, signs are emerging that citizens in the nine provinces
outside Quebec are reluctantly pondering a future without Quebec.
Many Canadians don't want to think about it, Caughill says, but
now feel that they must.
Canada has had no plan for how to handle separation. Such
thinking has been seen as defeatist and unpatriotic.
"I used to get the feeling people felt I was just
rabble-rousing," he says. But since the narrow federalist win in
the Oct. 30 Quebec referendum on secession "I haven't been getting
the same negative response. People are asking me what they can do."
"There is a growing feeling we should be ready - that there
should be ideas in place," says Donna Dasko, vice president of
Environics Research Group, a Toronto-based polling firm that has
done national surveys since the referendum. "Before, there was a
sense that, if you came up with such a plan, you were betraying
Canada. That argument doesn't work anymore."
Tuned into this low-level rumble is the western-based Reform
Party led by Preston Manning. Last week Reform Party officials
issued a list of "20 Realities of Secession" that spells out the
tough terms the party proposes that Canada adopt should Quebec
One of the benefits of a public Plan B, Mr. Manning and his
fellow Reform Party members in Parliament argue, is that it may put
to rest some illusions that Quebeckers might have drawn from
One example: Before the Oct. 30 referendum vote, three-quarters
of Canadians outside Quebec opposed the continued use of Canadian
passports by Quebeckers after secession. Yet 70 percent of
Quebeckers thought that their continued use of a Canadian passport
would be a workable idea.
If Quebec leaves, the proposal outlined by the Reform Party
would have Canada deem Canadian citizenship incompatible with
Quebec citizenship, require Quebeckers to surrender their Canadian
passports, and "insist" that Quebec assume 25 percent of the
It would also remake Quebec's borders if native groups, such as
the Cree Indians of northern Quebec, vote to stay in Canada.
Stephen Harper, a Reform spokesman, says the party's plan will
help Canadians think about their future and put Quebeckers on
notice that rosy scenarios such as an economic and political union
between Canada and an independent Quebec are nonstarters. …