Postscript: Mythology clouds Quebec vote
Published Friday, August 31, 2012 12:16PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 31, 2012 3:31PM EDT
MONTREAL - The most striking part of this election campaign is what’s not being talked about: it’s the big lie.
The big lie is that Quebec is strong and vital and walks with a swagger in the world.
It has been a campaign focused on language, separation and corruption.
But Quebec is in dreadful financial shape.
For a new government, there will be hard choices and no one in this campaign dares talk about it.
Either one of two things will happen: taxes will be increased or services will be cut.
We cannot have it both ways.
The growth rate in Quebec is forecast to be among the lowest in the country for the next couple of years, just ahead of P.E.I.
But we have all of these grandiose promises.
Quebec is literally broke, and to paraphrase Churchill, when confronted with cold reality, most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.
But we ignore that reality at our peril.
The Parti Quebecois has waged a campaign bordering on xenophobia.
It has become party of one language and one religion, a lust for identity politics.
I have rarely seen a campaign so offensive.
Under a PQ government, English-speaking Quebecers would feel even more marginalized, like guests who have outlived their welcome.
Most of us have played by the rules, we have become bilingual. We have accepted and often embraced the specificity of Quebec in so many ways.
But I have not met one person who has the stomach to live through another referendum and I fear that the rest of Canada is no longer in a mood to deal with the Quebec problem.
Most Canadians feel some affinity for Quebec, but like dealing with an unhappy spouse, it comes to a point where you either leave or stay in or out. But the threats are over.
The CAQ option
Many disaffected Liberals and some Pequistes are tempted by the new kid on the block, the CAQ, led by a recovering separatist.
Francois Legault has run a solid campaign with some compelling and some not-so-compelling ideas.
And he has reached out to English-speaking Quebecers. But his hands are empty.
The best he can offer is no referendum and he makes no promise to fight for unity if there is one.
Neutral is not an option in a debate over your country.
We should remember, once upon a time, Jean Charest took on the separatist beast in the battle for our country and he has kept the PQ out of our faces for nine years.
Healthy democracies need change but Quebec is not your average place, so federalists have a dilemma: should they hold their noses and vote Liberal, or hold their noses and vote CAQ?
Or should they vote strategically and weigh their options carefully and perhaps vote in the way which would most harm the PQ?
On Wednesday morning, if the PQ forms a government this may be the face Quebec shows the world: a troubled corner of North America, which has been stuck in the same cultural, economic constitutional quagmire for decades.
The only good news is that almost 70 percent of Quebecers will likely vote against Marois and her politics of division.
There is no magic wand. What is needed is common sense, hard work, toning down the vitriol, working together in all languages, a culture of innovation and, most of all, finding the courage to face the big lie.