, Salem, MA


March 22, 2014

Shribman: Et tu, Quebec?


Quebec Premier Pauline Marois isn’t saying that she’ll press for another referendum on Quebec’s status if her separatist Parti Quebecois wins a majority in next month’s voting. But almost everybody thinks she will and, in the course of campaigning this month, she has allowed as to how an independent Quebec might continue to use the Canadian dollar but have its own passport. She’d like a seat on the governing council of the Bank of Canada, too, but that might not be Quebec’s to claim.

Last week the French newspaper Le Devoir published a poll showing that 37 percent of Quebec voters supported the separatist party and 37 percent supported the Liberals, who oppose an independent Quebec.

The political calculus was upended earlier this month when Quebec’s most prominent, and surely its most controversial, business executive, media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau, proclaimed that he wanted his children to grow up in a separate French country. In a dramatic press conference, he entered the legislative campaign as a Parti Quebecois candidate and — he’s not saying so but almost everyone else is — sought to establish himself as the presumptive first president of a presumptive independent Quebec.

All this raises innumerable questions: Why should Quebec abandon Canada when Canadian taxpayers pour more money into the province than Ottawa extracts from taxes? Would an independent Quebec own the airports, the St. Lawrence Seaway facilities and other federal properties inside its borders? Would an economic settlement be demanded or proffered? Would international treaties ratified by Canada apply to an independent Quebec? Would other nations, especially the United States, recognize an independent Quebec, and would it apply NAFTA privileges to Quebec as it does today to Mexico and the rest of Canada?

That’s only the beginning. Would an independent Quebec win a seat in the United Nations? Where would separatism end? Would Montreal, where separatist sentiment is weak, have the right to separate from independent Quebec? Would the First Nations, as Indians now are known here, want to affiliate with an independent Quebec or with Canada? Or might they conclude that both governments are illegitimate and separate from them both?

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