I have to admit that I’m mostly in agreement with Lorne Gunter on the eternal question:
I have long had a sort of hands-off approach to Quebec sovereignty. Let them stay or let them go, it’s their decision, just so long as they appreciate the consequences of either action.
Last weekend, after it was reported that several Quebecers complained to the federal language commissioner about the perceived lack of French at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, there were scores of nasty posts made on major newspapers’ websites by English Canadians wanting the ingrates tossed from Confederation. “Evict Quebec, then all of this crying, whining and nonsense will stop,” was typical.
Evicting Quebec, under duress, would pretty much guarantee huge disruptions in life for most Canadians, dragging on for years (or decades). It risks serious damage to the economic wellbeing of all Canadians and Quebecers. Getting rid of a minor irritant can’t possibly be worth the political and economic upheavals that would accompany the “divorce”.
It’s a different matter if Quebec chooses to leave: Canada doesn’t have the military might to force Quebec to stay, and I doubt that Canadians as a whole would support any move to force Quebec to stay. A negotiated divorce would almost certainly be less disruptive than any other option . . . except carrying on in the “loveless marriage”. Or, as Lorne Gunter puts it, the “dysfunctional family”:
. . . I look on Confederation as a more of family. Just as it would be unwise to try and force an independent-minded young adult to keep living in the basement when what he wants is his own apartment, it would be corrosive to insist Quebec stay in Canada if at some point it wants to be its own state.
However, just as the stay-at-home offspring may chafe at the optics of having to live just off the rumpus room at his age, I think that Quebecers have come to understand that for all the perceived indignities they must endure as a province, rather than an independent nation, their lives are pretty good. Their lives would be tougher on their own.
The family’s a little dysfunctional, but it’s not any worse than any other on the block and, besides, the lifestyle is pretty good. Moving out would mean smaller accommodations, no access to family assets, the end of home cooking and free laundry and, above all, no more money.
Quebec could survive as an independent country: there are lots and lots of examples of small countries (more since 1991), and not all of them are pocket dictatorships or economic basket cases. Quebec would eventually be able to negotiate admission to the NAFTA agreement (although I think it would take longer than Quebec politicians think it would, and there’d be much more internal resistance at least in the beginning). And they’d probably try to stay out of NATO and NORAD, at least to begin with.
Quebec, as an independent state, might have difficulty supporting their current level of social programs — which would not go down well with the citizenry. But that’d be an internal matter for a future government to handle. It could be done, but Quebec wouldn’t be a major player on the international stage (neither would a Canada-without-Quebec), which appears to be a dream of many Quebec sovereigntists. How would they handle the disappointment of those unrealistic hopes?