Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A primer on Canadian nonsense

Tonight on CBC, the bald anchor moderated a panel discussion about Prime Minister Harper's support for a Commons resolution stating that "Quebec" is a "nation". The bald anchor asked his guests, "Is this Meech and Charlottetown all over again?"

It angers me when journalists and politicians use shorthand expressions. It leads to the opposite of clarity and is confusing to people who were born more recently than them.

What exactly did the bald anchor mean? Did he mean, "Will this discussion lead to a proposed constitutional amendment?" Or did he mean, "Will this discussion lead to a divisive debate?" He didn't specify and the talking heads didn't ask him to clarify. And that is why discussions about "recognition of Quebec as X" drive me crazy.

I won't bother mocking Quebec nationalists who have to contort themselves into pretzels to explain how Quebec nationalism is an inclusive civic nationalism while rejecting Canadian inclusive civic nationalism. Instead, here's a primer for someone who arrived in our country last week and is trying to get some sweet, sweet context in 10-steps:

1. Municipal, provincial and federal governments in Canada all want more tax money and jurisdiction for themselves because they think they can do a better job than the other levels of government.

2. Some governments don't like that they are limited by pesky parts of the Constitution of Canada that protect citizen rights.

3. The Constitution is the supreme law of the country. It lists which powers are for the federal government and which are for the provincial governments. It also lists citizen rights, which limit government power.

4. Any federal or provincial law that violates the supreme law will eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the courts and rendered null and void. Darn that pesky Constitution!

5. Politicians in the Quebec government know that, like every other government, they cannot enact extremely crazy laws related to, say, language because it might violate the supreme law (the Constitution).

6. Politicians in the Quebec government also know that they can pass more of the laws they want by amending the Constitution to (a) shift the balance of power from citizens back to provincial government and (b) shift the balance of power from the federal government to the provincial government.

7. All talk of Quebec being "distinct" or "a nation by virtue of its language, culture and so on" is related getting more jurisdiction and power. (See point 1.)

8. A House of Commons resolution recognizing Quebec as a nation is legally meaningless (which the secessionists will no doubt state at nauseum in the coming weeks).

9. Prime Minister Harper's goal in putting this resolution forward is to convince secessionists that Commons recognition of Quebec as a nation is more awesome than the Richard Donner director's cut of Superman II so that said secessionists might decide to vote for the Conservative Party of Canada in upcoming elections.

10. The Commons resolution will be poo-pooed by secessionist leaders who will try to convince their flock that this resolution is "not enough" and "meaningless" and that secession is required. Or they might argue that this recognition proves Quebec is a "nation" and that secession is required to fully exercise its national mojo.

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