I was elated when young Justin took the podium recently and announced his candidacy for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. At last, new hope, a new face, and no baggage other than for a marquee name (with perhaps some old baggage). Now, let the young people try to make some sense of this mess that we Yuppies have created with our overflowing greed; as we stagger into our golden years, we can’t figure it out anymore, worried about diminishing pensions and healthcare, and wondering why we extended our lives so long but imperiled those very anchors that allow us to age gracefully.
Justin’s coming is also at a time when politicians in the recent Quebec election were throwing out lines like, “Quebec separating will be a like a divorce, painful at first.” I thought that was a rather flippant and utopian comment, implying that after the pain of separation will come prosperity for all. I find it hard to believe that Canada and Quebec on their own will ever be as strong as the combined entity it is today, warts and all. A divorce does not make the parties stronger although they may be freer to explore individual destinies. Divorced members also lose their friends, quickly, as it forces those parties to take sides and make bets. And capital investment is the biggest coward – it flees disputed territory.
Couples usually wait until times are good before pulling any plugs. And given our National debt being the highest it has ever been in its history, is this the time to go pulling plugs? And how about that “settling of debts” issue that comes with separation? What mutually agreeable contribution to the national debt will Quebec make when at last count the province has approximately 25% of Canada’s population and has enjoyed historical benefits of approximately 35% ? The issue will not be getting Quebec to accept its fair share of the debt, but leaving her healthy enough to honour it.
And language – French in Quebec has had its best bet for survival under Canadian Confederation, where even in distant Nunavut you will find a government employee providing service in French. Who will Quebec cry for support from if not from dear Canada? The USA? No way, amigos – the Spanish have been waiting for their turn down South since the Alamo. France? Non – the French have their house and the troubled House of Europe to clean up first.
We are dealing with a younger, smarter and more discerning voter, one without the baggage of past separatist sorties, people like Justin and his cohort. Economics plays more in decisions than nationalistic fervour, especially for a country like Canada that has skillfully navigated the economic fallout of 2008 and is considered the poster child amidst a bunch of reckless gamblers. “United we stand, divided we fall” is never more important, hence the formation of bigger and bigger trading blocks: NAFTA, EU (however troubled it may be), and Megacities Toronto and Montreal. And to say that you want a divorce just because you can does the most harm to a family and its members. All it takes is for the harried other party to throw up her hands and say, “You want a divorce? Okay, then let’s get one!” And we will all end up poorer.
I am glad the Quebec election ended in a minority government, everyone keeping everyone else honest. Change is good; but separation? That’s serious business.
As for Justin, a true Canadian who speaks English like an Anglo and French like a Qubecois, I hope he has broad shoulders to tackle this and other problems and bring our various solitudes together into a healthy and productive conversation. I know he hasn’t much of a platform yet that stands out from among the right wingers, left wingers, green people, and separatists, but I’m hoping that he has arrived just in time to save his party and our beloved Canada. Hope is a good thing to have…