Whither Québec? (Part Eleven)
By Mark Wegierski
It is possible to perceive that (at least until 2006) the federal government – despite occasional Conservative electoral victories – was effectively "owned by" the Liberal Party. After 1968, this was, it must also be remembered, the Trudeau and post-Trudeau Liberal Party, and emphatically not the Liberal Party of (for example) Mackenzie King.
It remains to be seen whether, in the next federal election, the Conservatives can hold onto their majority. The Conservative Party under Stephen Harper, it could be argued, has made strenuous efforts to be "ultra-moderate." While we have arrived at the stage where Stephen Harper has finally won a majority government, the so-called "promised land" we have arrived in appears to be nothing spectacular. Because of all the massive social and cultural transformations in Canada since the 1960s – many of them carried out by the federal Liberal Party -- it appears that the combined percentage of Liberal and NDP votes will always be significantly larger than the Conservative vote. However, under the "first-past-the-post" system (with three main parties), a strong majority can usually be won with about 40% of the vote. The said to be enormously popular Jean Chretien, won decisive majorities with about that percentage in 1993, 1997, and 2000.
In the 1990s, when Ontario elected virtually 100% Liberals federally, the province also had (after 1995) a Progressive Conservative government that was more discernibly right-leaning than the Liberal government in Ottawa. However, as the social and cultural transformations in Ontario have continued, even the "ultra-moderates" like John Tory have been hard pressed to make any inroads in Toronto and other highly urban areas. In the recent by-election on September 6, 2012, the Progressive Conservatives were routed in a riding (Kitchener-Waterloo) that they had held for 22 years. (The NDP won that riding, and the Liberals were in second place.) During the 1950s and earlier, Toronto was considered so conservative and British-focussed, it was nicknamed "Tory Toronto."
What is the essence of so-called "Canadian nationalism" today? It is typically expressed through such institutions as "our vaunted social programs", "free healthcare", multiculturalism, as well as the state-funded "cultural industries." It could be argued that most of these so-called "cultural industries" – as far as the putatively Canadian element in them goes -- have virtually no authentic existence outside of a few narrow Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa "art cliques." Indeed, large sectors of the general public are either indifferent or openly hostile to most current-day products of the "official" Canadian culture. Having deliberately cut itself off from its traditional roots, such a culture can exist only through massive state-subsidies.
The possibility of regionalization could be a clarion call towards the re-discovery of more authentic roots, and the curtailing of what could be seen as an almost entirely artificial system. This system might, indeed, be seen as giving rise to various syndromes of a failed culture. Regionalization might constitute a move towards general cultural and social renewal in this northern half of North America.
Perhaps it is possible that Quebec, which has frequently been such a hugely problematic presence in Canadian Confederation, might in some circumstances give rise to a set of events, where it could point all of Canada towards a better path for the future.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.