Montréal, 17 mars 2001  /  No 79
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Ralph Maddocks is a retired textile executive and former management consultant. He lives in Cowansville.
by Ralph Maddocks
          Three weeks ago, in St. Hyacinthe, we saw the coronation of the latest leader of the Parti québécois. After playing second or third fiddle for almost forty years, Bernard Landry has finally made it to the top of the heap. Some heap!
Wishful Thinking 
          Those who support a policy generally elaborate its virtues in terms of ideals and denigrate the arguments of opponents in terms of hidden drives and motives, and Mr Landry is no exception to the rule. A few weeks ago, after refusing a grant of $18 million for a zoo, after denigrating the Canadian flag and after looking askance at more than a billion dollars in transfers from the federal government, he was obviously proud to agree with Ralph Klein's statement that he is more dangerous than his predecessor, Lucien Bouchard. He was also quick off the mark to say that Quebec is not a province like Saskatchewan, that fount of Canadian socialism; though why he picked on that province seemed strange coming from a self-described social democrat.  
          Mr Landry seems to be living in a world inhabited by very few of his fellow Quebeckers. He appears to believe firmly that Quebec is a nation, but as far as I can tell has never offered any tangible proof to support his oft-repeated contention. Perhaps he believes that if you say something frequently enough it will become so. Hardly an original thought; those who are old enough to remember will recall other politicians during the early thirties repeating untruths until they became accepted as fact.  
          To support his separatist option Mr Landry likes to draw comparisons with Scotland, which was partially devolved from the UK by the government of Tony Blair. Scotland, however, has far fewer powers than does Quebec under the federal regime of Canada which Mr Landry so despises; differences that selectively he chooses to ignore.  
Quebec isn't Scotland 
          Scotland was a country, complete with its own kings and its own parliament, long before it was incorporated into Great Britain by the Act of Union in May 1707. In fact, both countries had shared the same kings from 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. The union of Scotland with England also took place in spite of much animosity and many political differences. Self interest prevailed eventually because both sides benefitted from the union when it became very obvious that Scotland needed economic assistance and England wished to prevent the restoration of the Stuart kings following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The first union of separate states in the British Isles took place in 1301, when Wales, also a country with its own rulers, was joined to England by the creation of the title of Prince of Wales for the son of Edward I of England, but Wales was not officially incorporated with England, however, until 1536. 
          Returning to Mr Blair's activities. On Sept. 12, 1997, a referendum to create a new Scottish Parliament, endowed with broad powers to regulate domestic issues in Scotland, was supported by nearly three quarters of the voters. Supported, in fact, by nearly 74.3% of the 60.4% of electors who turned out to vote. Not, it should be noted, by the fifty percent plus one that Mr Landry and other Quebec politicians would have us believe represents the clear expression of democratic choice. Just another of those facts that Mr Landry chooses to gloss over.  
          Under the terms of the devolution agreement, an independent legislative body was scheduled to convene in the year 2000. The proposal established a 129-seat Scottish Parliament that would have the right to enact laws relating specifically to the domestic affairs of Scotland. Quebec has had its own assembly, or what Mr Landry is pleased these days to call its National Assembly, since 1791.  
     « If one substitutes the words Quebec and Québécois for Scotland and Scottish it soon becomes obvious that Quebec is in a far better position to manage its own affairs than is Scotland. » 
          Voters in Scotland also approved a measure that would provide the Scottish Parliament with the power to vary taxation rates throughout Scotland, a measure that was expected to provide Scotland with a greater degree of economic autonomy. Despite this, Scotland has today far less autonomy to tax its citizens than that currently enjoyed by Mr Landry and his ilk.  
          While voter support for devolution provided Scotland with greater regional autonomy, the country still remains a part of the United Kingdom. Issues such as national defense, diplomacy and the national economy continue to be legislated by the Parliament in London. Reading through the propaganda put out by the Scottish Nationalists, it is interesting to note the parallels between the powers that a devolved Scotland would acquire and those that Mr Landry's enslaved Quebec presently enjoys. To illustrate this, reproduced below is a sample of some of the Scottish referendum propaganda published in 1997. 
          A Scottish Parliament will:  
  • GIVE Scots the power to make important decisions about the kind of government we want. It will allow us to take control of our own destiny, decide our own priorities and bring a new vitality to the law-making process. It will be good for business, creating jobs and winning investment in industry. A Scottish Parliament will strengthen the work of development agencies such as Scottish Enterprise and Highland and Islands Enterprise. The agencies will be more accountable and Ministers can work with them to ensure that job creation and investment targets are met. 
  • STRENGTHEN local government – local authorities will have direct access to the Parliament. This will allow them to influence decisions and improve services.
  • BUILD a better health service – the Scottish health service will be part of the British service. But a Scottish Parliament will be able to set its own health care priorities and will set targets designed to meet the needs of our people, especially in the rural areas – since they make up a large proportion of Scotland, that's more important than ever. 
  • HELP young people into work – a strong Scottish Parliament will work closely with employers and training agencies to ensure young people get the training they need for the jobs market. 
  • CREATE and improve Scotland's housing, together with Scottish Homes and local authorities. A Scottish Parliament can begin to tackle the problems of damp, poor housing and homelessness. 
  • BOOST our education system with an effective, three-point plan for our children's future. By ensuring good class sizes, excellent teacher training and a nursery place for every three and four year old, the Parliament can ensure that every youngster is given the best chance of a decent future.
  • SPEARHEAD an effective fight against drugs in Scotland with much-needed resources. The Parliament could lead the fight against the drugs evil and provide a Scotland-wide strategy. 
  • DEVELOP an integrated and effective transport system for Scotland. The Parliament can set a transport strategy for the whole country, from the islands to the central belt. 
  • BUILD a communications network fit for Scotland in the 21st century. A Scottish Parliament could set the framework for global communications to ensure everyone from students at the University of the Highlands to major corporations can co-operate with the world, 24 hours a day.
  • THREE of the main parties will field an equal number of women candidates. The Scottish Parliament will be more responsive to women's needs and give them more opportunities. 
  • SELL Scotland as THE place to go, both as a tourist and conference destination. The Parliament will prove a tourist attraction in itself. 
  • PROMOTE Scotland's culture by nurturing young talent. A Scottish Parliament could support Scottish music and drama. 
  • INVEST in Scottish broadcasting. The Parliament will command attention from broadcasters from home and overseas. 
Better to convince the faithful 
          If one substitutes the words Quebec and Québécois for Scotland and Scottish it soon becomes obvious that Quebec is in a far better position to manage its own affairs than is Scotland. Not to have enshrined some of these recommendations as law in Quebec would represent a step backwards. Perhaps this is why Mr Landry does not encourage questions on the topic, better to convince the faithful that they should emulate the Scots rather than tell them the real truth. Perhaps it is because the facts of Scottish devolution are inconvenient that Mr Landry is now starting to talk again about a new arrangement with Canada along the lines of the European Union.  
          What I find hard to grasp is that if it is imperative that Quebec becomes separate and independent, why would Quebec give up its right and power to rule itself by handing many of these rights over to an external body along the lines of the EU? Are PQ politicians so masochistic?.  
          Mr Landry doesn't want to be in a federal state (Canada) which he considers « harmful », but he wants to be in something like the federal state (Europe) which he considers desirable. All this shows that, in addition to not understanding the Scottish situation, he probably doesn't understand the true nature of the European Union either.  
          He does not appear to have read the article appearing in Handelsblatt on 8th March 2001. An article which reported that the European Commission has put forward a proposal to remove one of the « four freedoms » on which the entire European project is based: the freedom of people to move and work wherever they like within the EU. The other freedoms of movement are for capital, goods and services. One wonders what Mr Landry would say if the Canadian government forbade the free movement of labour in this federal state.  
          I must admit that all this is quite baffling to a bear of little brain, such as this chronicler. 
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