Pauline Marois in Paris .. and the three new wise men from Quebec in Ottawa and Quebec City

Oct 15th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Judging by the poll on the Globe and Mail site today, not very many Canadians outside Quebec are concerned that “France has re-instated its non-interference, non-indifference policy toward Quebec nationalism.”

There may nonetheless be a few who are wondering what this report elsewhere on the Globe and Mail site means: “Premier Pauline Marois got what she came to Paris for, as French president François Hollande reinstated the historical policy that has governed diplomatic relations between France and Quebec … After referring to the ‘closeness of the ties’ and the ‘fraternity’ that exists between France and Quebec, Mr. Hollande explained that the ‘non-interference, non-indifference’ policy that has prevailed since 1977 will remain his government’s policy, while stopping short of repeating the formula itself.”

Just in case you yourself might be at least very slightly worried that France (without M. Sarkozy) is once again ready to quickly recognize an independent Quebec in the wake of an (at last) even only very slightly successful Quebec sovereignty referendum, take a look at Chantal Hébert’s Toronto Star column of this past Friday :”Deep talent pool in Quebec with Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau, Philippe Couillard.”

As Ms. Hébert stresses, what these three have in common is that they are all “unconditional  federalists” from Quebec — M. Mulcair, the new leader of the federal New Democrats ; M. Trudeau, frontrunner in the current federal Liberal leadership campaign ; and M. Couillard, frontrunner in the current Quebec provincial Liberal leadership campaign. As Ms. Hébert also stresses, these three men also, each in his own unique way, “ put the lie to the notion that the province’s federalist talent pool has dried up.”

Those of us old enough to remember Canada before Justin Trudeau’s father became prime minister, on April 20, 1968, may also remember something else. In 1965 Pierre Trudeau was just one of “three wise men” from Quebec ( Gérard Pelletier and Jean Marchand were the other two), who Liberal leader and Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson recruited into federal politics — at a time of some real disenchantment with the Canadian future in Quebec. (And if you remember this, you’ll probably also remember July 24, 1967, when French President Charles de Gaulle proclaimed “Vive le Québec libre” from a Montreal City Hall balcony.)

It is more than a little arguable that the three Quebec wise men of 1965 played a big role in the survival of the Canadian federation over the past half century. It is of course far too early to predict any similar future for the trio of Couillard, Mulcair, and Trudeau Jr. in 2012  But Ms. Hébert is hopefully close to some poignant truth when she writes that, over the next five years, they  “will certainly put to the test the (dubious) proposition that Quebec is now consigned to the margins of Canada’s politics.” And they “may be more representative of the future shape of things to come in Quebec than the somewhat talent-challenged sovereigntist government that was elected last month.”(Hopefully as well someone in Paris this autumn is reading Chantal Hébert’s columns — in one place or another.)

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