Monday, 4 March 2013

Two Solitudes

"If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher." -- Unknown

Two pieces in this morning's newspaper caught my attention with their highlighting of the sociopolitical situation that Quebec residents endure.

First: At a conference of the sovereigntist party Option Nationale, former premier Jacques Parizeau pointed out that an independent Quebec would be "rid of constitutional constraints" with regard to anglophones and asked how a new government would handle the issue.  He also encouraged the use of public funds to work toward the goal of sovereignty (even when Quebec is currently over $114 billion in debt) because being independent would "provide considerable savings".

I call bullshit.  If Quebec were to become independent, things would get MUCH worse for everyone.  There would be no more federal transfer payments.  No more Canadian dollar.  No military.  Trade and business contracts would have to be renegotiated.  And so on.  And I would bet my bottom dollar that any government of an independent Quebec would not hesitate to stomp down on non-francophones so hard that they would break.  Why not make us wear maple-leaf badges and be done with it?  At least we'll have no doubt as to where we stand.

Which brings me to the second piece: A letter from a 26-year-old anglophone student at McGill University, in which he describes his plan to leave the province for good after he receives his MBA.  He had spent three years working in the U.S. and then returned home to find that nothing had changed.  Roads are still crumbling, taxes are higher than ever, the government still spins in circles, and nothing changes.  He will gladly trade all that for something better.

The second example is a clear consequence of the first.  It's little wonder that so many people, including the bulk of my own contemporaries, have left the province.  Very little has changed in 30 years, and there hasn't been a government strong enough (provincial or federal) to say "Stop the nonsense."  The beautiful city that I have called home is falling apart amid an ongoing war of attrition that, in the end, everyone will lose.

I was recently asked why I stayed here despite all these problems.  Answer: my family.  My husband has a stable job, we have a child in school (immersion), and my in-laws live nearby.  We cope.  And we happen to like it here.  But we'll be keeping an eye out for other opportunities, because with this wacky government of ours, things could change in the blink of an eye.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. It is interesting to be reminded of Central Canadian realities. Here in B.C. the whole French thing is simply not something we agonize much over. If we had two official languages, the second one would more likely be Mandarin in Vancouver, with Russian in Grand Forks.