Sunday, August 05, 2012

Quebec's Generation Gap

In the spring, it became clear that Quebec was experiencing what -- in my youth -- we called a "generation gap." Konrad Yakabuski writes, in today's Globe an Mail, that the kids in the street will definitely have an effect on the election. But what that effect will be is hard to predict:

Mr. Charest is all but counting on the radical student organization Mr. Nadeau-Dubois leads to create a ruckus when the province’s colleges and universities start classes this month. Another violent student uprising against his government might just drive fearful and fed up voters to back the federalist Liberals on Sept. 4. Of course, it also possible that Mr. Charest’s attempt to turn the election into a referendum on tuition fees could backfire if voters believe that he provoked the confrontation and prolonged the stand-off by refusing to negotiate with the students for months last spring.

In Canada's English language press, the kids are seen as privileged whiners. But young Quebecers have the impression that they have been cheated. Like the Quiet Revolutionaries, they dream of an economically vibrant Quebec. Unfortunately, Quebec's economy is in the doldrums:

Quebec’s share of the Canadian population and economy has been shrinking for decades. Its debt is now equal to 55 per cent of its gross domestic product, by far the highest in Canada. A reduction in federal transfer payments, a possibility when the current equalization formula expires in 2014, would be catastrophic for its finances.

And an independent Quebec would face more economic headwinds:

Martin Coiteux, a professor at Montreal’s École des Hautes Études Commerciales business school, calculates that an independent Quebec (assuming its share of accumulated federal borrowing) would have a debt burden in between those of Italy and Portugal, two of Europe’s biggest basket cases.

Like the young, Quebec is caught between a rock and a hard place. It's hard to predict whether or not this election will improve the the lot of either. Regardless of how the election turns out, Quebec's generation gap is growing.


Anonymous said...

It seems as if the gap between Quebec and the rest of Canada is growing gas well.

Owen Gray said...

And no one -- particularly no one in the Harper government -- seems concerned about that, Anon.