Quebec is a French island in an English ocean. That's undeniable. The question has always been, "How should Quebecers react to that fact?" There have always been those who have argued that, to survive, Quebecers must look inward and erect political and cultural bunkers. Others have argued that Quebec must look outward and embrace the world.
The Parti Quebecois has opened the isolationist argument again with its proposed Charter of Quebec Values. That charter is not only separating Quebecers; it's also separating each of the three federal political parties. Tom Walkom writes:
Federal reaction to Quebec’s proposed ban on religious symbols speaks volumes. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is firmly but politely opposed. Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats hope the whole issue will miraculously go away. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are vigorously trying to say nothing.
Harper lost Quebec a long time ago. His silence is cowardly. But he has nothing to lose. It's Tom Mulcair who is caught in a bind. Fifty-seven of his one hundred seats come from Quebec. Those seats are filled by a number of soft nationalists, who believe they can best defend Quebec's interests as members of the New Democratic Party. So Mulcair must walk a political tightrope.
Only Justin Trudeau is categorically opposed to the new charter. But, Walkom writes, his opposition is couched in interesting terms:
Moreover, the Liberal leader has been careful in his language. He doesn’t call the proposed ban racist (although, arguably, it is). Rather he says that it is unnecessary and counterproductive — that it would tarnish Quebec’s image across the world.
Like Mulcair, Trudeau is a native son. He can voice his opposition as a Quebecer. He will be lambasted by hardcore nationalists. On the other hand, there is significant opposition to the PQ's Charter both inside and outside Quebec.
Justin has a long way to go before he can overcome the Liberals' reputation for political convenience. But his stand on the Quebec Charter of Values is a start.
We await further developments.