Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Having your gâteau and eating it too

There’s a good chance that ten or fifteen years from now, Quebec will be an independent state. So let’s look ahead and see what the political situation will be in northern North America.

The first and most important thing to note is that, contrary to what some might expect, all Quebeckers – at least all who so desire, and that will be just about everyone – will be dual citizens of Quebec and Canada. There is no way that the Canadian government will be able to strip Quebeckers of their Canadian citizenship. It is not illegal for Canadians to reside abroad. Today there are Canadians in good standing who reside in the U.S., the U.K., Uganda, China, and so on. Any attempt by Ottawa to void the citizenship of Canadians living in Quebec would be challenged immediately in Canadian courts and struck down as unconstitutional. (The break-up of Czechoslovakia does not provide a parallel, since with the formation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist.) So after Quebec separates and takes its seat at the United Nations, and starts fielding (or icing) its own hockey team in international competitions, we’ll still have seven million Canadian citizens living in Quebec.

Here’s where the fun begins. In federal elections, all these Canadians are going to be entitled to cast absentee ballots – either because they have some previous connection with a riding in the new, downsized Canada or because political parties, seeking political advantage, will make it easy for these out-of-country citizens to establish nominal residence in a Canadian riding of their choice or else vote in phantom out-of-country ridings (e.g., the phantom Gatineau riding for Canadians living in Gatineau, Quebec). Naturally, these Canadians living abroad in Quebec are going to represent a major political force. At election time, federal party leaders will have to cross the border and spend a fair amount of time campaigning for absentee votes in Quebec. So to be successful, parties are going to have to have bilingual leaders and governing parties are going to have to include members from Quebec in their cabinets. And because all those good Canadian citizens living abroad in Quebec need to have jobs in order to put bread on their tables, the federal government is going to have to award a good share of fat federal contracts to Quebec companies. (The government of Quebec is unlikely to complain; after all, the separatists have always advocated some form of economic union with Canada.) Of course, westerners, and Albertans in particular, will scream about eastern bias, but – let’s face it – population numbers talk when it comes to politics.

One more thing: those seven million Canadians, despite all the attention paid to them by politicians in Ottawa, and despite all the contracts awarded to the Quebec companies that employ them, will inevitably feel left out and neglected. They will feel that Ottawa – and Canada in general – doesn’t really understand or care enough about Canadians living abroad. Many of them will feel that their interests would be better served if they were represented in Ottawa by their own political party. What would they call such a party? Hmmm…how about the Bloc Québécois? That has a nice ring to it, n’est-ce pas? I imagine it would do quite well.

Welcome to the future.

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