I Fear For Federalism - The Third Way
"Autonomism." We may as well get used to it, because apparently, about a third of Quebeckers have chosen to park their votes with a party which essentially represents a Third Way of looking at the national question. We have federalism. We have sovereigntism. And now, we have autonomism. I think Mario Dumont's ADQ surge represents a disillusionment with both the sovereignty movement and the federalist cause.
Federalists are celebrating tonight because the PQ did so poorly - a good reason for any federalist to celebrate - but I am a bit more apprehensive. Dumont claims that he is not a sovereigntist, but an autonomist. He wants more autonomy - political, economic - for Quebec, though is uninterested in separating from Canada.
But in a way, what Dumont wants resembles separation from Canada in many respects. I fear Stephen Harper has emboldened these autonomists by playing their game - giving more money to Quebec, and also the nation resolution. This may have blunted sovereigntism, but what of autonomism, now the greatest numerical adversary of federalism in Quebec? I fear we may have only seen the beginning of a push for greater "independence" for Quebec within Canada (read: given yet more no-strings-attached money from the Rest of Canada) - despite Quebec already receiving more special favours than any other province. And I fear any attempt to resist this push could lead to a revived sovereigntist movement (maybe, just maybe, led by Mario Dumont). I fear for federalism.
Personally, I'm not a fan of any of the parties. In all likelihood, had I a vote, it would have gone to the Parti Vert. But this new paradigm - and that's exactly what this seems to be - makes me very, very wary. Dumont is neither an ally nor an enemy of federalism, which makes him unpredictable, which makes him interesting to watch. But it also makes dealing with him hazardous territory.
If Dumont eventually takes power, he could lead a push for Quebec independence within Canada, and if jilted, this could turn into a push for Quebec independence without Canada. But perhaps the more likely (and thus, more threatening) possibility is if Dumont ever takes power, and he is able to enact a centre-right program, Quebec may become less dependent on the Rest of Canada to prop up its economy. If any leader will be able to get Quebec into a position, institutionally, where it could survive as its own country, Dumont seems to be the man.
I think federalists need to take a long look at the new political climate in Quebec before coming to any conclusions about whether or not tonight was a victory of a rebuke for a united Canada.