Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Stuck Between Two Solitudes

Posted on | August 5, 2011 | No Comments

The ever widening chasm between these two solitudes ignoring each other from coast to coast got a little bit wider this week thanks to Nycole Turmel’s past political affiliations. The way the news was presented in the media underlines the growing lack of understanding between the French and English societies in this country. Maybe the chasm can no longer be bridged?

Thus in Quebec the news in itself caused few reactions. Nycole Turmel was a paid member of the Bloc Québécois, supposedly in order to help out a friend, and of Québec Solidaire, two parties with well-known separatist leanings. Beyond the thorny issue of national unity, it must be recognized that back then these parties were the only sensible left-wing options for Mrs Turmel.

Let’s be honest: it is hard for to be a left-wing activist (Québec Solidaire) or even center-left wing (Parti Québécois) without coping with the issue of independence. It would be hypocritical to ask of Mrs Turmel to be a turncoat and represent instead the Liberal Party. Obviously this isn’t impossible; you could discuss the issue withThomas Mulcair and maybe, wonder next why he wasn’t chosen to replace Mr. Layton.

The raw truth is also that these past elections excepted, the NDP has never been a credible political alternative in Quebec. Depending almost exclusively on the large unions of English Canada, with no noteworthy candidate nor a well-oiled political machine in the Fair Province, the NDP had been sidestepped a long time ago by the Bloc Québécois. The latter represented just as efficiently, if not more so, the social-democrat values of a large number of voters.

The way Anglophone media addressed the issue, and the way it was appropriated by Harper, is entirely different. For them, everything which is even remotely linked with separatism is permanently corrupted. This is an almost sectarian vision of Canadian unity where every contrary opinion smacks of treason, as you can figure out from the many comments written on the websites of various Anglophone media.

It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that associating with the NDP was simply unthinkable for Quebec’s left a few years ago. That still today the demographic change in this party’s elected MPs is not easily managed, that two distinct mentalities, not always touching base, must learn to coexist, to recognize one another.

Today Nycole Turmel is stuck between these two solitudes in the party she has to lead. But she is also under attack from the same two solitudes outside her party. This is an uncomfortable position for her, but if the rest of Canada does not demonstrate better capacities to understand Quebec’s political motivations, it will find itself in a position just as uncomfortable.

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