Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe has decided to tour the country to convince Canadians that it would be good for us if Quebec separated.
Canadians love Quebec but Duceppe may not have to work too hard to convince Canadians to let it go. Many are tired of the annoying lament from a province that keeps yelling at those who pay part of its bills and are concerned by the over-representation of francophones in our bureaucracy, our Parliament and our institutions.
The notion that we have to do whatever it takes to keep Quebec happy in order to keep Canada united is not only wrong, it’s counterproductive. In fact, the special treatment given to Quebec is balkanizing this country so that all the provinces are starting to consider Ottawa only as an ATM machine that dispenses money. The new mentality is affecting Ontario, the province that has paid the most, along with Alberta, to sustain the fake equation of a happy Quebec equals a united Canada.
According to the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation, an independent, non-partisan public policy think-tank with seed money from the Ontario government, 51 per cent of Ontarians believe they are not getting enough respect from Ottawa. Outside this province, the percentage goes up to 63 per cent and is highest in Atlantic Canada. But, says this opinion research, "perceptions of disrespect have increased far more in Ontario than elsewhere." In fact, in Ontario it has virtually doubled since 2004, when just 27 per cent of Ontarians felt that their province was not being treated properly.
The selfish cultural aspirations of Duceppe and his friends are forcing us to rewrite the rules of mathematics and the laws of economics, insulting the intelligence of all Canadians and, if we don’t put a stop to it, threatening to destroy this country and set Ontario adrift.
Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille recently complained that "after recognizing the Quebec nation, the (federal) government is now invoking representation by population in order to reduce the political weight of Quebec." With this statement, DeBellefeuille was openly challenging the basic rule of a democracy that all citizens should be equally represented.
Under the present rules, Quebec has one MP for every 100,000 people. It’s one MP for every 73,000 in Atlantic Canada – but one for only 34,000 in P.E.I. In contrast, the riding of Vaughan has one MP for 160,000 people, while the average Ontario riding contains almost 120,000; in B.C. it’s 123,000. With the changes proposed by the Harper government, Ontario would elect one MP for each 102,000 residents and it would be 103,000 for British Columbia. That’s still a higher ratio than for Quebec and Atlantic Canada but it’s more reasonable.
That’s not all. According to a study released last February by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a think-tank headquartered in Winnipeg, the so-called "have-not provinces" – Quebec and Atlantic Canada – that are receiving money from the "have provinces," enjoy better services than residents of "rich" Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
Quebec will receive almost $8.4 billion in 2009-2010 out of a total equalization budget of $14.2 billion. This money, coming for years mainly from taxpayers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and lately also from Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, is used "to provide service levels far beyond what is provided in the paying province," the report says.
For example: there are 228 physicians per 100,000 people in Nova Scotia and 217 in Quebec. At the same time, there are only 176 in Ontario, 197 in Alberta and 198 in British Columbia. Average university tuition in Quebec is $2,167, while it’s $5,643 in Ontario, $5,361 in Alberta and $5,040 in British Columbia. It’s the same story for daycare spaces: A regulated space is available for 25 per cent of Quebec children under 5 years of age while the corresponding figures are 19.6 per cent in Ontario, 17.4 per cent in Alberta and 18.3 per cent in British Columbia. Total Quebec spending per capita for social services is $2,342, compared with $1,398 in Ontario, $1,592 in Alberta and $1,702 in B.C.
Duceppe has to be careful in making his case with the rest of Canada: He might get what he wants. Quebec has a debt of $122 billion and, in case of separation, he must add on top of that a share of Canada’s national debt, something in the area of $120 billion. The total is a staggering $242 billion. According a recent analysis by the Quebec finance ministry, the province has one of the most indebted economies in the industrialized world. The reality is that Quebec exists and its citizens can enjoy a good quality of life because it is part of Canada. The people of Quebec know that and appreciate it. Duceppe doesn’t.
In fact, if Duceppe wants to see Quebec separate from Canada, why is he trying to convince the rest of the country when he has failed to convince the people of his own province?
Angelo Persichilli is the political editor of Corriere Canadese.