The paradoxes that the nationalist right must correct

In light of the most recent polls, the Parti Québécois (PQ) has once again become the most credible political option in Quebec. Consequently, the questions of national identity and the independence of Quebec are coming back to the forefront on the political scene.

Long-time PQ separatists, many of whom made the switch to François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) in recent years, are now tending to return to the fold. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon gave them hope in independence, one might think.

In this surge of optimism, however, I am saddened that several politicians, known to have been independentists in another life, today feel so little challenged by the question of sovereignty. In fact, I will not mince my words: these politicians, mainly from the CAQ and the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), are simply incoherent.

For the sake of political interests, they are ready to deny one of their fundamental beliefs.

First simple example: François Legault. His lamentable failures in recent days on the immigration file – being told “no” by Justin Trudeau and brandishing the threat of a sectoral referendum – could and should have set off an alarm in his head. An alarm like: “François, you can see that negotiating with the federal government doesn’t bring much,” or even: “Even if you elected 90 deputies, your balance of power is zero. »

In other words, his failures should have made him understand that the only path that could potentially work to make gains for Quebec is sovereignty.

But as Frédéric Boily, specialist in Canadian and Quebec politics, so well illustrated with the title of his work The Future Quebec Coalition. An ideology in search of power (2018), François Legault is prisoner of his preoccupation with satisfying the entire population, which prevents him from adopting more advanced ideological positions, such as the independence of Quebec. The CAQ therefore perfectly embodies what a “catch-all” type party is.

However, this opportunistic attitude does not make a great head of state or a great politician. In a context where Quebec is tired of enduring disagreements from the federal government — on matters of secularism, the French language, immigration, culture… the list is long! —, the Premier of Quebec should instead put his ego aside, admit that his federalist vision does not work and, ultimately, line up behind the Yes camp. There is no shame in admitting your mistakes… even in politics!

While it is obvious that this would represent a huge risk for Mr. Legault’s political career, at least renewing such a conviction would allow him to place himself on the right side of history. Respecting your convictions is what makes all the difference! Take for example Lucien Bouchard, former minister in the Mulroney federal government. He could have stayed there if he wanted, but out of conviction, he left his post to join the sovereignist ranks and became an essential historical figure of the Quebec nation.

On the other hand, the CAQ is not the only one to state such contradictions on the national question. This is also the case further to the right, notably with the leader of the PCQ, Éric Duhaime.

In his youth, Éric Duhaime was active in the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois, but since the failure of the 1995 referendum, he has turned instead to the conservative political class. Since then, he has only recognized the legitimacy of Quebec in wanting to be more autonomous within Canada while definitively excluding the idea of ​​sovereignty.

This positioning is somewhat problematic. Éric Duhaime constantly boasts of being an ardent defender of freedom. We all remember the importance he gave to this value during the 2022 electoral campaign. The slogan of his party, “Libres chez nous”, then referred to the fed-up that many Quebecers were experiencing. with regard to health measures.

However, it is clear that he only defends individual freedom of form, which takes second place to the collective freedom of the Quebec people to decide their own future. I find it difficult to understand that Mr. Duhaime opposes these two forms, which must be solidly united to result in a viable political system.

With his current platform, it’s as if he was proposing to offer freedom to Quebecers, but only half. Indeed, what is the point of benefiting from such freedom on an individual level if we are not even able to apply it collectively against Ottawa afterwards?

The PCQ would have everything to gain from adopting an autonomist position that combines these two forms of freedom. This would allow him, at the right time, to join the Yes camp, a bit like Mario Dumont did in 1995 as leader of the Democratic Action of Quebec (ADQ).

Instead, Éric Duhaime is one of those who prefers to scare Quebecers by telling them that they are incapable of taking charge of themselves, when he knows very well that another, more ameliorative option would be possible.

All my argument leads me to believe that the nationalist right in Quebec, embodied to varying degrees by François Legault and Éric Duhaime, faces a dilemma: witness its own disaster, which it will have created from scratch, or admit its paradoxes and remedy them by joining the Yes camp. After all, the sovereignty project must be representative, which requires equal participation in it from the right and the left. The participation of the CAQ and the PCQ would be beneficial for the independence movement. It would even benefit the nation.

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