Well, after close to six months of student protests, an intense month-long political campaign, and non-stop debates, it all culminated into what turned out to be one of the most surreal and solemn election nights I’ve ever witnessed in this province. Watching Quebec’s first female premier being dragged away from her victory speech to avoid being assassinated was certainly something we all won’t soon forget.
In the end the Liberals barely lost, and the PQ barely won. Charest was ousted, eventually resigning; fulfilling the hopes of many who were demanding change and some much-needed accountability on those rampant corruption charges. The PQ won, but only with a slim minority, making the issue of sovereignty a moot one for the moment. With support for another referendum at a measly 26 percent, Quebecers are making it clear to their government officials that it’s time to focus on the real issues. For now.
It’s been an interesting couple of days, as I watch the reactions come in from both sides of the linguistic fence. Panicky Anglophones, debating whether or not they should be selling their homes and heading down the 401 (seriously, folks?), and frustrated Francophones upset at the fact that the ROC is reacting with angst and fear at a PQ win. Can we all take a minute to breathe here?
Democracy is a beautiful thing. Even when it looks like it’s faltering along, even when it’s far from perfect, even when the cacophony of ugly noise overrides the good, it’s still working. “Political institutions,” as American author and journalist Michael Novak once said, “are designed to clang together. That noise is democracy at work.”
I know it doesn’t seem like it to many right now, but the election results reflect our populace well. Quebecers voted in droves (73 percent), and they unequivocally voted for change. But on their terms. By voting in a minority PQ separatist government with a strong opposition comprised of the Liberals and the CAQ (one staunchly federalist party and one somewhat so), they are forcing everyone to work together.
Quebec is a divided province, and these election results prove that as clear as day. The divisive rhetoric of political campaigning and the blame game certainly didn’t help matters much, as it succeeds in stoking the flames of intolerance and linguistic tension that always lives beneath our civilized surface.
This is a place where many of its people are not agreement with each other about what the best avenue to get things done is. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s democracy. It’s time to raise the bar, and collectively – as a society – refuse to participate in this perpetuation of fear mongering and stereotypes. It’s time we stopped responding with anger and frustration at what are legitimate aspirations and legitimate concerns.
This is a place where many of its people are not agreement with each other about what the best avenue to get things done is. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s democracy.
It’s legitimate to want to be a proud Quebecer and a proud Canadian. It’s legitimate to want to be a proud Quebecer and dream of creating your own country. It’s legitimate to sway between the two possibilities, as many have done in the past, and many will in the future. There is nothing wrong with having a different vision of what you want and how you can accomplish it.
Stop treating those who disagree with you as traitors. Stop being suspicious of differences, - be they linguistic, religious, or cultural – and just see them for what they are; different models of reality. In a world as multicultural and global as ours, we need to embrace that the reality of many will always affect and influence us as individuals. And, if we’re lucky, we, as individuals, get to influence the many.
Whether your party won or lost, it’s time for us to get back to the job of living. As a close friend of mine, who emailed me the day after election night, said: “Today the sun rose, we fed the dog, we made love; we paid the bills. Those we put in charge will continue to argue and disagree on our behalf, and in time we will judge them for their efforts.”
Last night, political junkie that I am, I was watching the Democratic National Convention. Former U.S. president, Bill Clinton delivered a rousing and a truly conciliatory speech to the democratic delegation. We need something like this here.
He said: "The politics of constant conflict may be good politics, but what works in politics does not work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation." Amen.
It’s time for us to get back to the business of living, my friends. We have work to do. Pas l’temps de niaiser…