It is strange to watch my lefty Anglophone friends despair at the election results and suggest that they might support separation rather than be in a Conservative-majority run Canada. This was the reaction I was least expecting, but, as always, things are funky here in Quebec.
My first reaction to this claim is to stress that democracy means winning AND losing. The key way to measure whether a country has democratized is whether a country has gone through two changes in power. That is, elections are not the real measure of a democracy, but the willingness to accept losing and waiting until the next one (or the one after that) to come back into power. The hallmark of the Quebec separatists has been not to accept the verdicts of the past--losing two referenda. Indeed, the striking thing about Duceppe's statement after losing his supposedly safe seat (while his party got crushed) was his saying that he knows to accept the verdict here, unlike 1980/1995. Anyhow, I say to my Conservative-fearing Quebec friends that they can stomach the bad times. After all, the only way to win all the time is if one games the system. Not a good thing. So, you take the bad with the good. Having a Conservative majority means that Harper will have to be accountable the next time around.
My second reaction is to remember a conversation with Jacob Levy about the Bloc--that it assured Quebeckers that they had some voice in Ottawa. Now that voice is gone. Ooops. So, this election produces mixed signals and results for the cause of separation. The Bloc was obliterated so that suggests that enthusiasm for sovereignty and referenda is, um, down, right? Quebeckers supported a national party that pandered to them--the NDP. So, the NDP could be a long-standing replacement for Quebec nationalism? Um, no. I am not sure if the NDP will dry up and blow away like the ADQ did, but relying on McGill undergrads (pretty cool, right!) is perhaps not a sign of a strong bench. So, will a new or old Quebec separatist party emerge to compete for seats at the Federal level? Absolutement (that would be yes). This leads to the next issue.
The bigger question is: will Harper act in ways that antagonize Quebec nationalists and fuel the fire of the secessionist movement? Um, don't know yet. He may be less defensive and more accommodating without having to worry about no confidence votes or he may become more aggressive and push policies that antagonize Quebec folks. Don't know yet.
My third reaction is actually my first one--schadenfreude. Any separatist energy has temporarily been sucked out the window. It will come back, but winning conditions for a refenendum? Not in sight.
More jumbled thoughts to come as my mind jumps back and forth from Canada to a Mc-Mansion in Pakistan.