Libman: Legault considers meeting with Trudeau a “nation-to-nation” summit

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Are Quebec and Ottawa on another collision course? Next Friday, Prime Minister François Legault will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to supposedly resolve several contentious issues regarding immigration powers and responsibilities. Immigration is one of the last remaining jurisdictions over which Quebec longs to exert complete control.

This meeting does not seem like a meeting of a Canadian province with the federal government to resolve differences, but rather a “nation-to-nation” summit. Quebec, under Legault, acts like a sovereign state, gleefully passing laws that trample on minority rights and doing whatever it wants, such as with the assault on university tuition, all without opposition from the rest of Canada.

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It is chillingly evident how Legault and his cabinet ministers have been increasingly referring to the “Quebec nation” in their statements – reinforcing in the public consciousness the de facto independence of Quebec and the challenge to Ottawa – presumably as a protection against the rise of the Parti Québécois:

There are three gauntlets launched in recent weeks.

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Both Legault and Trudeau are faltering in the polls. With the Coalition Avenir Québec lagging behind the PQ, Legault’s anti-Ottawa nationalist rhetoric may intensify ahead of the meeting. He probably believes he can’t afford to get away with much less than virtually stripping Ottawa of any say in who can enter Quebec, and/or a ton of cash.

Trudeau has already shown considerable submission to Quebec’s actions, particularly regarding language and identity politics. Given that Quebec remains one of the few regions where poll numbers are somewhat competitive, some major concessions are expected. Furthermore, his main rival, conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, has shown that he intends to be a subservient lackey of Legault and curry favor to win votes. Poilievre’s apparent recent attempt to get a “pro-Quebec” news clip by refusing to elaborate on an English-language journalist’s question: saying smugly, “We’re in Quebec, right?” – it was pathetic. It was not in Pointe-au-Pic but in Pointe-Claire, in the most anglophone federal area of ​​Quebec.

Legault may also warn Trudeau to stay out of the debate over Bill 21. After last week’s ruling, federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said Ottawa would (finally) intervene if Bill 21 ends up before the Supreme Court, “to defend the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms)” and the preventive use of the notwithstanding clause. . Virani acted like Hercules in criticizing the Saskatchewan government for invoking the notwithstanding clause to pass a law that prevents children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at school without their parents’ consent. He even posted a statement at the top of his Twitter profile criticizing the move. But in Bill 21, he looked like a deer in the headlights at his press conference. We will see if the liberals finally evade this commitment.

This latest immigration move is another step towards Legault achieving – without a referendum – René Lévesque’s sovereignty association, but still maintaining the advantages: transfers and compensation payments of a weak Canadian federation.

“Collision” between Quebec and Ottawa is not the right choice of words if the federal government continues to allow Quebec to drive a steamroller.

Robert Libman is an architect and planning consultant who has served as an Equality Party leader and MNA, as mayor of Côte-St-Luc, and as a member of Montreal’s executive committee. He was a Conservative candidate in the 2015 federal election. X @robertlibman

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