It was undoubtedly the only moment a little raised of the debate between the five federal party leaders on Wednesday. The head of Bloc Quebecois, Yves-Francois Blanchet, asked Justin trudeau : “Why does he tell the Quebec nation what to do and what to think” and does not do the same with the aboriginal peoples? “Because I am a Quebecker, Mr. Blanchet,” replied the Liberal leader animatedly. You will not accuse me of not being a Quebecer. “
In the press briefing that followed the debate, Justin Trudeau recalled that 78 elected members of the House of Commons come from Quebec – 32 MPs are all the same Bloc members, it should be remembered – and that 11 of his ministers are Quebecers.
For those who lived through the referendum campaign of 1980, the response may have given rise to a feeling of déjà vu. Pierre Elliott Trudeau had also posed as a proud Quebecer, relying on the legitimacy conferred on him by his 74 Liberal MPs out of the 75 House of Commons seats from Quebec. It looked like Justin Trudeau was reading a textbook written by his father. “This claim of Mr. Blanchet according to which if one does not believe in the independence of Quebec, one cannot be a true Quebecer, that if one does not listen exactly to the National Assembly, one is not a true Quebecker is simply irresponsible, ”added the Liberal leader at a press briefing.
“There is only one institution that speaks on behalf of Quebecers, it’s called the National Assembly of Quebec,” said Yves-François Blanchet after the debate. It is a bit short: there are a host of matters which unfortunately do not come under the jurisdiction of the National Assembly – and which are nevertheless of great importance to the citizens of Quebec.
When the Dominion of Canada was created in 1867, the federal government was vested with essentially all colonial powers: the military, the Criminal Code, interprovincial and international trade, foreign affairs and theimmigration, among others. More broadly, its Parliament can make laws “for peace, order and good government” in any matter that is not assigned to the provinces. It is the federal government that appoints the judges of the Superior Court and the Courts of Appeal, which spread to the justices of the Supreme Court when the final appeals were repatriated from London. Ottawa was given responsibility for unemployment insurance, and since then it has used its spending power to oversee the provinces, particularly in health. In addition, the judges he appoints have acquired a great deal of power thanks to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In short, in the current state of affairs, the Parliament of Ottawa decides on things that are important to the citizens of Quebec. It goes without saying that, although they are in the minority in the House of Commons, they try to exert some influence on the decisions imposed on them. The National Assembly may speak on behalf of Quebeckers, but does not decide anything that does not fall within its purview. Through motions – often harmless, sometimes useful for influencing public opinion – the National Assembly, in fact, only speaks when it deals with the responsibilities devolved on the Parliament of Ottawa.
That said, the fact that the Prime Minister of Canada is a Quebecker is not always an advantage.
Wilfrid Laurier allowed Manitoba to abolish French schools, which was later imitated by Ontario.
It was Quebecer Pierre Elliott Trudeau who used the War Measures Act in 1970 for political ends. In the 1980 referendum, he promised “changes” and then repatriated a constitution restricting the powers of the National Assembly and at the same time betraying his comrades in arms, those Quebec federalists who sincerely believed in the renewal of federalism and the recognition of Quebec.
Finally, it was under the leadership of another Quebecer, Jean Chrétien, that the sponsorship program was launched, this odious attempt to influence Quebec public opinion secretly while greasing the friends of the regime. On the other hand, this Prime Minister proved to be much more effective with the Canada research chairs, whose largesse submits Quebec researchers to federal power.
When Pierre Trudeau made his constitutional coup, only one of the 74 elected Liberals in Quebec, Louis Duclos, resigned. Not very honorable for so-called representatives of the people. Since then, voters can fall back on the Bloc Québécois to avoid voting for potential blessings. However, elected Bloc members will speak on behalf of their compatriots, of course, but they will only speak, without ever hoping to exercise power.
It is a dilemma. It is also a tragedy.