How Quebec Imposes Its Cultural Agenda On The Rest Of Us

January 1st, 2021 | KW

Before 1968, Canada had prime ministers hailing from Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. On the surface this looks like a diverse representation of leadership for the country. For the past 52 years, however, there has been a strange political anomaly where the leader of the Liberal Party finds themselves either representing or having been born in Quebec and, subsequently, being voted in as prime minister. It seems that Canada's parliamentary system has the unintended consequence of voting in prime ministers almost exclusively from Quebec. At least, it has seemed so in the past 5 decades.

Canada is a large country made up of several regions and many different groups of individuals. Their needs are as diverse as there are countries and cultures in the world. It is suspicious then that the past six (more than one term/year) prime ministers so happen to all be from Quebec. Surely this can’t be a coincidence. How is it that a province like Quebec, which is a unique society, can impose their cultural agenda on the whole of Canada?

Why are federal governments forcing French on the whole population when the entire nation comprises less than 25% of French speakers (with less that 5% French speakers in most provinces)?  How can the interests of the West be properly addressed by its provincial adversaries?

It’s apparent that Quebec has an unfair advantage in our governing system, which is based on old, less relevant frameworks; allowing it to benefit from Canada while being a have-not province and a human rights violator at the same time. It may look inconsequential, but the real perpetrators to Canada’s disharmony are Ontario and Quebec’s share of seats in parliament, the French language as a mandatory institution, and Quebec’s insistence on being a distinct society in Canada and getting special privileges for it.

Consider the following:

● In 1867, Quebec finally joined Canada under the stipulation that its unique society would be protected through an “assured” parliamentary majority. This would allow them at least to determine their own destiny as a province, giving them the second most seats in parliament to win.

● French was made an official language in 1969 and part of parliamentary language during the creation of the Constitution Act. This made speaking French practically a prerequisite for any leadership candidate, or forsake a quarter of the Canadian population.

This is the perfect recipe to give Quebec and Ontario unbridled control over the national agenda. A noble and relatable goal of keeping a distinct society's culture would result in an unfair representative deal for the rest of Canada, particularly the Western provinces.

Unfair Political Influence

While giving Quebec these benefits to join a growing Canada (or risk it as an enemy), today these actions threaten not only Canadian confederacy and unity, but they unfairly weigh the scales of democratic power and representation in the favour of Quebec and Ontario. At a quick glance at the parliamentary seat distribution across the provinces, we can determine that seats were distributed by population size. Seeing as Ontario and Quebec were (and still are) the two largest provinces by population, they are no longer the sole economic engines that drive the Canadian economy.

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Though, as other provinces joined, the seats were not adequately redistributed. A 2006 census would create additional seats according to population size in each province. Every province gained seats, yet it was just a scaling-up of power by Ontario and Quebec, who gained the largest number of seats.

This is a sad realization for the Western provinces. They joined a nation where, by default, they will never control the Canadian agenda, and therefore will struggle to have Ottawa act on issues and policies which affect the Western provinces. That is, unless all Western provinces unite under one party. 

Today’s Canada looks mightily different than the Canada of the early and mid 20th Century, as did their populations and economic drivers.

How is it that Alberta, with a smaller population than Ontario and Quebec, which has had (until recently) the most powerful economy that sustained the have-not provinces of Canada for decades, including Quebec, have less political influence than Quebec and Ontario? The more questions we ask about the fairness of our parliamentary representation, the more we learn that the seats were allocated to subdue the influence of Western Canada.

Even if the Western provinces united under a party unanimously, they would still not be able to override Ontario or Quebec, either together or alone. How can the West stay in confederacy when they are often given the short end of the stick and with no recourse to ever be able to control the national agenda? Should there be populationincentives to increase the population in the West? How long would it take and would other provinces initiate similar initiatives? Or should the parliamentary seat system be based on economic productivity?

Could this be fair?

Regardless of the possible solution, the fact remains clear to everyone living in western provinces: As long as Ontario and Quebec have a plurality of the seats, the rest of Canada will, by default, be ruled by those two provinces and can continue to expect prime ministers to come mostly from Quebec.

Canada Is Too Big To Be Ruled Unfairly

In history, large swaths of land have been notoriously difficult to govern. Take The Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Mongolian Empire, etc… for example. All large empires, spanning multiple countries and territories, all fell due to lack of proper governance.

It’s astounding that Russia, the largest landmass in the world is still, relatively, in one piece.

Though the pattern is clear, it's hard, even with modern technology, to appease the masses of a country when there is no means of taking control or influencing the national agenda. Canada has a lot of problems boiling underneath its peaceful middle-class surface. The failure of Canada's confederacy could be a reality if the multi-layered inequity is not addressed through actions, and with more than just a footnote or caveat in a throne speech.

Real honest and tough discussions and decisions must be made to help this country stay united in the 21st Century.Before COVID 19, we saw historical political and social unrest in the country with major infrastructures being blocked by First Nations protests and social justice activists.

Canadians have never felt more at the mercy of the government than any other time in recent decades and one way to make sure the federation stays appeased is to offer British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan a fair chance at driving the national agenda. No region should haveto unite completely to have their concerns addressed. It’s highly impossible a feat to achieve!

"It’s apparent that Quebec has an unfair advantage in our governing system, which is based on old, less relevant frameworks."

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

There are then only two solutions. One of which is regrettable.

Firstly, Canada must have a national conference of the provinces. In these conferences, the provinces will negotiate a new seating arrangement that guarantees each region an opportunity to influence the direction of Canada’s agenda. This modernization could satiate the lack of control large swaths of constituents feel and bond Canadians together again.

We must eliminate the concept of the “Laurentian Elites” from politics in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and ensure that there is no one province or party that can monopolize the direction of the country.

Otherwise, secondly, the solution is to break up the confederacy. This solution is much more complex, chaotic and less of a desired outcome, but a real political reality that should be considered. A couple new federal parties have been created due to the stagnation of the current climate. Should a province stay in a confederacy when their voices are but a mere background noise? How often should the provinces of the West petition a minority agenda to Ottawa?How much longer should a single, unique society, so far away from many Canadians day-to-day lives, influence the politics and culture of another region without offering any adequate reciprocation?

Canada is beautiful on the outside to visitors, but is deeply inequitable to those of us who live here and to those who have lived here long before Canada (the country) was conceptualized.

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