People and Places

ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 24): Disgruntled cats, zombies, loonies, bogeymen — and the threat of Quebec separation

Day 24: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie gets into a lather about the spectre of Quebec separation.

My cat says he’s packing his stuff and is outta here.

He says we don’t speak the same language. He says he is tired of being humiliated, of being reminded of his inferiority, and wants to be master in his own home.

Meh. He might as well go. I’m tired of his bad attitude, his constant howling and complaining, day and night. I have to worry about the bills while he wastes his time pretending to catch mice.

Were it not for me, I tell him, he’d have been dog bait years ago. He claims that, without his input on these blogs, I’d be a worse writer than Warren Kinsella and would be whoring myself to the tabloids.

But I know that cat’s not going anywhere as long as that food bowl is full.

A lot of Canadians can relate to my relationship with my feline freeloader.

The ugly head of Quebec separatism has risen from its too-shallow grave. And, like any other zombie that cries wolf, we’re getting tired of it.

It’s like an abusive relationship, except that the tiresome husband insists on living next door and splitting the welfare cheque. Plus he comes in during the day to watch Springer and drinks all the milk. And leaves the empty carton in the fridge. And the seat up. When he lifts it.

When the separatist wolf-crying zombie started rattling its chains this weekend at the Parti Québécois convention in Quebec, Steve Harper and Mike Ignatieff jumped and drooled with Pavlovian precision.

A Tory majority is the only antidote to the undead bogeyman that’s stinkin’ up the joint, Harper said. That way, the separatists would not have a say in government.

Ignatieff, a man not unfamiliar with the ways of the eternally living dead, said his love of the country was the silver bullet.

(Jack Layton, who, with a little wink and pointed index finger, talks of “Quebec and Canada” when he’s between Rigaud and St. Louis de Ha Ha, muttered that his opponents were troublemakers.)

Harper is partly right. The resurrection of the fetid corpse of one of the 20th century’s most ludicrous nationalist movements is a cause for concern. But Harper does not need to win a majority now. The howling of the separatist banshee, with its bad comb-over, yellow teeth, and smell of stale tobacco has stuck a fork in any chance of a Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition.

Some loonies have tried to whip up what Jack Layton calls “the fire of discord” into a full-blown napalm attack, claiming that this election could even end with a Bloc Québécois-led coalition. Anyone who believes that needs better drugs.

Still, there are real reasons to worry about that chain-dragging corpse that is now in the kitchen, going through your purse, looking for spare change and gum.

Working with Quebec’s xenophobic tribe of neo-Marxists and Petainist crypto-fascist fools is never a good idea. Still, despite all the tough talk, both the Tories and Liberals have furtively and clumsily bought support for various bills, budgets, and coalition schemes in dark alleys by the light of the full moon.

Now for the obligatory history lesson.

The situation in Canada’s very similar to troubles of the United Kingdom at the end of the 1800s. There, neither of the major parties (which, for ease of memory, were called “Liberals” and “Conservatives”), could win majorities. The Irish kept sending a bloc of separatists to Westminister. To win their support in Parliament, the major parties made a series of concessions that eventually led to Irish Home Rule and, soon after, full independence.

We’re well along that path. All of the parties signed on to the politically-inspired House of Commons resolution saying Quebec is a nation within a united Canada. For years, Bloc politicians got up in Question Period to demand the government of the day make a stand on whether the Quebec people are a “nation” and, despite the caveat words about a united Canada, they have it.

A nation is a nation, whether it chooses to stay in the construct of a united Canada or, like Kitchissippi Willy, decides to take its food bowl and leave. And that’s what we’ll hear if the separatists finally win a referendum.

In two decades, Stephen Harper and the last parliament will be remembered for only one thing, that resolution. Like a lethal form of herpes, we’re now infected and it will someday help to kill this country. I know I seem even more pessimistic than usual, but it’s mathematical in its simplicity.

Maybe I’m a Pollyanna. Perhaps I mistake the yowls of an overweight Chinatown tabby for the howls of the over-ripe ghost of René Lévesque. But I don’t think so. The only way for the scenario to change would be for Jean Charest to overcome his eight-point deficit and beat Pauline Marois in the provincial election that will likely be held about a year from now.

Even that won’t guarantee much. Eventually, the Quebec Liberals will lose power, and there’s no one to replace them except the separatists.

And, like many of the people on the wrong end of abusive relationships, Canadians will be relieved when they hear the door slam.