Licia Corbella - Quebec separatists never let a golden opportunity - or even a bronze one - go to waste.
On Tuesday, Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois acknowledged the four medals - all bronze - that Canada had won to that point at the London 2012 Olympics, and pointed out something that was pretty obvious - that all of those medals were won by Quebecers.
She used that fact to score some sovereigntist points on the eve of Premier Jean Charest calling a provincial election for Sept. 4.
Marois called the medal count "another example of how Quebec could certainly shine among the brightest - As an independent country, we could continue to win our medals, I’m convinced of that."
She may be convinced of that, but I’m not, and the books certainly don’t support her assertion.
First of all, some of the Quebec athletes who won those four bronze medals - if not all - expressed how much it means for them to compete for Canada. Their message was clear - they are proud Canadians as well as Quebecers. Marois assumes that all of those carded, internationally ranked Quebec athletes would stay in la belle province. That’s a false assumption. After all, the money sent to carded Canadian athletes by Canadian taxpayers would dry up should Quebec become a separate nation.
Those athletes would then be faced with the dilemma : stay close to home and continue to train in familiar surroundings, but without Canadian sports money, or move to another province and continue to receive that money. Many might decide to move regardless of the money, because they view themselves as Canadians first and Quebecers second.
Marois would argue that her government would continue to fund Quebec’s elite athletes. But what Marois and most other Quebecers - including both sovereigntists and federalists - fail to recognize, is Quebec would be out anywhere from $8 billion to $13 billion annually in lost federal transfers, since Quebec is a net recipient of Confederation, not a net contributor to it in monetary terms.
This is not a value judgment. I am not writing this to make Quebecers feel badly. It is just the truth, and I believe that the truth - if we could ever have it truly acknowledged in Quebec - would set that province and the rest of Canada free from the incessant political blackmail that we have grown accustomed to putting up with in the interest of national unity. The irony, of course, is that by allowing the lies to flourish, unity is threatened, not enhanced.
Marois needs to under-stand that without the rest of Canada, Quebec’s culture of entitlement and welfare state would collapse eventually for lack of money.
In 2009, the last year for which data are available for all provinces, Quebec was a net recipient of $13.641 billion - or $1,743 for every Quebec man, woman and child. By contrast, Alberta, in the same year, was the only net contributor to Confederation, to the tune of $15.993 billion.
Some of that money would continue to be transferred to Quebecers upon separation regardless, since some of it is for employment insurance, for instance, (which employees pay into and are entitled to). However, Old Age Security, as an example, would presumably not continue to be paid by Canada to Quebec residents after separation, since it is not a user-pay program, but a program paid for by wealthier Canadians for the most vulnerable.
These transfers do not include equalization payments that the feds distribute to provinces to ensure that social programs remain equal across the country.
However, we all know that in Quebec, equalization transfers are used to make their social programs more equal than others.
Quebecers have access to $7-a-day daycare, the cheapest university tuition rates in the country by far, longer maternity and paternity leaves and subsidized hydro rates.
Without the feds distributing equalization payments to Quebec, those cushy entitlements would eventually disappear. Students could bang their pots and burn taxpayers’ cars until the end of time and Marois would not have the fiscal room to cave in to their demands.
Marois has already said she isn’t sure when she’ll hold a referendum, but her party’s platform seeks to take full control over its immigration, culture, language and economic development, demanding all federal monies set aside for those files be turned over to the province to administer themselves should they win this provincial election.
PQ intergovernmental affairs critic Bernard Drainville explained during an interview on Montreal’s 98.5 FM that if the feds comply or don’t, sovereigntists win.
"If it works, we are stronger, and if it doesn’t work, you can draw your own conclusions," he said, suggesting that would create the winning conditions for disgruntled Quebecers to vote for sovereignty.
Charest’s Liberal government is facing an inquiry into corruption and other controversies. Nevertheless, he’s asking the silent (non-pot-banging, hardworking Quebecers) to be heard by voting against the destabilizing PQ , and for his tarnished but stable Liberal government.
Here’s hoping his approach is golden and he wins the election for Quebec and Canada.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and editorial page editor. firstname.lastname@example.org