Québec politicians have on two occasions offered the citizens of la belle province the opportunity to secede from Canada via referendum: once in 1980 and the other in 1995. The events caused both excitement and consternation in the voters. In spite of the promise of a future free from the clutches of Ottawa, fear won the day on each occasion (though in 1995 by a negligible margin of 1%).
After the loss in 1980, René Lévesque foresaw a future referendum and said, “Until next time!” However, the loss in 1995 had Jacques Parizeau admit defeat. It’s true we were beaten, he said. Since then the idea of secession has been on the back-burner, though the present day PQ remains upfront about the virtues of sovereignty.
Ottawa’s greatest fear is that the push to secede may gain political prominence once again. After all, the model of top-down governance is a tough sell, especially to people who know that greater autonomy is the path to a better future. And when secession does arrive front and center in the minds of Québec politicians, the path to greater autonomy needn’t be so full of anxiety and uncertainty.
Both Lévesque and Parizeau were under the mistaken impression that a referendum was necessary to secede. Historically this has never been a requirement. A local government or group of individuals need only declare its independence and that’s all. For example, consider the USSR. In 1991, ten republics declared their independence from Moscow without a referendum. Local governments simply made the appropriate declarations. (The Ukraine government did hold a referendum, but it was the exception.) The politicians in Moscow were most unhappy and saw the actions as a blow in the back of our Soviet people. But, in the end, local will is always stronger than the will of remotely located bureaucrats. Nothing could stop the dissolution of the USSR.
Similarly, nothing could stop Québec from separating from Canada should the National Assembly declare independence even without a referendum. The politicians in Ottawa might cry foul if secession is declared in violation of the federal “Clarity Act” of 2000. They might call on the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of such a declaration. But it would all be for show because the Clarity Act and the Supreme Court rulings would no longer apply to an independent country of Québec. In fact, the Canadian military and RCMP would lose all jurisdiction inside the borders of the new country.
The National Assembly need only declare the following in executing a secession from Canada:
That the citizens of Quebec and the members of the National Assembly are no longer under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian military, RCMP and any other external federal and police organizations.
It is not a complicated process. Once the declaration has been made the people of Québec would immediately cease to fall under the control of the federal state. Even though it is a straightforward process, some objections might be raised in the following areas:
The Federal Government Debt. Some might argue that the debt of the Federal Government would need to be proportionally transferred to Quebec. This is nonsense because the Federal Government is an organization that is entirely distinct from the Government of Québec. The Federal Government is the sole owner of its federal debt. Federal debt is no more owned by provincial governments than it is owned by private citizens (though the hapless citizens of each province are forced to pay for the Federal Government’s debt through mandatory federal taxation). After secession, Québec would be responsible solely for its provincial debt, the same as it is today. Québecers could enjoy a potential decrease in their taxes as a result of not having to pay for Ottawa’s chronic profligacy and overspending.
The Form of Money. After secession, Québecers could be freed to employ whatever currency they might desire to use. The natural tendency is for governments to own and manipulate the currency so it is unlikely that a Québec government would give them freedom of currency. However, most any currency could be used such as the Euro, the Canadian dollar or even the Icelandic Krona. Or, if the new Québec government really believed in a sound economy, it could allow gold and/or silver backed currencies to be used.
The Future of First Nations. Under an independent Québec, the First Nations would be given an opportunity to start on an equal footing with other citizens. They would no longer be considered wards of the federal state but, rather, private property owners with all the rights and privileges that all other citizens enjoy.
If secession became a reality, it is possible that the politicians in Ottawa might consider the use of some fabricated rulings by the Supreme Court as a justification for employing its military personnel in the arrest and prosecution of National Assembly members. However, the potential for extreme backlash generated within Québec by such a move would surely dissuade Ottawa bureaucrats from such an overt exercise of raw power.
Secession should be a no-brainer or Québecers. The benefits are substantial:
1) Freedom from Federal Government debt.
2) Government that is more local rather than remote.
3) The absence of federal boondoggles, bureaucracies and the expenses of foreign, unjust wars.
4) Immediate release from draconian and costly international agreements.
5) The potential for sound money.
Even though the benefits of more local government are obvious, secession is anathema to federal politicians. The primary reason is that an independent Québec would cause them to suffer a loss of control, status and money – a prospect that every technocratic tyranny abhors. That is why the Federal Government spared no expense in attempting to dissuade Québecers from saying so in 1980 and 1995.
The PQ website sums up the benefits of secession quite well: We will have, in all matters, the last word on our future. Secession not only has great benefits, but it’s easy and can be done at anytime. In addition, secession is a possibility not only for provincial governments, but groups of any sort or size. But that is a topic for another day!