Quebec Studies

The Politics of the Province of Québec: The View from Atlantic Canada

Quebec Studies (1984), 2, (1), 36–54.


THE POLITICS OF THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC: THE VIEW FROM ATLANTIC CANADA Stephen H. Ullman By electing a Parti Québécois provincial government on November 15, 1976, the Québécois took, at least in a symbolic sense, a large, first step toward independence. This event marked such an obvious turning point in Canada's political evolution that the federal government felt compelled to move decisively to stave off the threat of national dismemberment. Prime Minister Trudeau promised that he would never use force to keep Québec within Canada; he urged all Canadians to support bilingualism; and, in July 1977 he appointed the Task Force on Canadian Unity. The mandate of the Pepin-Robarts Commis­ sion (as the Task Force subsequently became known) was to collect ordinary Canadians' views on their country, its problems and prospects. During their hearings and regional tours, the Commissioners: ". . . discovered—beyond the good will and generosity and simple common sense, of which there . . . (was) . . . a great deal—instances of suspicion and occasional hostility, envy, intolerance and parochialism. Much of it seemed to be based on ignorance and an instinctive mistrust and fear of those who are different: those who look and dress differently, who speak a different language, who practice a different religion or enjoy unfamiliar customs, who came from somewhere else." The members of the Commission were stunned by the psychic distances which separate Canadians: "Sometimes the country seemed to us to be composed of a multiplicity of soli­ tudes, islands of self-contained activity and discourse disconnect­ ed from their neighbors and tragically unaware of the whole which contained them all." This paper describes how citizens living in one of Canada's "solitudes", the Atlantic Provinces, perceive the people and politics of a second, the Province of Québec. Through the use of survey data, it will explore: 1. Atlantic Canadians' ideas about why many Québécois are intent on changing their prov1 2 3 4

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Author details

Ullman, Stephen