Quebec Studies

Is There a “Norway” in Québec's Future? 1905 and All That

Quebec Studies (2008), 45, (1), 167–190.


167 Is There a "Norway" in Quebec's Future? 1905 and All That John Erik Fossum University of Oslo David G. Haglund Queen's University The latest provincial election in Québec has certainly shuffled the electoral cards. But the vote of 26 March 2007 has done more than that, for the surprising surge of Mario Dumont's Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), coupled with the lackluster showing of the Parti liberal du Québec (PLQ) and the dismal performance of the Parti québécois (PQ), has raised new questions about the very constitutional future of Canada. Some analysts and policymakers (including and especially Prime Minister Stephen Harper) take comfort in the recognition that, between them, the two provincial parties that went into the campaign promising not to hold a referendum on sovereignty took 71% of the total seats, and 64% of the total vote, as against a PQ that did pledge to hold a referendum if it came to power, but only captured 29% of the seats on 28% of the vote, in its worst performance since 1970.: From these results, they draw the conclusion that the sovereignty challenge has, once and for all, been laid to rest, and that Canada can finally get on to matters having less to do with whether it shall survive as a coherent federal entity and more to do with how it should best conduct its political and economic affairs. According to this reading, the Quebec vote of March 2007 constitutes a major turning point in Canadian politics, one from which there can be no going back to the status quo ante, characterized as it had been for more than a generation by existential doubt as to whether Canada would have any long-term future. Not everyone, however, is so sure that the national-unity issue has been chloroformed. Indeed, when the skeptics do their own calculations, they end up with a radically different assessment of the March vote. They observe that the ADQ and PQ totals can be aggregated to reflect a commitment to a profound revision of the Canadian constitutional status quo, so that parties guaranteed to demand more for Québec from the rest of Canada (the ROC) garnered between them 62% of the seats, on 60% of the vote — and this does not include any of the share captured by the PLQ, which may be the most "federalist" Québec party, but is so only in a Pickwickian sense. Thus if the skeptics are correct, and we think they may be, then the only certainty about Quebec's near-term future is that in a context in which little is certain, there can be much analytical value in resorting to analogies, to see whether something "comparable" might help us better to contemplate the coming years. This is precisely what we propose to do in this article, which advances the thought — rather bizarre, at first glance — that there may be utility, when we think about Quebec's political future, in having recourse to Norway's political past. Québec Studies, Volume 45, Spring/Summer 2008

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Author details

Fossum, John

Haglund, David