Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Case For Getting Quebec Out Of Canada

An English speaking Canadian reader of my blog agrees with my comments about the Canadian election results and offers the following very interesting supporting arguments for my view that Quebec should be separated from the rest of Canada:

I very much agree with your point about English speaking Canada declaring itself independent from Quebec. I've been saying that for ten years since I read Read Scowen, Time to Say Goodbye: the Case for Getting Quebec Out of Canada (1999) (the 2nd edition had a new subtitle: Building a Better Canada without Quebec). Pierre Trudeau's Liberals entrenched a policy of funnelling massive transfer payments through the federal government to Quebec. To appear fair, they are also made to other smaller, have-not provinces but half of the total goes to Quebec. With these massive transfer payments, Quebec has developed the so-called "Quebec model" of economic development, which looks exactly like 1970s era Western European socialism. Quebec, awash in money mostly transferred from the wealth-generating provinces, then looks down its nose at the Rest of Canada (ROC) as having a more "progressive" distinct society. But they could never afford to be so spendthrift and avoid dealing with their own economic stagnation without the other provinces' money. This has been the galling situation since the mid-1960s. And then they regularly threaten to separate if they don't get even more federal money.

I've said for ten years that, the next time Quebec has another referendum to separate from Canada (which I think is just a treat to get more from Canada and not a serious option in their collective mind), I want the ROC to vote on the question, too, and to vote for separation. And it's a serious position. There need not be civil war, as some people warn, in order to accomplish separation. How about the Norway referendum of 1905 or the Saar Treaty of 1956? Peaceful transition is possible. And so long as free trade is maintained between the two new nations the economic dislocation during the transition can be minimized. Of course, Quebec would lose the transfer payments but that's the price of being distinct.

By the way, although Quebec gets more than half of the transfer payments from the federal government, the same economic distortions from large subsidies afflict the other recipient provinces. There's a good book that analyzes the economic deleterious affects of this transfer policy by Brian Lee Crowley, Fearful symmetry : the fall and rise of Canada's founding values (2009)