Lord Black on Quebec

A fascinating analysis by Lord Black. The triumph of Canadian federalism over Quebec separatism. It has cost a lot of money, but it seems Quebec is now no longer able to blackmail the rest of Canada.

How we bought off Quebec

Conrad Black, National Post · Nov. 26, 2011 | Last Updated: Nov. 26, 2011 5:06 AM ET

The splintering into factions of Quebec's Parti Québécois, the rejection of the Bloc Québécois in the last federal election, Quebec's declining share of federal MPs, and polls showing a collapse of separatist enthusiasm among the province's youth, all help illustrate the overwhelming and largely unsung success of Canadian federalism.

The federalist strategy, since an outright separatist party emerged in 1976 as a principal force in Quebec, has been to concede symbolic instances of autonomy; massage money over Quebec to make its socialist nostrums more affordable and the province more dependent on the federal state; and engage in endless good-faith negotiations punctuated by upward ratchetings of the technical obstacles to secession, and to asserting an effective veto in Ottawa over federal policy. In sum, Ottawa has assisted Quebec in achieving its social-democratic, post-Catholic, exclusivist French state ruled by the senior bureaucrats - even as Ottawa diluted the possibility of independence being achieved or even desired, and shrank Quebec's influence in the country as a whole.

Canada wins this exchange. It costs $8-billion a year in transfer payments, and billions more in other preferments, but the country is secure, and Quebec has ceased to be a threat to the nation's integrity, or even a serious irritation.