Sunday, July 17, 2016

Justifying the Means

Money and corruption will save Canada

A country united by a slush fund


Years prior to the 1980 Quebec referendum, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it bluntly: "One of the means to counter-balance the attraction of separatism is to use the time, the energy and enormous sums of money at the service of Canadian nationalism." For Mr. Trudeau and the federal Liberals, all means were justified to preserve national unity.

More than fifteen years later, forces fighting sovereigntists would steal a page from the 1980 referendum when all the stops were pulled out to keep Quebec in Confederation, including slush funds, secret contributions and political infiltration.

Much like in the 1990s, the late 1970s saw obscure pro-Canada committees raising secret funds, a Liberal-friendly ad firm executing Ottawa's visibility campaign and there was also an informant -- none other than the Parti Québécois' minister of intergovernmental affairs, Claude Morin, mastermind of the entire PQ referendum strategy -- who was on the RCMP payroll.

As a paid RCMP informant Mr. Morin (he admitted that fact in May of 1992) would give the Trudeau Liberals every reason to believe that they could succeed in halting the separatist threat. In 1974, Mr. Morin persuaded Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque to introduce in the party program not one but two referendums in order to achieve sovereignty: one to receive a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada and another to approve the deal. The strategy served to put the brakes on the momentum the separatist PQ gained when it took office in 1976.

"It was in the mentality of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time to build a steamroller and use whatever means necessary to avoid caving in to Quebec and to finally crush the separatists," said Richard Le Lay, a former Progressive Conservative organizer who was a founding member of a pre-referendum committee.

"The federal Liberals' objective was to take power, hold on to it and eliminate the separatists."

The Canadian Unity Council was a federal government-funded body founded in the 1960s to promote national unity. Two years before the 1980 referendum, a pre-referendum committee was founded after Mr. Le Lay persuaded leading council figures, Jocelyn Beaudoin (the Quebec government's representative in Toronto until his role in Option Canada was revealed) and Louis Desmarais (brother of Power Corp. founder Paul Desmarais), to begin promoting national unity before the adoption of a new law in Quebec that would prohibit corporate contributions to election and referendum campaigns.

Mr. Le Lay headed a public relations firm called The Communications Associates and worked with ad firms such as Vickers and Benson on a number of national unity contracts. Michel Robert (former Chief Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal who stated that separatists should not be named to the bench) eventually took charge of the pre-referendum committee, made up of seven provincial and federal parties and many pro-unity groups that received direct funding from Ottawa.

At the same time, money from private corporations began flowing into the coffers of a discreet committee of business leaders called the Pro-Canada Foundation, headed by Montreal tax expert Redford MacDougall.

The list of donors, the amounts contributed, the names of fundraisers and the amounts spent were all kept secret. The money was needed to fund ad campaigns promoting national unity and to ensure the federal government's visibility in Quebec. A report was later leaked to the media, which unveiled that the group alone had received $2.7-million from about 115 corporate donors from across Canada who worked closely with the federal Liberal government to defeat the separatist threat.

"As soon as [Jean] Chrétien and his assistant Eddie Goldenberg took over [the pre-referendum committee] before the referendum campaign, everything changed and we were all excluded," Mr. Le Lay said. "It was obvious that under Chrétien and Goldenberg . . . the end justified the means."

The federal Liberals dumped Mr. Le Lay's company and brought in the ad firm BCP, headed by Jacques Bouchard, a close, personal friend of federal Liberal cabinet minister André Ouellet. BCP created a subsidiary firm, Communicateurs Unis, to launch thousands of dollars in ad campaigns for various federal ministries aptly aimed at persuading Quebecers to vote No in the referendum.

"We never knew how much the Pro-Canada Foundation had truly raised or spent before the campaign. It was never declared," Mr. Le Lay said. The money was never reported as official contributions as was also the case in the 1995 referendum, especially during one event when Ottawa recruited corporate support for a major rally in Montreal only days before the vote. It was estimated that the event cost several million dollars.

In both cases Ottawa argued it was not required to abide by laws in Quebec limiting spending. But the Gomery inquiry has offered a look at the workings of the Liberal Party in Quebec, a structure that also has its roots in the pre-referendum politics.

In 1978, when Claude Ryan, a stern Quebec Liberal with impeccable integrity, took over the provincial party, he never suspected the extent of Ottawa's involvement in Quebec politics but he had had misgivings about some of Ottawa's pre-referendum tactics. His main political organizer, Pierre Bibeau, recalled how a shouting match erupted between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Chrétien, then Mr. Trudeau's Quebec lieutenant, at a meeting he attended with his federal counterpart, Mr. Goldenberg, several weeks before the 1980 referendum.

"Mr. Chrétien argued that the campaign was about the breakup of Canada and wanted Ottawa to play a more prominent role. But Mr. Ryan insisted that under Quebec law he was the boss of the No side and refused to cave in," Mr. Bibeau said. "Mr. Chrétien didn't trust the Quebec Liberal Party."

The mistrust partly explained why Mr. Chrétien funded a parallel structure that gave a greater role to the Canadian Unity Council, which before that had limited prominence. When Mr. Chrétien became prime minister in 1993 he was determined to defeat the separatists. He came within a whisker of losing the country in the 1995 referendum and did not want to let it happen again.

"The visibility in Quebec of the Government of Canada had been significantly reduced from the mid-1980's until I became prime minister," Mr. Chrétien told the Gomery commission. "We would ensure that the threat of a new referendum would be removed... We were going to restore the visibility of the Government of Canada in Quebec."


To hell with the rules *


When Jacques Parizeau was asked about the difference between Chrétien’s methods from Pierre Trudeau’s, he noted "there’s a difference in means, but the spirit is the same. Ottawa looks to prevent at all costs the independence of Quebec whatever it takes. Trudeau went as far as to jail 500 Quebecers (in October 1970) for no reason other than to battle sovereignty and paint it as a violent movement."

As for Chrétien, Parizeau added, "he summed up his vision of things pretty well when he declared in 2002 that results showed that his government acted properly since support for independence was lower than it was back in 1995." In other words, for Chrétien, the end justified the means.

Here's how you screw over Quebec and make money...
What he was defending with polls was the unleashing of a pro-unity campaign of unprecedented scope to increase Canada’s visibility in Quebec and strengthen Quebecers’ identification with Canadian symbols in order to reduce support for sovereignty. This, he hoped, would either abort a third referendum for lack of support or win it, should one ever be held again.

A central aspect of Chrétien’s Propagandagate was the sponsorship program: the corruption and money laundering which sprang from the channeling of $250 million of public funds to sponsor events in Quebec, including $100 million that went to Liberal-friendly communications firms. Given the scope of this scandal and its raison d’être to prevent another referendum, Parizeau said this should prompt sovereignists to reflect on how it might affect their own approach.

"One thing is now clear: Through all these years, we followed the laws adopted by René Lévesque on the referendum and the financing of political parties. We obeyed the law and we were had like children. Now we see that the federal side resorted to illegal means and influence peddling. So we must ask ourselves what to do in order to remain respectful of the criteria of honesty we chose for ourselves while no longer being as naive as we were."


Based on an article by Rhéal Séguin , The Globe and Mail,  May 2005.


* “In Canada two weeks before the referendum in 1995 Yes were suddenly eight to 10 points ahead. It was more difficult for us because it was a provincial issue and the federal government I led could not get involved. But in the last nine days I said to hell with the rules and organised a huge meeting in Montreal in which thousands of people flew in to send a message that we wanted Quebec to stay with us.

Jean Chrétien, Sunday Post, September 21 2014


Friday, July 1, 2016

Competing Nationalisms


CHANGES IN QUEBEC DURING THE 1960s


The transformation of nationalist ideology in Quebec is a well known story. With a new conception of the nation as urban, industrial, and modern that became dominant in the 1960, old constitutional arrangements were no longer sufficient. The Quebec government needed additional powers if it were to meet its responsibilities as the only government in Canada controlled by a francophone majority. By the same token, now that francophones formed a modem society their status within Canada had to be redefined so as to be truly based on equality. Francophones had always believed that their relationship with the rest of the country must be based on equality, but English Canadians clearly did not; in fact few of them were even aware that francophones saw Canada as a compact.  

In short, the 1960s saw growing demands for a formal revision of the Canadian constitution so as both to entrench a dualist vision of Canada and, especially, to secure needed powers for the government of Quebec.  

During the 1960s, there were some serious attempts among political and intellectual leaders to grapple with these issues. In 1963 the Liberal government of Lester B. Pearson created a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism whose mandate included recommending what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding nations.  

As for the status of Quebec itself, during the early 1960s Prime Minister Pearson openly recognized Quebec's distinctiveness with such statements as: 

"While Quebec is a province in the national confederation, it is more than a province because it is the heartland of a people: in a very real sense it is a nation within a nation."  

Moreover, during this period the Pearson government allowed Quebec to exercise a de facto particular status by opting out of a large number of joint federal-provincial cost-shared programmes and even exclusively federal programmes.

Although there may not have been majority support among English-Canadian political and intellectual elites, the "two nations" thesis and a special status for Quebec were viewed as legitimate positions for discussion, and did have advocates in English Canada.


CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW CANADIAN COUNTER-IDENTITY AND A NEW CANADIAN NATIONALISM


By late 1960s, however, this effort to accommodate the new Quebec nationalism had been replaced with a new strategy: to deny outright Quebec nationalism, in fact to seek to undermine its underlying bases. In effect, the new Quebec identity was to be challenged with a new Canadian identity. The primary architect of this new strategy was, of course, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Montreal-based intellectual and political activist who became Prime Minister in 1968.  

Within this new Canadian identity, there are at least five discrete components: official bilingualism; a charter of rights; multiculturalism; absolute equality of the provinces and the reinforcement of national institutions. Each of these elements of Canadian political nationality can be directly traced to the fundamental objective of defeating the Quebec independence movement.  


Official Bilingualism


Through official bilingualism the Trudeau government sought to establish the myth that the French language was present throughout Canada. Demographically, this manifestly is not the case, and never has been. The use of French has always varied enormously from province to province. Only in Quebec does the majority (80%) use French; the next largest francophone proportion, New Brunswik’s is only 31 %. Moreover, in all provinces but Quebec and New Brunswick assimilation has been very high. As a result, in most provinces the proportion of the population which uses primarily French at home is now below 3%. Nonetheless, official bilingualism gave French the same formal status as English throughout the country, at least for federal purposes, however marginal it might be to day-to-day life.

On this basis, official bilingualism promised to nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of language by making all of Canada like Quebec. Canada as a whole, rather than just Quebec, would be the home of francophones. As Pierre Trudeau declared in 1968 if minority language rights are entrenched throughout Canada then the French-Canadian nation would stretch from Maillardville in BC to the Acadian community on the Atlantic Coast:

"Once you have done that, Quebec cannot say it alone speaks for French Canadians... Mr. Robarts will be speaking for French Canadians in Ontario, Mr. Robichaud will be speaking for French Canadians in New Brunswick, Mr. Thatcher will speak for French Canadians in Saskatchewan, and Mr. Pearson will be speaking for all French Canadians. Nobody will be able to say, "I need more power because I speak for the French-Canadian nation""


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Reinforcement of language rights was, in turn, the central purpose of the second element of the Trudeau government's pan-Canadian counter identity to Quebec's: an entrenched bill of rights which was incorporated as part of 1982 constitutional revision. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms deals with many other rights than linguistic ones: political, legal, mobility, social, etc... But language rights clearly were its raison d'être. The provision for minority-language education rights is the only section of the Charter not to be subject to the notwithstanding clause.


Multiculturalism


A third element of the Canadian identity is multiculturalism, which the Trudeau government proclaimed in 1971. Canada might have two official languages, but it was to be seen to have an infinite number of cultures. The federal government committed itself to "support all of Canada's cultures". Previously, much of the public discussion had linked bilingualism with biculturalism. It was in these terms that in 1963 the federal government under Lester B. Pearson had established its royal commission to examine Canada's national unity crisis: the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

The Trudeau government's adoption of a policy of multiculturalism often is seen simply as a reponse to the demands of Canadians whose origins were neither British or French. Many of their leaders campaigned against the concept of biculturalism. Contending that it necessarily excluded their components of the population, they argued for a more inclusive term. But the Trudeau government clearly had an additional purpose in rejecting biculturalism for multiculturalism: by recognizing a multitude of cultures multiculturalism could rein in the notion of duality and nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of culture.


The Equality of the Provinces


The Trudeau government's fierce commitment to the principle of absolute equality among the provinces was clearly rooted in its determination to counter the claims of Quebec nationalists.

Insisting that "federalism cannot work unless all the provinces are in basically the same relation to the central government", Trudeau declared on one occasion that, "I think particular status for Quebec is the biggest intellectual hoax ever foisted on the people of Quebec and the people of Canada".


Reinforcement of National Institutions


Finally, this insistence on a uniform federalism was coupled with a determination that the federal government play a significant role in the lives of all Canadians (Québécois included), whether it be through programmes of direct transfer payments, such as Family Allowances, or major national undertakings, such as the National Energy Program. From the late 1960s onwards Ottawa was greatly concerned that its actions be "visible" to Canadians.


CONTRADICTORY IMPACT OF NEW CANADIAN "COUNTER-IDENTITY"


Not surprisingly, the new Canadian identity has not fared well in French Quebec, the population for which in fact it had been designed. Not only has the conception of Canada as a bilingual nation with a strong francophone presence from coast to coast lacked credibility in Quebec, but the principle of formal equality between English and French increasingly has appeared as an obstacle to the types of intervention by the Quebec state needed to strengthen the role of French within the province.

On the other hand, each of these elements of a new "pan-Canadian" identity has had a certain resonance in English Canada. Many English Canadians have embraced them as the basis of their own conception of Canada. In particular, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become a central element of the dominant notion of Canadian nationhood. Equally entrenched is the principle of absolute equality of the provinces: this was amply demonstrated in the opposition to the Meech Lake Accord.

Trudeau's success in mobilizing the federal government, and a good number of mainly of English-speaking Canadians, on behalf of this new Canadian identity presents some striking ironies. Whereas the strategy had been designed to transform the way in which Quebec francophones saw Canada, instead its impact has been primarily upon another population: English Canadians. In fact, the new Canadian identity that Trudeau helped to formulate has become the basis for a new Canadian nationalism which enjoys strong support in much of English-speaking Canada, although not in Quebec. Yet, Trudeau had always professed a deep opposition to all forms of nationalism. This was the rationale for his fierce rejection of Quebec nationalism and his decision to enter federal politics in order to combat it.

Ultimately, this new Canadian nationalism has rendered virtually impossible any constitutional reponse to the new Quebec identity. As a consequence, rather than leading to national integration, federal dissemination of this new "pan-Canadian" identity has deepened the divid between English Canada and Quebec.


Taken from a text by Professor Kenneth McRoberts, 1995