"Ça suffit!" Quebec rejects the politics of fear

By Beryl Wajsman on April 8, 2014

Last week we asked Quebecers to vote as if their lives depended on it. And they did. 

Last week we wrote that "this is the referendum." Quebecers got that too. And answered with a resounding "NO!"

Last week we urged voters not to penalize Philippe Couillard for speaking truth on the language issue. And they did not. 

Perhaps that is the most eloquent legacy of Décision 2014. Quebecers - all Quebecers - rejected the rhetoric of marginalization and the politics of fear. They said "Ça suffit!" to division and discord.

The evidence of this lies not just in the number of high-profile PQ names that fell - including Premier Marois - but in the fact that despite the CAQ holding on to its strong popular vote after a compelling campaign by François Legault, the Liberals pulled off an impressive majority fuelled by a collapsed PQ vote that was not "parked" with the CAQ as in the past, but shifted in large measure directly to the clearly federalist and candidly inclusive Liberals.Marois' "Hail Mary" Bill 60 - that in most respects went too far - intending to fuel the fear of "les autres" resulted instead in the PQ's self-imolation. And Philippe Couillard's generationally bold statements on bilingualism and culture did him no harm despite the words of the pundits.

The PQ has come back from electoral disaster before. This is not the end of the nationalist push for "auto-émancipation." But perhaps they have learned that they can no longer use the weapons of "auto-abnégation." The tools of demonization have been forcefully rejected.

Some will say that it was the fear of a referendum more than the rejection of the policies of prejudice that drove the result. There is truth in that. This was the third referendum. And again Quebecers said "no." But if fear of separation is greater in many than the fear of the other, then logic dictates that they will have to learn to understand and accept the other. And that is a very good thing.

To non-francophones we would issue a caution. We tend to drift into complacency after Liberal majorities are elected. We urge you to stay involved. Involved not just in civil rights groups, but in this Montreal and Quebec we love writ large. Do not be afraid to cross the cultural barriers. Engagement is our only surety of relevance.

To Philippe Couillard and his Liberals we offer sincere congratulations. But we also remember we have been disappointed before. Today's times leave no room for missed opportunities. Stay true to your words M. Couillard. You have a mandate to end the culture wars. To cut back on the command state of Quebec Inc. To create a climate not just welcoming to economic growth but nurturing to the fullest flowering of individual human possibilities. We wish you well as you chart this bold course.

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Beryl P. Wajsman

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