The small-mindedness of Pauline Marois’ policy of “sovereigntist governance” is most recently shown in a directive that Quebec cabinet ministers should speak only French in federal-provincial discussions and meetings – to the accompaniment of simultaneous translation. The idea seems to be that Quebec cabinet ministers have to play a kind of children’s game in which they pretend not to be able to speak English, in order to also pretend that Canada is a foreign country.
As if he were a little embarrassed himself, Alexandre Cloutier, Quebec’s minister of intergovernmental affairs – he is also the minister of sovereigntist governance – played down this policy, saying that in informal conversation, for example, at cocktail parties, Quebec ministers can still speak English if they choose.
Nonetheless, Mr. Cloutier made clear to the editorial board of Le Devoir on Tuesday that this was part of a broad strategy, which includes the appointment of Gilles Duceppe, the former Bloc Québécois leader, as co-chair of a commission on the federal government’s employment insurance policy – the first in a series of “national examination commissions,” which Mr. Cloutier describes as a supplementary tool for putting pressure on the federal governments; young offenders and Foreign Affairs’ absorption of CIDA are among the other prospective topics.
Another non-constructive idea is to withdraw from the Council of Federation, if and when the Parti Québécois win a majority in the National Assembly, and in the meantime to always issue a separate communiqué at all interprovincial meetings.
Mr. Cloutier insists that such measures are not intended to wage war, but the sovereigntist-governance strategy looks like a quest for irritants and friction, in the hope of a good moment for yet another referendum.