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Interpreting Quebec’s Exile Within the Federation

Selected Political Essays


Guy Laforest

This book combines the approaches of political theory and of intellectual history to provide a lucid account of Québec’s contemporary situation within the Canadian federation.
Guy Laforest considers that the province of Québec, and its inhabitants, are exiled within Canada. They are not fully integrated, politically and constitutionally, nor are they leaving the federation, for now and for the foreseeable future. They are in between these two predicaments. Laforest provides insights into the current workings of the Canadian federation, and some of its key figures of the past fifty years, such as Pierre Elliott Trudeau, René Lévesque, Stephen Harper and Claude Ryan.
The book also offers thought-provoking studies of thinkers and intellectuals such as James Tully, Michel Seymour and André Burelle. Laforest revisits some key historical documents and events, such as the Durham Report and the 1867 and 1982 constitutional documents. He offers political and constitutional proposals that could contribute to help Québec moving beyond the current predicament of internal exile.
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Chapter 10: Trust and Mistrust between Harper and Québec


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Trust and Mistrust Between Harper and Québec

This chapter explores the complex and evolving relationship of trust and mistrust between Stephen Harper, Canada’s current Prime Minister first elected in 2006 and returned to power with a majority government in 2011, and Québec. Trust and mistrust are already complex affairs for contemporary political science and federalism studies. I further complicate matters by considering, qualitatively and quantitatively, different partners in the relationship between one human being, who happens to be the most important political leader of a sophisticated federal democracy and, on the other side, a geographical entity which happens to be a distinct national society within this federation. Québec, for the purposes of this chapter, will encompass the following realities: the Province of Québec, Québec Francophones, Québec nationalism and Québec nationalists, and, finally, Québec’s political leaders, which essentially refers here to Jean Charest, former Premier of Québec from 2003 to 2012. Although trust is relational, and requires levels of reciprocity, I shall look at this phenomenon mostly from Harper’s perspective, exploring his political and intellectual trajectory. I do not completely ignore the other perspective, which can be glimpsed for instance by Harper’s electoral fortunes in Québec in federal elections since 2004. My focus nevertheless remains on the factual, historical, and perceptual elements which, taken together, have shaped Harper’s cognitive perspective of Québec, over time leading to various degrees of trust and mistrust...

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