In my column for the National Post, I explain the real reason that separatism in Quebec is dead.
Quebec’s sovereigntists pretend to want independence. Until recently, federal politicians pretended to believe them.
But with the Parti Québécois poised to return to power after the Sept. 4 election, the old pretenses are breaking down — victims of the global financial crisis and the Euro crisis, in particular.
In the past, Quebec sovereigntists had a ready answer to every hard question: Look at the European Union. That works, right? As recently as 2009, former Premier Jacques Parizeau published an influential (among separatists) road map to Quebec independence that urged Quebec to retain the Canadian dollar. There’s nothing Canada can do to stop us, he told interviewers with a complacent chuckle.
But since 2009, Canadians and Quebecers have witnessed a harsh seminar on the practicalities of currency union.
An independent Quebec would be crazy to stay on the same currency as the rest of Canada. If it did, it would find itself exactly in the position of Spain and Italy relative to Germany. No, worse than that — in the position of Argentina relative to the United States during Argentina’s brief tragic experiment with “dollarization” in the early 2000s.
The great lesson of the past dozen years of currency experiments is: Currency union without fiscal union leads to financial crisis and economic depression.
If Quebec breaks the fiscal union with Canada, it must for its own sake exit the currency union too. Which means that Quebeckers will awake the next day to huge depreciations of their salaries, benefits, and savings.
Quebecers know that, or anyway intuit it. The old promises of an easy separatism have been discredited. Separatism is now a hard path, involving great sacrifices, reduced standards of living, more work, and fewer social benefits — all at a time when PQ supporters yearn to hear a message of no sacrifices, improved standards of living, less work, and more social benefits.