The last 10 days of the provincial electoral campaign coinciding, as they did, with the one-year anniversary of Jack Layton’s death made me feel even more profoundly people’s (and admittedly, my own) disillusionment and frustration at the lack of inspiring options. At no time did I feel more deflated than when I watched debate after televised debate between the party leaders, only to be assaulted by condescending sneers and bludgeoned by ugly accusations. If they weren’t repeating each other’s names ad nauseum, they were too busy regurgitating slogans instead of focusing on solutions.
The debates – for the most part - were a sorry affair. With the exception of Françoise David, who, to her credit, managed to maintain an aura of dignity and maturity, the other three behaved like they were in a cage fight, barking insults at one another. It took all the self-restraint that I had not to switch channels.
Despite the battle weariness all Quebecers are probably feeling about now, and as turned off as I am by the low blows, the demagoguery, the fear mongering, and the politics of division, I’m still convinced that there’s a new era dawning in Quebec. It may be slow in the making, but it’s on its way. I’m seeing it take shape daily as I watch people interact and discuss politics; on social media or in person. I’m convinced that I’m witnessing a new breed of Quebecer emerge. One that isn’t so easily defined…and therefore not as easy to manipulate and pigeonhole.
Oh, sure… The ugliness still remains. All you have to do is read the comments section of some newspaper articles, to see the bottom feeders come out. But, what I’m hoping to see emerge (and to a certain extent, am already seeing) is a new generation not as easily swayed by political pandering or indebted to past political allegiances. The obvious choices of the past will no longer be as obvious.
I suspect that this is what has most party leaders in a total panic; grasping at straws, appealing to the lowest common denominator and to the grievances of a past which, while, should never be forgotten, are no longer relevant.
The new generation of Quebecers I’ve been speaking to, debating with, having long-winded, - sometimes hopeful, sometimes frustrating, always bilingual - conversations with, are global citizens. They are open to the world, but have their heart close to home. They are capable of thinking outside the box of starkly-defined and ultimately limiting definitions of who they are supposed to be, and how they are expected to behave, and looking beyond the narrow confines of their own prejudices and preconceived notions of what makes a true Quebecer.
Raised in a different - and increasingly multicultural - reality, as immigrants continue to add their unique contributions and expectations to the mix, the new generation is aware that it’s not a specific religion, mother tongue or colour of skin that defines your allegiance to a place that you ultimately call home. There’s a new wind blowing…
These new Quebecers are capable of thinking outside the box of starkly-defined and ultimately limiting definitions of who they are supposed to be, and how they are expected to behave.
For the first time, I’m seeing Francophones, for whom the PQ’s self-limiting language policies hold absolutely no appeal, and Anglophones and Allophones for whom sovereignty holds absolutely no threat. It’s no longer an either/or proposition for many young Quebec voters. Nothing will ever be as black or white as it once was, because the world we now live in is a million shades of grey; increasingly global, increasingly connected to everything else. It’s time to act on building a society that best allows us to realize our hopes and dreams for the future; not react to perceived wrongs and slights. That chip on everyone’s respective shoulder needs to go.
It is my fervent hope that the navel gazing and the knee-jerk reactions of the past won’t suffice anymore in drumming up blind political support. Decisions will be made on issues like the economy, health, education, social values, and it doesn’t matter who delivers the message, and in which language, because there is a common lingua franca slowly forming here; the one that Quebecers speak.
I know that many will disagree with this column. Maybe even laugh out loud. But I think the joke will ultimately be on them.
Oh, I’m not that naïve to think that this evolution will happen overnight. Much remains to still be done. The older generation – for the most part - is still unable to detach from that desperate need to protect the status quo, whether it has served them well or not. But I feel a shift in public consciousness. I see – more than ever – overlapping opinions, no matter the language they’re shared in. New parties are emerging. New platforms are presented. New alliances are being made. A shift is taking place. I predict some interesting surprises come election night.