Quebec on the eve of an election

6 Feb

Back in the early 1990s, a group of former students from my high school – who graduated many years before I did – held a big class reunion. The reunion attracted a lot of attention. Newspaper articles. Live radio hits. Although my school produced its fair share of well-known graduates, it was not any particular person’s presence at the reunion that brought out the media.

Instead, it was the location: The reunion was held in Toronto. My high school – since shut down – was in Montreal.

The story that interested the media back then was the Great Anglo-Quebec exodus.

To this day, I have as good a chance of bumping into an old classmate on the street in Ottawa or Toronto as I do back in Montreal. Many of them left with their parents in the wake of the first PQ election victory in 1976. Others left around the 1980 referendum. There was another wave around the time of the next referendum in 1995 (in retrospect, a good time to have invested in a cut-rate Westmount mansion).

Those that remained in Quebec – and there are still many (Montreal still has the third-largest anglophone community in Canada) – are probably there to stay. The exodus left behind those best-equipped to integrate in modern Quebec society. And the economy is booming in Montreal, compared to the early ’90s (too bad you didn’t invest in that mansion).

But those of us who left – particularly those of us who settled next door in Ontario – form what I like to think of as a great invisible minority. We still watch Quebec politics and society with a particular interest. And Quebec politics and society are often particularly interesting.

Take now, for instance. A provincial election just around the corner. The sovereignty issue still out there. As is the issue of identity politics. And face it, what happens in Quebec affects the lives of other Canadians more than what happens in other provinces you don’t live in.

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