Between friends – can I ask you something? You’re not a vampire, right? Some friends of mine have been saying you feast upon the blood of the innocent under the cover of darkness, and frankly, if that was true, I would have a small problem or two with that. So I just want to get that out of the way, and move forward on the understanding that you are not, in fact, the undead.
I am glad we got that straightened out. But I must say, even if you are a vampire, you’re definitely my favourite vampire. Of all the vampires to lead the Bloc Quebecois lately, you have been one of the most respectable, dedicated, and passionate vampires on the block. Pun intended.
You have dutifully represented the riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie for the past 21 years, have led the Bloc since 1997, and even briefly served as the Official Leader of the Opposition in 1997. You ran a decent campaign of putting Quebeckers interests first, and positioned yourself as the only candidate capable of representing all of Quebec at the federal level. You avoided the often racist rhetoric with which the Bloc sometimes blames recent, non-Francophone immigrants for the dilution of the Quebec language and culture, and wisely opted not to be spiteful in your resignation speech when your party was returned with only 4 out of 75 seats. You had no Parizeau moment where you blamed the ‘money and ethnic vote’ for losing (although his was a sovereignty referendum loss), and we respect you all the more for your graceful departure.
I championed you as the only leader in the debate who actually said anything new or fundamentally different by arguing that multiculturalism had failed in Quebec, and must be rethought or outright stopped. This should have garnered more interest, I thought (and still do), as it is akin to Alberta saying ‘public health care has failed Alberta, and should be stopped outright in favour of a private system.’ Yet Canadians heard you say a central tenant of the New Canada since the 1960s was an appalling failure in Quebec, and we shrugged. I still don’t know we so blithely accepted this as status quo in 2011.
You avoided wading into the muck of politics for the most part (except for releasing your letter from Stephen Harper early in the campaign that claimed he was prepared to form an opposition coalition government in 2004), and ran with a commendable dedication to a single purpose.
A single, horribly destructive purpose: namely, the removal of Quebec from the Canadian confederation. And we have to remember that: ostensibly, you were running to keep a voice for Quebeckers present at the federal level that would, if given half the chance, break apart from Canada. As I wrote earlier, you made me look like a bit of an ass during the Leader’s Debate when you flat out said in your closing statement that Canada did not fundamentally understand the Quebec situation, and therefore it should separate. Only minutes before I had said that even you, Duceppe, must recognize that the average Bloc voter doesn’t truly want Quebec out of Canada. (I ate my words, don’t worry.)
And maybe that right there is part of why some Quebeckers want to leave. A unilingual Anglo, like myself, living in Toronto, placating my other Anglo friends by saying ‘dont worry – most of ’em don’t even wanna leave us.’ And then the full weight of hearing you say ‘No, a sizable percentage of your fellow citizens do want to leave you’ hits us like a sheet of cold water. We realize then that a successful Bloc campaign could mean terrible things for Canada, and that your Party’s success is far from benign. I suppose I always knew, but to hear it come straight from the horse’s mouth on national television shook me slightly.
Which is why it is so odd that I will miss you on the federal scene. At my core, I am glad your party was decimated at the polls, and that Quebec (fickle voters, it would seem) has turned to a proper national party with representation from coast to coast to coast. You stand for something that I whole-heartedly, fundamentally, unequivocally disagree with, but ultimately I appreciated having your voice in the discussion. It was richer for it, however dissenting it was. You asked tough, blunt questions: you fought like the devil to help Canadians understand how destructive Harper is to this country: you kept the other leaders on their toes: and you reminded us how potentially fragile our confederation remains, 144 years on, and how hard we must work to protect it.
Most importantly, you showed us how possible it is to whole-heartedly, fundamentally, unequivocally disagree with someone about their core belief for your country, and still respect them. That is lacking, these days, Gilles. And we’ll miss you for it.
And your outrageous English accent.