This is the text of the speech I delivered this morning in Montreal before an audience of the Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec.
How to reclaim our place within Canada
Maxime Bernier, MP for Beauce
As was probably the case for many of you, when I reflected on the results of Quebec’s April 7 election, I got the sense that Quebec had reached a turning point in its history. Following a campaign haunted by the spectre of another referendum, the Parti québécois suffered its worst defeat since 1970 and the two federalist parties took home two thirds of the vote. Once again, Quebecers clearly rejected separation and embraced a stable future within the Canadian confederation.
Since the election, the media has devoted a lot of space to the uncertain future of the Parti québécois, and how it might bring young people back into the fold. But given the election results, there is a much more pressing and relevant matter to address, one that has received hardly any attention: How are we, as Quebecers, going to reclaim our place in Canada?
Obviously, this question matters deeply to me, as a federal politician from Quebec. But I am here today, not as a member of the Canadian government, but as a Quebecer wondering what we can do to move our society forward.
The sovereignty issue has monopolized political debate in Quebec for decades. It’s a legitimate debate, but it’s one that just keeps going around in circles.
In the meantime, Quebec must continue to develop. We have serious problems that need fixing. Our public finances are in a sorry state. Ours is one of the most heavily taxed regions in North America, and one of the least wealthy. We need to make massive investments in our crumbling infrastructure. And as our population is aging quickly, we have particular challenges to face when it comes to integrating immigrants and keeping our social programs solvent.
If we are to meet these challenges, we need governments, both in Quebec City and in Ottawa, that are focused on the real issues at hand, not on identity crises, referendum dilemmas and constitutional debates that create uncertainty. What we needs is stability, and not just for the next four years, but for the long term.
As I see it, that stability hinges on three major changes in attitude, all of which are related to Quebec reclaiming its place in Canada.