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Good things about the PQ in power

The Canadian flag may be raised or lowered at the Quebec National Assembly, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that some good things have come from the election of the Parti Quebecois. Here are two worth considering:

First, the Harper government’s decision to quit backing asbestos mining, which occurs only in Quebec.

Second, the withdrawal by Lowe’s, the American hardware giant, in its bid to take over Quebec-based Rona Inc.

The new Premier, Mme. Marois had promised to withdraw the guarantee the provincial Liberals had offered for a $50 million loan to start up asbestos mining again at Asbestos, Que. (The name says it all.) And she made it clear the PQ government would do everything in its power to stop the take-over of Rona.

If you agree it is time that Canada stopped exporting asbestos to third-world countries (having banned its use in  our own construction), you will be pleased with Ottawa’s action to no longer oppose adding asbestos to the global list of hazardous substances. Also, if you believe boards of directors should have the power to reject unwanted takeovers, then you’ll take comfort in Lowe’s withdrawal of its cash-rich take-over bid.

Neither of these things would have come to pass without a PQ government in power.The fact they did adds further weight, I think, to the argument that Quebecers chose exceedingly well when they voted on September 4.

They clearly had no wish to go down the sovereignist path, and so accordingly made sure the PQ did not get a majority. But they did want change, and the social democratic policies of the PQ met with the same high level of support that New Democratic candidates enjoyed in the last federal election.

In both the asbestos and Rona cases, it’s significant that the Quebec government had no real power to stop either of the projects. What Ottawa says in foreign affairs is solely Ottawa’s business. And the Rona take-over, if it had proceeded, would have been determined by federal authorities under Canada’s federal investment review policies.

During the election campaign, Mme. Marois promised to pick fights with Ottawa. Her strategy was that Quebec couldn’t lose. If Ottawa gave in, that would prove the heft of the sovereignist threat. If Ottawa didn’t buckle, that would show there’s no place for Quebec in Canada.

We can take comfort in the fact that the first two big consequences of the election go against both these stratagems. Instead, they demonstrate that practical realities — and policies that are responsive to the public good — will usually achieve the desired results. Any Quebec government could have taken the stance the PQ did in these instances, and the outcome would have been the same. Proving once again the irrelevance of separatism.

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