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Roger Gibbons

Professor of Political Science at the University of Calgary, president of the Canada West Foundation

... Prime Minister [Jean Chretien] has achieved for Quebec what the majority of Quebec nationalists have sought for the past 30 years - a distinct position within the Canadian federal system in which Quebec is not a province like the others but rather has the de facto status of a separate national community, dealing one-on-one with the government of Canada. This has been achieved, moreover, with no loss of political power in Ottawa. The new 9-1-1 form of federalism, in which the nine provinces other than Quebec negotiate as a group with Ottawa, which then negotiates bilaterally with Quebec, is reinforced by partisan dynamics. Quebec is not necessarily hurt in the division of spoils by the leverage provided by the ongoing threat of separation, and it is this threat that helps maintain the Liberal party's lock on national office. So long as the threat exists, the Liberals can run as the one national party that can hold the country together, just as the PQ can run as the party best able to ward off encroachments from Ottawa. It can be argued that this new model of federalism can only be sustained by a prime minister from Quebec, and here the Liberals hold all the trumps.

Feb. 1999 - from "Taking Stock: Canadian Federalism and Its Constitutional Framework", published in How Ottawa Spends: 1999-2000, edited by Leslie Pal