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My favorite political ad in North America...

Mandos's picture

My favorite political ad of the past ten years is actually this ad/campaign theme song music video of the sovereigntist Bloc Québecois in the 2004 Canadian election:

The sovereigntist movement always has the best media and artistic teams in Canada. That is because one solid mainstay of sovereigntism is naturally the Québec cultural scene. Québec artists who identify also as Canadians tend to make the transition to international and/or English media, such as Céline Dion. That still leaves a large talent pool behind. And they identify as Québecois first and only: as cultural producers for Québec, they have no constituency or contact anywhere else in Canada. No one in the Rest of Canada goes out of his/her way to buy their music, etc, which seem awfully retro to an anglo scene that chose not to fully exploit some of the themes consigned to the 70s and 80s in English media.

And they tend to feel threatened by English Canada, which they feel, rightly or wrongly, is a more proximal diluant than global culture. And they tend to be visionaries. That's one of the attractions of the sovereigntist movement. It is visionary and optimistic, even as it dwells on the insults of the past.

And that feeling and aesthetic is reflected in the video above. The refrain translates as

Together, we are well larger.

Together, we are well stronger.

Together, we are different.


On the soil of America [the continent],

We follow our own road,

As a people peaceful

And sovereign!

Very positive. But one of the verses delivers the negative payload as well:

We know it, we feel it,

We see it, we live it,

We think it, we say it,

We believe it, we shout it,

We rise, we react,

Because Québec has rights,

I believe it,

And me,

And you,

And you, [in English, a sop to anglo-Quebecer inclusion, who were the very enemy against whom the Quiet Revolution was waged]


is different,

and so are we!

For those who don't know, the Bloc is the federal-politics wing of the Québec sovereignty movement. It came into being in 1991 when Brian Mulroney's inept tinkering with the Canadian constitutional order blew up in his face once and for all. Progressive Conservative (that was the name of the party then, as opposed to the Conservative Party now) politicians from Québec who had invested heavily in his project to undo the humiliaton that Trudeau had inflicted on his provincial comrades left the party in disgust at that point, and thereafter declared that they were giving up on Canada. And there they founded the Bloc, and it has been a political fixture in Canada ever since.

While it started with Québec Tories (who were "soft nationalists" as we say in Canada), it was quickly taken over by the Québec left, who are the bulwark of sovereigntist activism. Its express purpose was to obstruct the business of the federal government in such a way that would leave increasing power at the provincial level, weakening the federation.

An implicit criticism though, was that it tended to show that the federal system *could* respond to Québec's desires. And for various reasons, the sovereigntist movement inside Québec has become weak (as has the Québec left), and even movement politicians are questioning the value of the Bloc this time around. This has two effects, one of which is bad news, and one of which is good.

The bad news is that while the activist movement is altogether leftist, the nationalist voter on the ground often is not. And the decentralist tendencies of the Stephen Harper government still appeals to these voters (no duh, as Harper's main belief is the dismantling of the federal state), and the right-wingitude does not repel them.

The good news is that it is now remotely possible, as opposed to completely impossible, that some left-wing voters in Québec may drift to the NDP. Jack Layton, the federal NDP leader, is personally quite popular in Québec, but until now, he's never been seen as credible.

But it remains true that sovereigntists have the best aesthetics.

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MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

and thanks for the useful brief on Quebec politics, too!

I didn't find the folky, singer-songwriter style of the music to be retro at all. The Romance language countries (France, Spain, Latin America) hold fast to the troubadour/trova/chanson genre, and they've kept it very much alive, even as the English speaking world has marginalized it.

I hear the latest album of chansons by Carla Bruni is a real stunner!

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...whether the lack of popularity of Québec artists in the Rest of Canada is due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Québec artists do make the attempt to sell themselves to anglo media in Canada, they sometimes do quite well, such as Roch Voisine's occasional attempts. And, of course, Céline Dion, the quintessential example. They were teaching me the "Une Colombe" song in grade school from her teenage recording.

The RoC is quite easily willing to adopt Québec cinema, as the popularity of Denis Arcand suggests. And Fido was made in Québec, albeit in English, and is a cult hit in English-speaking Canada.

However, I have seen some of the TV, and alas, it is terribly retro, like the horrendous La Fureur music game show (wonder if it's still running), which pits a team of men against a team of women in their ability to remember 70s tunes, complete with dancers in leopard-skin leotards. Songs often in English.

Some of the sitcoms are quite intelligent if low-budget-looking. One of them I remember was brilliant but would not have translated at all well, especially since it required a knowledge of Marxist ideology that tends to be entirely absent in anglo populations worldwide.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

to the site gremlin who fixed the formatting :)