Quebec is sleeping when it comes to culture, when we are at a crucial turning point.
On November 3, the Minister of Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, tabled Bill C-10, which subjects web giants to federal broadcasting law.
We would have expected a firm reaction from our elected officials in the face of this not even subtle desire on the part of the central government to increase its control over all that is culture.
There was certainly the adoption of a unanimous motion concerning C-10, proposed by the PQ.
The National Assembly asked Quebec “to demand from the Government of Canada that it determine fair and equitable quotas for original Quebec and French-language content, and that it include them in the Broadcasting Act”.
In other words: that Ottawa take care of Quebec and francophone culture! Disconcerting!
So where have Quebec’s so-called “cultural sovereignty” ambitions gone? “This is an old concept dating from the Robert Bourassa era”, you will say to me.
Not at all! No later than October 27, the liberal leader Dominique Anglade revived the Bourassian idea, in a text entitled “Something unfinished”, 25 years after the 2e referendum. We must “claim the cultural sovereignty of Quebec, as well as all the relevant funds and levers necessary for its protection and development”.
Is Bourassa just a simple rattle that we shake to please?
Jean Charest, September 12, 2008: he was in the minority at the time and a federal campaign was raging in which culture took center stage. To everyone’s surprise, he solemnly calls on the federal parties “to undertake to initiate discussions to conclude a Canada-Quebec agreement concerning culture and communications”.
Three months later, the PLQ again became the majority. The great project of repatriation of culture … was quickly abandoned after the sending – for the form – to the Harper government of a letter from Minister Christine St-Pierre.
The CAQ also, in its famous 2015 document “A new nationalist project for Quebec”, cited Bourassa’s “cultural sovereignty”. “Autonomy” in this matter, one could read, “is both a priority and a necessity for Quebec to ensure its development as a nation”.
In short, there is unanimity on the subject. (I omit QS; the question of “who does what” in the federation hardly interests him.)
However, no party seems to understand that, in the new digital order, there is an opportunity for Quebec. The old argument from the pre-internet era, by which the courts conferred cultural jurisdiction on the federal government – according to the “tips” of the time – no longer hold water.
Quebec, which has retained some skills in the content (consumer protection, language), does not even have to wait for some agreement with Ottawa before acting.
In terms of taxation, faced with the procrastination of the federal government, the Couillard government had taken the lead and forced the web giants to collect QST and GST.
The National Assembly could now legislate on culture in the digital age, according to its national priorities.
This would be a real gesture of “cultural sovereignty”.