Lessons from Quebec for the rest of Canada

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Dear Quebec re-sisters and brothers: What an awesomely inventive laboratory of political resistance you have built. Thanks for taking the struggle against inequality and austerity to a new level and helping the rest of us see what's really going on.

Of course, looking back, La Belle Province has pointed the way for a good long time, including its Orange Crush rebellion that vaulted the NDP into Official Opposition.

And now it has outdone itself.

The Casseroles have taken their demand for accessible education and against tyranny (a.k.a. Law 78) to the whole world. They have won a laurel wreath from the global "spring" of people's movements and affirmed the continued ability of these uprisings to confound the powers that be.

We've seen how once this public-spirited genie gets out of the bottle, heads do roll.

For his own sake, I hope Jean Charest is preparing for career change. But the ambition of this upsurge goes far beyond that goal. Lucky for us in the ROC (rest of Canada), and particularly here in Ontario, where we share economic woes. We have a lot to gain from courting the powerful spirit that has sustained this amazing outpouring, because we have been losing ground for decades.

Let's admit the obvious. In progressive matters, we are a little slower than our frères et soeurs. And there are reasons for this even beyond culture and history.

We have neo-liberal psychological baggage. We have suffered from Quebec envy for many years. Cheap tuition, cheap daycare -- there's a list. "We gave it up, so what's their problem?" Envy messes with our heads and clouds our thinking. It makes us small and stupid and easy to control. It took months of striking and pots a-clanging to clear the bullshit. But thanks to Quebecers' ability to sustain the action, we got the time we needed to untangle our own disordered thoughts.

Of course, Quebec's lower tuition fees are not what's wrong with the education picture in Canada. The debt burden our post-secondary system imposes on students here in Ontario is the problem, and the Quebec example is actually the solution.

If Canada as a whole has grown in affluence over the last three decades, which it has, why is our country less able to afford to educate its young?

And what really makes no sense is the way wealth creation is increasingly showered exclusively on the very, very rich. Come on. That's a travesty for 99.9 per cent of us.

The numbers tell a very clear story. Quebec students and friends are not suffering from a psychology of over-entitlement. Rather, the passivity of the rest of us is reflecting some weird self-esteem deficit. Quebec's pot-bangers are sending Canada a loud message to awaken to our own self-worth and confidence in the future.

These times are calling us to abandon our small-minded, narrow selves. This uprising is our opportunity to nourish new dreams for the future with wishes grand enough to serve our true hearts' desires and those of generations to come.

It's time to pick up our pots and create some new rhyme and reason in this land of ours.

This article was first published in NOW Magazine.

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