While Americans were turning toward Charlotte on Tuesday night, Canadians from Bonavista to Vancouver Island were coming to the weary realization that they once again must deal with a separatist government in Quebec. For the first time in nine years, voters in the province elected into power the separatist Parti Quebecois and its leader, Pauline Marois, who will become the first female premier in the province's history. During the campaign, Marois promised repeatedly to implement what she calls "sovereignist governance," a plan to goad the federal government into transferring more power into provincial hands.
For most Canadians, and for most Americans who treasure Canada, this is the bad news. Any and every separatist government in Quebec raises the specter of another bruising battle with federalists over the shape and nature of the Canadian nation. And, to many Canadians, the very idea of a separatist government in Quebec kindles dire memories of a 20-year period, from 1975 to 1995, when it appeared that Canada itself really would split asunder. The 1995 referendum on sovereignty was barely defeated by a vote of 49.42 percent to 50.58 percent. It was that close -- and that was when the great federalist himself, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was still alive and kicking.
But 2012 is not 1995 or 1980 or 1976, all years of previous independence referendums. Even though Marois hasn't ruled out another referendum on Quebec's sovereignty, Canada does not seemed to have freaked out about the separatist victory. The Toronto Stock Exchange was actually up in early trading on Wednesday, and it's easy to understand why. A handful of factors suggest that, at least for the moment, the PQ victory doesn't necessarily presage another cycle of vicious political fighting over the territorial future of America's favorite neighbor, the second largest country in the world. Here's why: