There was little romancing of Quebec here Monday. No flag-waving. No trying to coax the mostly French-speaking province to stay in the Canadian fold.
In fact, many people in Nelson - even while they changed their dollars from Canadian to U.S. - were just plain fed up with Quebec’s provincial whining.
“As far as I’m concerned we should just let the bastards go. I’m tired of listening to their complaints year after year and their arrogant attitude,” said Cam Bond, a manager at the Lord Nelson Hotel in this tourist town of 9,000.
“Canada is a great country and if Quebec doesn’t want to be part of that, then so be it. Business will go on.”
Another Canadian strode into the hotel lobby to buy his morning newspaper. He scanned the Quebec headline, then sang out loud:
“Na-na, Naa-na. Na-na, Naa-na. Quebeeecccc. Gooooodbye.”
At L.V. Rogers High School, students in a history class had one word for Quebec’s attempt to separate from Canada. Treason.
“You don’t reward someone for breaking up a country. You hang ‘em,” said one student.
Residents and business people here said the last-minute national show of support for Quebec was more like a one-night stand, rather than a true outpouring of love.
Many Canadians just wanted to save the country from being ripped apart by Quebec’s succession, and view the province as a selfish, spoiled child.
“It’s like having a snotty-nosed teenager in the house who won’t obey the rules,” said Gerry Cushner, a 50-year-old real estate agent. “If they don’t like it, take off, eh?”
Still, Cushner says Quebec’s antics have pushed an emotional hot button. He and others were praying the ‘no’ voters would prevail while worrying about the economic fallout of a separatist victory.
“It’s one of the most critical scenarios in the history of our Canada,” he said.
Home buyers have been scarce for 18 months, anticipating huge jumps in interest rates and a tumble of the Canadian dollar if Quebec leaves. Some stores and gas stations on the U.S. side of the Washington-Canada border stopped taking Canadian money in the last few days.
“Can you blame them?” Cushner said. “Here we are breaking down in front of everyone’s eyes and economically we really don’t know what will happen.”
Handfuls of Nelson residents lined up at banks and called stock brokers to exchange their money for American currency.
“Personally I don’t sense things are going to be all that different in the morning,” said Nelson Mayor Gary Exner. He resisted the urge to turn his bank account into U.S. dollars. “In the long run we are better off together, but government won’t come apart at the seams if Quebec leaves,” he said. “It’s sad, but I don’t think this will ever be over until Quebec gets their way.”
John Stegman, who flies the Canadian maple leaf flag outside his home, was in his basement office Monday tracking the stock market on his computer.
“There hasn’t been much of a change and I don’t anticipate a big panic,” he said, clicking away at his keyboard. “We are already being gouged by taxes. What more can they do to us?”
Pundits predicting the dollar’s doom are just using scare tactics, some residents said. It’s Quebecers who will suffer financially, not all of Canada, they said.
Quebec could lose nearly $3 billion it gets yearly from federal income tax payers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
“They are not economically self-sufficient now. How can they afford to be a separate country?” said history teacher Art Maxwell. “I can’t comprehend them being in a better economic position with this move.”
Danyele Lafond, a cook at Max & Irma’s restaurant, lived in Quebec for 20 years. One of her favorite things when she goes home is to pause in the ladies room an extra moment to listen to the women speaking French.
“I’m feeling real emotional today,” she said. “I love Quebec and I understand their problems. I also love Canada and I don’t think they should separate. But if not now, I’m afraid it will happen again in another few years.”
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