One might expect local politics to be the most celebrated arena of democracy. Why is it that the conventional view denies the possibility of local autonomy, and instead offers suggestions for "citizen participation" in state institutions? In conventional discourse, the idea of local democracy -- of popular sovereignty -- "fades as an object of political theory" and along with it fade "the ... communities that could sustain ... it." [50.] State sovereignty "encloses" local and popular sovereignty in "parties" and "interest groups," in "domestic, dependent nations," "wardship," and "trust relationships."
Even though the political ideals of nation and liberty formulated by the Patriotes continued to find expression in the activities and publications of the (1844‒1869), their liberal, democratic and secular ideas could not survive the doctrinal clash that pitted them against the Catholic clergy. Through its ultramontane preaching (see ) and condemnation of , the clergy succeeded in imposing its view of the overriding importance of the Catholic faith and the requirement to submit to the legitimate English authority; it even made the Catholic religion the first criterion of French Canadian nationality. Religion was the best way to ensure that French Canadians in Canada remained a cohesive community. The link that the clergy established between the Catholic religion and the survival of the French in Canada enabled it to develop an ultramontane and conservative nationalism of which was the most famous representative at the end of the 19th century. This Catholic militant was the first person to propose the idea of a separate French state following the establishment of the political regime that united the British colonies in North America (see ) in 1867.
With an astute critical eye he surveys constitutional reform and the question of Quebec sovereignty as it has developed from 1981 through Meech Lake and beyond, and explores federalism, democratic theory, and the practice of politics in the real world.
In the final essay, "Quebec and the Canadian Question," written especially for this volume, he evaluates the major changes which have occurred in Canadian politics during the last fifteen years and assesses their resounding impact on the future possibilities for Canadian democracy.