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Quebec’s Bill 96 is an obnoxious piece of legislation that was meticulously composed and timed to be a political winner for the Quebec government of Premier François Legault, as it approaches an election next year. It is the latest in a series of measures by Quebec governments designed to elicit screams of protest from the province’s English-speaking minority and vocal critics from outside Quebec, while placating the majority of French Quebecers who want more autonomy, but not a complete breakup with Canada. Like most of modern Quebec, this all began with former premier Maurice Duplessis, who merged the old Quebec Conservative party with dissident Liberals into the Union Nationale in 1935 and, in 1936, evicted the Liberals from government after 39 years in office. His formula, which required exquisite political judgment to execute, was designed to get the conservatives and the nationalists to vote together. He devised the formula of ”autonomy,” a constitutional status that consisted of the fullest exercise of Quebec’s rights under the British North America (BNA) Act, while strenuously opposing separatism.

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